I never thought I'd see this: video game pirates admitting defeat. But that's what appears to have happened. Notorious Chinese game cracker 3DM warned that "in two years' time I'm afraid there will be no [illegally] free games to play in the world". That was alias Bird Sister speaking, the founder of 3DM (via TorrentFreak).
The reason is Denuvo Anti-Tamper technology, a kind of forcefield around a game's digital rights management solution (DRM). Anti-Tamper stops people tampering with game files and changing them to work without game discs or account log-ins or whatever the DRM requires. When games work freely wherever, by whomever, they're considered 'cracked' and can be shared around the internet.
I wrote about Denuvo a year ago after Anti-Tamper successfully kept video games FIFA 15, Lords of the Fallen and Dragon Age: Inquisition un-cracked and therefore un-pirated for weeks after launch. In an era of games being cracked on the day of launch - or even days before - that was unprecedented.
Since then Denuvo's Anti-Tamper has improved to counter new counters, so to speak - as it will every year. FIFA 16, released mid-September 2015, and Just Cause 3, released at the start of December 2015, are still not cracked - a feat Denuvo confirmed to me today. It was people asking 3DM for cracks of those games that prompted Bird Sister's comment above.
3DM believes it will eventually get to Just Cause 3, just as it did FIFA 15, Lords of the Fallen and Dragon Age: Inquisition, but the battles are increasingly hard, and in future years, as Bird Sister's comment suggests, 3DM isn't sure it can win.
Denuvo's Anti-Tamper appears to be winning. However you look at it, Denuvo has - as director of marketing and sales Thomas Goebls tells me - "achieved good crack-free windows on every title we've protected". And more importantly, developers and publishers are noticing.
"Due to our recent success in the past two years, some publishers are even considering releasing console-only titles for the PC platform," he said.
It's naive to believe game piracy is about to be stamped out, because I don't believe it ever will be, but Denuvo's Anti-Tamper technology has achieved the most significant victory against it that I can remember.
"On a side note," Thomas Goebl aadded, "one other complaint we've heard is that since our solution keeps a game crack-free during the initial sales window, players cannot use a cracked version to test whether the game will run on their system prior to buying it. However, we believe that most consumers can test games they want to buy without resorting to cracks (either via official demos or via convenient refund policies most platforms now offer)."