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Denuvo vows to prove that its DRM tech doesn’t impact game performance, once and for all

Plans to allow for independent testing that will be “trusted by the community”

The maker of controversial anti-tamper software Denuvo has vowed to show that its much-maligned DRM doesn’t hurt game performance, finally putting to bed years of complaints that stopping piracy comes at the cost of legit players’ experience.

Denuvo, of course, is the name of the popular anti-piracy measure used by a number of major PC games and publishers - examples from this year including Company of Heroes 3 through to Dead Space and Dead Island 2.

Dead Space image showing Isaac firing a a Necromorph with the Plasma Cutter.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/EA

As popular as it is with big publishers, it’s inversely unpopular with players, having earned a long-held reputation for impacting the performance of games on PC. In particular, tests by YouTube channel Overlord Gaming in 2018 indicated that Denuvo might increase loading times by up to 80 percent, as well as impacting the framerate of some games.

The suggestion that Denuvo might impact performance led in part to some publishers pulling the anti-tamper software out of their games, with the likes of Doom Eternal, Dishonored 2 and Inside all dropping the DRM after launch. Perhaps most infamously, Resident Evil Village was found to run significantly better using a crack that removed Denuvo, leading publisher Capcom to remove the DRM software from the official release earlier this year.

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However, it’s not quite so clear-cut, as other tests have suggested that removing Denuvo offers no improvement to performance - or, at least, that any performance hit might be down to publishers’ in-house DRM and other factors rather than Denuvo specifically.

Basically, there hasn’t really been a definitive answer to whether using Denuvo hurts game performance, but it’s nevertheless remained a common criticism of the DRM regardless - and now it’s a score that its own maker wants to settle.

Steve Huin, COO of Video Games for Denuvo owner Irdeto, recently reiterated to Ars Technica that “there is a clear statement that there is no perceptible impact on gameplay because of the way we do things”, but admitted that players won’t trust the company’s own word in the argument.

A side-on screenshot of Dishonored 2's villains

As such, Irdeto plans to hand over the final say to the community, planning to provide two versions of a game - one with Denuvo, one without it - to “trusted media outlets” who can then perform their own independent tests side-by-side.

Huin confidently said that the programme will allow sceptics to "see for yourself that the performance is comparable, identical... and that would provide something that would hopefully be trusted by the community".

“Gamers [almost] never get access to the same version of [a game] protected and unprotected,” he added. “There might be over the lifetime of the game a protected and unprotected version, but these are not comparable because these are different builds over six months, many bug fixes, etc., which could make it better or worse."

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Those efforts will apparently be rolling out in the coming months, alongside a wider effort from the company to convince players that it is ultimately a force for good.

"In the pirating/cracking community, we're seen as evil because we're helping DRM exist and we're ensuring people make money out of games," Huin said.

“What has changed a little bit, and I hope this is going to continue to change, is the broader public starting to see us less as a bad thing for the industry."

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