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Denuvo will ruin Handheld-Gaming
For the better and the worse, the gaming community can hardly universally
agree on something. Wether it’s about unnecessary graphic effects applied to a
game - I’m looking at you motion blur! - nor if pre-orders should be boycotted
or not. But one particular thing seems to manage the impossible and unifies us
all: The war against performance loss and for game preservation.
Denuvo, that one anti-tamper antagonist we all despise. But what if I tell you, that this
DRM solution has even another malicious trick up its sleeve, that can and potentially
will hurt handheld PC gaming in the long run?
Buckle up, this will be a wild ride.
I initially planned to finish my videos covering Dredge and our recent vacation
in Greece, before jumping into Dead Island 2, which’s press copy arrived a few
days ago. As patience is anything but one of my strengths, I couldn’t help and
still wanted to take a quick look at the new Zombie-RPG by Deep Silver. Thing
is… this game ended up as Epic Games Store exclusive and making those run
on the Steam Deck is usually quite a ride. While the game really shines on PC
and the Ayaneo 2, I knew that the game would take additional work on Deck.
So I took it for a spin and went down the usual route: Installing EGS as non-
Steam game via Desktop mode, download the game, and try messing around
with different compatibility layers until the game would run. Fast forward a few
hours I’ve ended up not only trying this method but also digging deeper into the
Heroic Games Launcher and Lutris. Both have been proven useful for quite
some time now, though I normally really try to dodge the bullet in this regards,
as I rarely play EGS exclusives on Deck at all.
I should mention that I’ve been messing around with a
dedicated pre-release version of the game, which is different to the release
client. The latter seems to run fine on Steam Deck with some pre-fix tweaks,
hence all those release reports showcasing exactly that, but that’s not the mainstory.
During my testing I’ve discovered an issue that potentially will - in its current form -
have a massive impact on handheld gaming in the
After tinkering around for hours, trying to get Dead Island 2 up and running, all
the while I was able to play the game on both PC and the Neo 2, at some point a
different pop-up showed up: „Sorry, something went wrong. For solutions,
please visit this random website“. I have to admit, this by itself didn’t really
impress me, as I’m used to clicking those away and trying my luck again to
reproduce the issue. Though, no matter what I’ve tried, that error message has
proven to become the ultimate gatekeeper for all my plans to try this game on
Deck for the time being. Frustrated by the outcome, I called it a day and went
back to other stuff.
Little did I know, that this odyssey was far from over and I was yet to discover
the most malicious issue of Denuvo’s anti-temper mechanism I’ve ever seen.
Another Day - Another Try
After a stressful day I still decided to give the zombie-infested Los
Angeles another try, but this time around on the Ayaneo 2 - as the game ran
incredibly well on there when I’ve tried it. But my oh my, guess what pop-up
jumped into my face the moment I loaded up the game?
„Sorry, something went wrong. For solutions, please visit this random website“.
Okay then, let’s follow that link and see what’s the problem, shall we?
Well, as it turns out, it’s Denuvo spitting in my tech tinkerer’s face: The support
article claims „I can no longer authenticate on new devices“ and „have to wait
24 hours to try again“.
Long story short: Trying to get Dead Island 2 running on
Steam Deck through both Desktop and Game Mode by using multiple different
compatibility layers, after having the game installed on my PC already,
effectively locked me out of that game completely.
I mean, that’s what you
usually have to do in order to get an Epic Games exclusive release up and
running on Steam Deck. Heck, that’s even fundamentally one of the very
advantages of the open platform PC gaming remained throughout its history
and set it apart from the more restrictive game consoles.
I’ve accepted my fate and booted up my gaming PC - hoping that I would finally
be able to unwind the day by exploring a post-apocalyptic LA. I kid you not, but
I wasn’t. Apparently even on PC, Denuvo completely blocked my access to the
game and prevented me jumping in for the next 24 hours. While I kinda get why
you would want to restrict access on new devices trying to authenticate
multiple times, blocking the original instance seems like a pretty big stretch to
Handheld gaming is on the rise and given the supply of Steam Decks, new
Ayaneo releases, as well as the ASUS ROG Ally probably arriving sooner than
you might expect, its popularity will most likely further increase over time. For
me personally, one of the major benefits of mobile PC gaming has always been
the ability to take my game progress with me and dive back in let’s say on
commute or in bed. Now imagine you’ve been locked out of that game for 24
hours, you bought for your hard earned money, just because you wanted to play
on different devices. Sounds bad, right?
Add all the other downsides of a game utilizing Denuvo to that: Measurable
performance trade-offs and always-online requirements for single player
releases are actually just the tip the iceberg here and in the end, the paying
customer suffers the most.
Even the very reason why these DRM solutions
became part of our daily life, to prevent digital content from getting pirated,
ends up fruitless, as games like Hogwarts Legacy have been cracked after just
two weeks. But that’s not enough - cases of Denuvo being officially removed by
devs and publishers, such as with Resident Evil Village just two weeks ago, often see a
following spike in sales as well as increased game performance and stability
across the board. So why bother your customers with this crap in the first place
and not increase your sales by listening to your community instead? Just a