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Infamous Video Game Piracy Group 3DM Is Going on Hiatus

As counter-piracy tech gets stronger, one major cracking group says it's taking a year off to see how sales are affected.
February 8, 2016, 1:00pm
Screenshot of 3DM

Video game piracy is still a massive problem, but efforts to combat it have become so effective that 3DM, one of the largest game-cracking communities out there, is apparently taking a break from the business. As TorrentFreak relates, the group says it will cease making cracks for a year beginning Monday in an effort to see how this affects overall game sales.

"We just had an internal meeting. Starting at the Chinese New Year, 3DM will not crack any single-player games," 3DM founder Bird Sister reportedly said in a blog post. "We'll take a look at the situation in a year's time to see if genuine sales have grown."

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That's a rather bold statement reflecting how highly 3DM thinks of itself in a world crawling with other piracy communities, but it's not without merit. In 2014, 3DM became the first group to break through the defenses of the now-popular Denuvo anti-tampering system after 15 days of "continuous effort." Last month, however, it threw up its hands in frustration after it failed to deliver its fans a cracked version of the newly released game Just Cause 3. 3DM didn't mention Denuvo in its recent hiatus announcement, but the timing seems reasonably suspect.

"I still believe that this game can be compromised," said Bird Sister at the time. "But according to current trends in the development of encryption technology, in two years' time I'm afraid there will be no [pirated] free games to play in the world."

Denuvo claims it's not a Digital Rights Management system in the traditional sense; rather, it protects a game's existing DRM

Denuvo keeps the details of its process well-guarded, although 3DM claims it involves a "64-bit encryption machine" that detects "a variety of hardware information on your computer." In Denuvo's own words, it stops tampering by preventing "debugging, reverse engineering, and changing of executable files."

Denuvo claims it's not a Digital Rights Management system in the traditional sense; rather, it protects a game's existing DRM. The Austrian company explained in a 2014 Eurogamer article that it makes continual improvements after every crack of its service. In time, many days were going by before games like FIFA 15, Lords of the Fallen, and Dragon Age: Inquisition were cracked. Now, it appears, it's achieved near perfection.

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Denuvo is effective, no doubt, but that doesn't mean every game developer's scrambling to use it. Michal Platkow-Gilewski, the PR manager for Poland's CD Projekt Red, stated in a 2014 IGN interview that the studio left DRM out of its massively popular and critically acclaimed roleplaying game The Witcher 3 on purpose.

"We don't believe in DRM because we hate DRM," Platkow-Gilewski said. "It also doesn't protect, not really. Games are cracked in minutes, hours, or days, but they're always cracked. If you want to pirate, you'll find a way. But if you're a committed gamer and are buying the game, why should we place a barrier on you?"

Indie gaming favorite Jonathan Blow also claimed on Twitter that he didn't include Denuvo with his new game The Witness on account of his belief that "people should have the freedom to own things." Considering that Blow reportedly spent his entire fortune from his 2008 critical darling Braid on The Witness only to see it end up as the "#1 game on a certain popular torrent site," that may change in the future.

It seems The Witness is the #1 game on a certain popular torrent site.
Unfortunately this will not help us afford to make another game! :(
— Jonathan Blow (@Jonathan_Blow) January 28, 2016

"I'm glad that a lot more people will be experiencing the game!" Blow said soon after. "But I also want to be able to make another comparable game next! Just sayin'."

Would Blow have seen a significant increase in the sales if he used Denuvo? It's hard to say, and that's been an argument of piracy supporters for years now. But one thing's for certain—with 3DM's vacation in effect, some developers can sleep just a tad more easily for the coming 365 days.