Despite Hacking Efforts, ‘Just Cause 3’ Remains Uncracked One Year Later

Piracy has always been widespread on the PC, but there’s reason to think that’s changing.

by Patrick Klepek
Dec 1 2016, 6:34pm

Most games, especially on PC, can be pirated within days, if not hours, of being released. It's just the way of things. So it's remarkable and noteworthy that Just Cause 3 passed an important milestone this week: the game has remained uncracked for a full year.

Just Cause 3 has survived this long by implementing Denuvo's anti-tampering technology. What makes anti-tamper different than digital rights management (DRM) is how, in layman's terms, Denuvo places a lock around existing DRM, such as Steam and Origin, that's extremely difficult to pick. But as I've reported, hackers have found weaknesses in Denuvo over the past year, and made their way into games like Doom and Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Just Cause 3, though, remains untouched, for a few reasons. First, whatever you think of technology that enhances DRM, Denuvo has proven to work. Second, it's an older game, and cracking groups focus efforts on the games in demand. And third, games implement Denuvo in different ways, meaning some games are easier to unlock.

Earlier this year, I profiled Denuvo for Kotaku, where a hacker explained how Denuvo works:

Denuvo uses a unique piggybacking approach. Because Steam and Origin require an Internet connection to buy, purchase, and authenticate a game the first time around, Denuvo can ride this wave and collect details about the computer to, in a sense, generate a unique key for that copy of the game. If the game isn't running on that exact machine, the game can assume the game's been pirated.

"Machine-specific triggers are peppered everywhere," said MTW. "The game will appear to be insanely buggy, but it's just copy protection crap. [...] Game developers get to specify points in gameplay where they want a copy protection trigger. A game can be unplayable."

In other words, even if a cracking team can get the game running, it can't assume it'll remain stable.

And though Just Cause 3 still has Denuvo, other games have ditched it. Just months after release, Playdead's subversive and creepy puzzle platformer, Inside, has removed Denuvo. Though Playdead hasn't talked about why it's removed Denuvo—the studio didn't respond to my request for comment—there's reason to suspect it's because Denuvo simply outlived its usefulness. Once a game has passed its initial sales period, the moment when piracy does the most harm, Denuvo becomes little more than a deterrent to players with anti-DRM stances.

There were fears earlier this year that Denuvo had effectively killed piracy, but that was a pipedream; Denuvo was always going to be cracked—eventually. That games like Just Cause 3 have lasted a year, however, suggests that we're in a world where it can be controlled.