Square Enix Strips Denuvo DRM From Forspoken But Is It Really A Win For Gamers?

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Luminous Productions, the developers of Forspoken, have removed Denuvo anti-tampering technology from the game. Square Enix published this title in January 2023, and within the PC gaming fraternity it became known as a game with performance issues on systems with 16GB of RAM, or less. Denuvo has something of a reputation for eating processing cycles and RAM, so many jumped to the conclusion that this well-known DRM solution was partly at fault. It will be interesting to see impacts in user experience and game performance testing over the coming days.

Earlier this month, it became apparent that the people behind Denuvo were aware of the way their technology taints games in the public perception. We reported on an interview with the COO from Denuvo parent company Irdeto, in which it was claimed that this DRM has no impact on game performance. The exec asserted that performance improvements in games that had DRM removed historically were more a result of other unrelated optimizations and fixes. However, the Irdeto COO said he couldn't really provide direct evidence of his assertion, as the technology relies partly on "security through obscurity." Instead, he said the company would work with journalists to provide DRM and DRM-free versions of games to compare.

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Circling back to the headlining Forspoken, and the game has overcome many of its initial teething issues, with various updates on PC, as well as platforms like the PS5. Thus, it seemed that early game bugs, rather than any particular DRM, were behind the most heinous performance issues at launch.

Square Enix usually protects AAA titles at launch with technologies like Denuvo, but yes, the titles still get cracked and distributed via the usual illicit avenues. Cracking teams race to remove copy and tamper protection and other DRM measures as fast as they can. But solutions like Denuvo can give publishers a window where their hot new game can only be played via a legitimately purchased license.

Denuvo Removal Isn't Always A Good Sign

So, should we celebrate that Denuvo is now banished from Forspoken? There is indeed a case to be made for running software in a simpler way, without extraneous apps, connections, and processes in the background. Common sense says the game will run better without such background fluff. However, there is a concern that raises its head whenever Square Enix decides to remove Denuvo from one of its titles.

Looking at Square Enix game library history, the removal of DRM can signal that the firm is looking for a boost in sales, by appealing to the staunch anti-DRM crowd. However, it can also mean Square Enix, has now released all its planned content for the title – and thus the DLC train has not just stopped in its tracks, but returned to the depot. Only time will tell what will happen with regard to new DLC and related expansion plans for Forspoken in the coming months.