Two common topics here at Techdirt are about to converge in what will likely serve as a lovely example of how piracy is often a scapegoat rather than a legitimate business issue. The first topic is Denuvo, the once-unbeatable DRM that has since become a DRM that has been defeated in sub-zero days before game releases. The exception that used to prove the rule that DRM is always defeated has become another example that yet again proves that rule. On the other hand, we’ve also talked at length that the real antidote for piracy is creating a great product and connecting with fans to give them a reason to buy. The flipside of that formula is that no amount of piracy protection is going to result in big sales numbers for a product that sucks.
While that’s typically obvious, we’re all about to watch what happens when a game both has its piracy protection fail completely and is deemed to be a shitty product, with Just Cause 4 having its Denuvo protection defeated a day after launch while the game is suffering from withering reviews.
This long-anticipated AAA action-adventure title is the follow-up to Just Cause 3, which was also protected by Denuvo. That game was released in December 2015 but wasn’t cracked until the end of February 2017.
Compare that with Just Cause 4. The game was released on December 4, 2018 then cracked and leaked online December 5, 2018. Just Cause 3 and Just Cause 4 were both defeated by cracking group CPY, who are clearly getting very familiar with Denuvo’s technology.
Okay, so the game is available on all the regular torrent forums, fully cracked in a day. This again raises the question as to why game publishers even bother with Denuvo any longer. The instances in which Denuvo games are defeated immediately after release are so commonplace at this point that I don’t even bother writing them all up. The assumption at this point should be that Denuvo is useless. Somehow, game publishers don’t appear to be getting the memo.
But Just Cause 4 is also being thoroughly panned by reviews.
While having the game appear online the day after release is bad enough, another problem is raising its head. According to numerous reviewers on Steam, the game is only worthy of a ‘thumbs down’ based on complaints about graphics, gameplay, and numerous other issues.
While these things are often handled via early patches from developers, the negative reviews mean that the average score on Steam is currently just 5/10. That, combined with the availability of a pirated version online, seems like a possible recipe for disaster and something that could raise its head later should sales fail to impress.
And if that in fact happens, we’ll all get a front row seat to watch a game publisher decide exactly how to respond to all of this. On the one hand, the focus could be on the quality of the product, with reasonable communications sent out acknowledging customer concerns and promising to address them with quality patching and updating. On the other hand, the company could simply point to the pirated versions available online and scapegoat piracy as the reason for all that ails the sales numbers.
Given that this is Square we’re talking about, it seems practically inevitable that what we’ll see is the latter. But when you do see that, keep in mind that customers didn’t like this game and reviewed it poorly. And recognize it for what it is: blame-shifting.
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