When Bethesda announced that Doom Eternal would be using Denuvo protection for its digital rights management, industry watchers assumed it would buy the game at least a short period of retail availability without a piratable “cracked” version showing up on the Internet. When the game launched, though, users quickly discovered the Bethesda Launcher version apparently included a DRM-free copy of the game’s executable sitting in plain sight amid the download package.
Forum users on Reddit and ResetEra were among the first yesterday to report on the “official” DRM-free leak, which sat in a sub-folder titled “Original” for the Bethesda Launcher version of the game. That 67MB file can reportedly replace the 370MB, DRM-protected executable in the main game folder with minimal effort and no practical effect on playability.
Ars has been unable to independently verify these reports, as a subsequent patch has apparently removed the DRM-free executable. But the trackers at CrackWatch and repackers in the cracking community have confirmed that the DRM-free version was distributed and working shortly after launch. And while the DRM-free version still requires a Bethesda account login the first time it’s run, forum reports suggest crackers have already discovered a simple method to patch that check for a completely offline pirated experience.
These things happen
If this sounds like a surprising oversight for a major publisher like Bethesda to make, consider that last year’s launch of Rage 2 apparently also included a DRM-free executable in the Bethesda Launcher version. The publisher officially removed Denuvo from the Steam version of that game just a few days later, perhaps realizing that the piracy crack genie was already out of the bottle (despite some reports to the contrary on other games, Ars testing on Arkham Knight didn’t show any performance impact as the result of Denuvo implementation).
While Denuvo’s brand of obfuscating DRM was once considered virtually crack-proof by the community, in recent years Denuvo-protected games have sometimes been cracked within hours of their release. In less extreme cases, Denuvo says it still considers even a few days of effective DRM protection to be valuable to its publisher customers, who are looking to protect their vital initial post-launch sales period from free, pirated competition.
Of course, none of that even matters if the publisher itself leaks the key to get past Denuvo’s DRM. And while many are assuming this distribution was an accident, that’s not completely clear at this point.
Already, some piracy-watching forum goers are crafting conspiracy theories about rogue Bethesda employees hiding the easily cracked executable in the Doom Eternal files as a guerrilla blow against DRM. Others are joking that Bethesda as a whole is now operating as a rogue cracking group. (A Bethesda representative was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment from Ars).
Regardless, the damage is done and a cracked, repackaged version of Doom Eternal is either currently in the wild or will be shortly. And this time, it seems, Bethesda only has itself to blame.