A hacking team believed to have obtained data from gaming giant Ubisoft has published documents that claim to reveal the costs of implementing Denuvo's anti-piracy protection. While the service doesn't come cheap, the figures suggest that for a big company putting out big titles with the potential for plenty of sales, the anti-tamper technology may represent value for money.
Mid-October, news began to surface that the systems of gaming giants Ubisoft and Crytek had fallen victim to a hacker attack.
Samples of the companies’ data first appeared on the dark web portal of ransomware group Egregor along with threats that the team could leak more confidential data in the days to come. Indeed, at the start of November, the source code for Watch Dogs: Legion reportedly hit the web.
Supposed Denuvo Contact Leaked
This week a new leak, apparently from the same haul, made an appearance online. Posted to various platforms including Twitter, the documents appear to reveal the financial costs of implementing Denuvo’s anti-tamper technology into Crysis Remastered.
The costs and effectiveness of Denuvo are hotly debated topics so this document, which appears to be authentic, casts an interesting light on the decisions faced by companies looking to protect their titles from piracy – if only for a while.
Crysis Remastered – The Costs of Denuvo
The ‘statement of work’ document begins by listing the headline price of Denuvo’s anti-tamper technology. There are two components – 60,000 euros for the first 12 months of anti-tamper plus another 80,000 euros if the company required ‘unique encryption’. This headline 140,000 figure could receive a discount in the event that the game was released before the end of March 2021, specifically on the Epic platform.
In the event, Crysis Remastered was released on September 18, 2020, meaning that the first year of protection from Denuvo was reduced to 126,000 euros. After the 12-month ‘protection’ period, the licensee will be given the opportunity to extend the contract, with each additional month costing an extra 2,000 euros.
In the meantime, however, additional costs can be incurred if Crysis Remastered turns out to be a particularly successful venture. In the event that the game receives 500,000 “cumulative first time activations” at any time during the licensing period, an additional one-off fee of 60,000 euros is payable to Denuvo.
Crysis Remastered Was Cracked a Month After Release
Just over a month following its release, Crysis Remastered was cracked by the group CPY, albeit after a couple of attempts to get things working as intended. So, considering that the title only enjoyed just over 30 days’ worth of protection, does that mean that Denuvo was a failure and therefore poor value for money?
That’s a big question but given that Denuvo’s current position is that it aims to protect games in the first days and weeks following release, claiming that Denuvo failed seems to be off the table. Whether it still represents good value for money also requires some guesswork, accurate figures for which are largely unavailable.
Waste of Time or Value For Money?
Nevertheless, since we know that Crysis Remastered was released in the Denuvo-discounted period before March 31, 2021, and we optimistically include the 500,000 copies sold clause relating to the first year, in this Denuvo protection will cost around 186,000 euros.
Reductions aside (some outlets are currently discounting the game), 500,000 copies sold at roughly $30.00 sounds a bit like $15m in revenue so, with the protection costing around 1.2% of gross, that doesn’t sound too bad. Indeed, at those prices, if the game enjoyed around 6,200 more sales during the first month from people who would’ve pirated had Denuvo not stopped them, the financial gamble seems pretty balanced, at least as far as this game is concerned.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that just because a game’s protection fails after a while, it doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t go on to commercial success. For reference, the first Crysis was pirated at least 940,000 times in the year following its release (2007/2008) but remained profitable and went on to sell at least three million copies. Times have changed along with the entire market since then, but it’s worth a mention.
Denuvo Provides Additional Services in the Package
As part of the deal, Denuvo reportedly sends its engineers to the developer during the initial integration and then provides remote troubleshooting support, right up until the launch of the title.
The company also carries out manual testing of the protected title and then scans for early piracy leaks post-launch alongside manual piracy monitoring with regular emailed updates.
Denuvo is Probably Here to Stay
While the leaked documents only relate to Crysis Remastered, it is by no means the only game with Denuvo protection. Of all games released since September, just four have been cracked, all of them taking roughly a month to hit pirate sites. To date, titles including FIFA 21, Watch Dogs: Legion have all ‘survived’ their first four weeks, with others such as Dirt 5 and Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered creeping close to that target.
Whether those titles and the ones released more recently (Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Football Manager 2021) will make it too remains to be seen but overall it seems that developers still have confidence in Denuvo and the insurance-type policy it provides.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Cyberpunk 2077, the most anticipated title of 2020, will release December 12 without any DRM whatsoever. It’s not clear what kind of deal Denuvo would’ve offered its developer but it is expected to become a smash-hit nonetheless.
The question of whether it could enjoy even more success with Denuvo may never be answered.