The survival-MMO Conan Exiles debuted on Steam Early Access earlier this week, and very quickly ended up cracked and pirated—despite the fact that it's protected by the Denuvo anti-tampering software. Except that it wasn't actually cracked at all. While Denuvo is no longer as invulnerable as it once appeared to be, this can't be blamed on the software. As developer Funcom told Eurogamer, this was entirely a question of human error: Somebody uploaded the wrong build to Steam by mistake.
"Denuvo was temporarily removed due to an error in the build process," a rep said. Because there's no certification process like that used by Microsoft and Sony (which is normally a good thing), the sans-Denuvo build immediately went live. And since Conan Exiles lets players run their own servers, the pirated version is actually viable.
The one upside for Funcom is that as an initial Early Access release, the game will be rapidly and dramatically expanded and improved from here. People with the pirated version are going to be left behind, and so if they like it, the more they play, the more incentive they'll have to switch to the legitimate release. It may actually prove to be a boon, or at least not a complete bust, over the long run.
"There is unfortunately not much we can do about those who choose to download and play unauthorized copies, but we hope they make the jump to the official version so they can stay up to date with the latest patches and improvements," Funcom said. "Being an Early Access title, there will be a lot of updates going forward!"
Despite the mishap, Conan Exiles is off to a pretty good start. We were disappointed by the current state of the experience (although the dong physics are absolutely unparalleled), but it's within spitting distance of the top ten on Steam. Not a bad place to be for a game that's still in development.