Denuvo plans to offer independent benchmarks in an attempt to prove its DRM doesn't cause performance problems

A masked member of the Court of Owls raises a glass
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Games)

It's still common for big-budget games to launch with Denuvo's Anti-Tamper anti-piracy software, and it's also common for those games' performance problems to be blamed on said DRM. Irdeto, the digital security company that bought Denuvo in 2018 (and previously tried to force Overwatch porn offline), has denied its software is responsible for those issues, most recently in an interview with Ars Technica

Steve Huin, chief operating officer of videogames at Irdeto, claimed that comparisons using cracked versions of games that load faster and run more smoothly are inaccurate, because they're rarely based on the exact same version of a game. "There might be over the lifetime of the game a protected and unprotected version," Huin said, "but these are not comparable because these are different builds over six months, many bug fixes, etc., which could make it better or worse."

Huin is aware that simply saying this won't prove anything to the legion of players who blame Denuvo for every framerate drop they experience. "Our voice is unfortunately not sufficient to convince people because we're not trusted in their mind as a starting point in that debate," he said. 

Irdeto has a plan, however: a program that will offer media outlets two versions of games to benchmark independently, with and without Denuvo Anti-Tamper, which he believes will prove "the performance is comparable, identical" between both. Apparently they hope to begin it within the next few months.

Personally, I doubt such a scheme will change anyone's minds. For starters because we already did the exact same thing in 2015, hiring Durante to benchmark Final Fantasy 15 with and without Denuvo's software installed. Durante concluded the DRM had no performance impact on how Final Fantasy 15 ran, though it might have been responsible for increasing load times by a small amount (roughly 6.7%).

People on Reddit did not stop blaming Denuvo for every framerate hitch they experienced, and nor did they when performance issues in Resident Evil Village were found to be the result of Capcom's own DRM rather than Denuvo's. People have other reasons to be opposed to anti-piracy software than potential stutters anyway.

For starters, performance isn't the only thing DRM can impact. It might make a game not run at all, as was the case when it was found a whole list of games had DRM that rendered them unplayable on Intel Alder Lake CPUs, or when a Denuvo domain went down for a weekend leaving games like Guardians of the Galaxy and Persona 4 Golden unable to launch. 

Then there are the philosophical objections. DRM gets in the way of modding games as well as preservation efforts aimed at making sure old games aren't lost. Right now five Capcom games, including Street Fighter X Tekken and Lost Planet 2, that are currently unplayable on Steam due to Games for Windows Live, and have been for over 600 days. No amount of benchmarking is going to prevent players from distrusting anti-piracy software when evidence of its impact like that is right in front of us.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.