Bethesda and Rage 2’s DRM Debacle
If there’s one thing that gamers hate, it’s DRM. An abbreviation for Digital Rights Management, these are procedures that are put in place by game companies to try and put measures in to stop piracy of their games. While understandable in concept, a lot of these have effectively worked against the player’s favor and has either resulted in players jumping through extra hoops to launch their game or even botching some of the performance up. One of the chief among the DRM anti-tamper software is Denuvo and it’s Denuvo that acted as a large part as to what generated at least some of the hate to Bethesda and id Software’s latest title Rage 2.
What is Denuvo?
For those unfamiliar with Denuvo, Denuvo is one of the most controversial yet prevalent forms of DRM or anti-tamper software. The Denuvo software has been criticized by many for allegedly making CPU on PCs go through the roof when playing selected games that use the DRM, excessive writing operations ongoing on the computer which has reduced the lifespan of the computer’s SSD. While Denuvo has denied claims their software does this, Tekken 7 and Sonic Mania Plus were notable examples in which Denuvo significantly impacted game performance. If you wish to read more about the alleged problems that Denuvo has on its games, Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica did a good analysis of the software back in 2018 that can be read which gives further insight into the impacts Denuvo can have.
Denuvo games have also (despite having the DRM) still been cracked by pirates in some cases a matter of hours after the game was released. Denuvo has also had a history of suing people that attempt to crack their software.
With that preface out of the way, let’s move onto Rage 2. Rage 2 is the newest release from id Software and Bethesda Softworks and saw release on May 14th and has been met with currently having a positive reception from critics but the game has been met with a mixed reaction from customers. The graphics and combat system have been among the highest points of praise, however, people have criticized the game’s length and of course what we’ll talk about here, what went on when the game launched with the Denuovo DRM.
One of the biggest problems that faced the game was the fact that the inclusion of the Denuvo anti-tamper software was only disclosed on the Steam store page 24 hours before the game was set to launch, giving customers little notice about the inclusion, especially for those that had placed in pre-orders. It was at this point a Bethesda.net account was also disclosed to be needed which has become the norm with the majority of Bethesda’s latest releases. This can be prevalently shown on SteamDB logs for Rage 2.
After pirates had gone ahead and cracked the game, Bethesda announced on May 16th that Denuvo would no longer be included in Rage 2 in an announcement posted to the Steam store page a mere 2 days after Rage 2 had been released.
It’s also worth noting that while the Steam version of Rage 2 had Denuvo included, the version distributed via Bethesda.net didn’t include the Denuvo DRM and it resulted in various videos being made showing comparisons of the differing performance of the game when the Steam and Bethesda.net versions were compared revealing that while the start-up times were drastically different, the framerate difference was incredibly minimal.
From a personal standpoint, I believe that this was a stupid move for Bethesda to pull. I am one of those people that doesn’t understand why Denuvo is still used. I agree that at its core I don’t think Denuvo intently muddies a game experience but I think it’s just dependant on how these companies implement it. I think that’s why we see cases such as Sonic Mania Plus that are very hindered by Denuvo but then there are cases like Rage 2 which aren’t heavily impacted by Denuvo (excepting the start-up times.) But even when you don’t consider what impact it can have on a game, the Denuvo DRM is relatively pointless cause the games to get cracked anyway and the only risk it’s creating is creating a slightly more sub-par experience for your audience.
But it was dirty in my eyes for Bethesda not to give plenty of notice to their customers that the software was going to be included, especially since Denuvo has such a bad reputation these days.
I do highly encourage you guys though if you dislike the Denuvo anti-tamper to join and follow the Steam group and curator Denuvo Games, they do consistent updates about games that include Denuvo and also tag games on their curator so you can get a very prevalent notice of any historic Denuvo use that the game has.