But recent Denuvo variants can often ward off pirates for months.
Over the years, we at Ars have watched with interest as anti-piracy technology Denuvo has progressed from the seemingly unbeatable scourge of the cracking scene to a trivial security measure routinely defeated within a day of a game’s release. But Denuvo protection wasn’t even able to provide a few hours of security for this week’s official launch of Hitman 2, which has seen its DRM cracked days before the official release.
The early crack, released on November 10, was made possible by publisher Warner Bros.’s decision to make Hitman 2 available on November 9 to those who preordered the game—four days before the official street date of November 13. The quick crack also comes despite Hitman 2’s use of a brand-new “version 5.3” variant of Denuvo, the latest in a long line of changes intended to thwart the cracking community.
Hitman 2’s DRM situation mirrors that of Final Fantasy XV’s March release on PC. In that case, the preloading of unencrypted game executable via Origin let crackers remove Denuvo protection four days before the game’s launch date.
The quick cracking of Hitman 2 comes shortly after the Denuvo protection for both Soul Calibur 6 and Football Manager 2019 were publicly cracked four days after their respective releases. Prior to those games, recent versions of Denuvo had generally provided a longer window between release and cracking. Mega Man 11 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey were both available for over a month before being cracked, for instance, while both Jurassic World Evolution and Puyo Puyo Tetris enjoyed three months of Denuvo-protected sales after their releases earlier this year.
The length of that crack-free window is important, because publishers who buy Denuvo’s protection are paying to ensure legitimate sales are the only way to play a new game “during the crucial initial sales window when most of the sales are made,” as a company spokesperson put it to Ars last year. Denuvo owner Irdeto echoed that sentiment in a press release last week that “the most critical part of the release cycle is the first 14 days as the majority of activations occur during this period. For highly anticipated titles, this could include up to 80% of sales, 50% of which are within the first four days.”
The Hitman 2 cracking comes months after the July criminal complaint against Voksi, a Bulgarian cracker responsible for breaking Denuvo protections in many titles. Since then, the Denuvo cracking scene has been joined by a new group called FCKDRM, which seems to take its name and logo from that of GOG’s recent anti-DRM public relations campaign.