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Denuvo Really Does Cripple PC Gaming Performance

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For years, there have been persistent rumors that solutions like Denuvo have a negative impact on overall PC game performance. Denuvo has strongly pushed back on these claims, as have game publishers, for obvious reasons. The vast majority of PC gamers are willing to tolerate DRM — to a point. Said willingness to put up with hoop-jumping starts vanishing quickly once the DRM becomes overly intrusive or starts having a negative impact on system performance.

As new tests from Overlord Gaming reveal, there’s good reason why PC gamers have long been suspicious of the DRM package. The channel has put together an extensive video showing the impact of Denuvo both before and after the capability has been patched out by various game vendors. We’ve excerpted some of their results in the table below, but first, the full video:

Next, here are some targeted results. I’ve opted not to graph them because the data presented is in a number of different formats. In this chart, (s) stands for seconds, (ms) refers to millisecond frame times (lower is better), and FPS is self-explanatory:

In virtually every case, Denuvo has a negative impact on performance in one regard or another. Level load times are significantly longer. Frame rates are lower. In one case, the maximum frame time is more than 2.3x higher. A 58ms frame is already an incredibly low dip, but a 137ms frame time is simply absurd.

Judging by the results Overlord Gaming recorded, Denuvo tends to hit minimum frame times more heavily than average fps. We’d much rather see frame rates drop from an average of 60fps to a steady 55fps with a proportional impact on the minimum frame rate than to see minimum frame rates skyrocket with averages only slightly impacted. In fact, as Overlord points out, it’s not unusual to see performance improve by 50-60 percent once Denuvo is patched out.

The performance impact of Denuvo is more than just a minor hiccup. While this will always be title-specific, it arguably feeds the perception that PCs are overly expensive gaming platforms that require far more horsepower than consoles in order to perform effectively. With minimum and even average frame rates so badly impacted, there’s an effective Denuvo tax being levied on gamers who bother to buy games legitimately in the first place. Being forced to spend more money on high-end storage and GPUs to enjoy games appropriately when they’re being crippled by DRM isn’t exactly what most PC gamers are looking for in a premium experience.

Denuvo has never fulfilled the doom and gloom prediction that it could end the PC pirate scene altogether, but given the demonstrated impact on performance, it might simply be best to move titles that use it off your purchase list until the developers patch out the capability — at least, assuming you aren’t running an absolute top-tier rig to start with.

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