Up For Debate - Does Denuvo DRM Actually Affect PC Game Performance?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Feb 10, 2018 5:00 PM
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This week I’ve been on a bit of a Denuvo fix. For all that Denuvo does wrong, and I think it’s right to call it out for its overly stringent protection and online check-ins, it’s the claims that Denuvo impacts performance that I keep coming back to.

Anytime anything is written about Denuvo, just about anywhere, it’s immediately followed by a flurry of replies saying Denuvo tanks performance. Curiously, you don’t get these replies when writing about games that use Denuvo and yet have fantastic performance.

If you head here you can read a full list of games which use Denuvo, as well as those that have since had it removed. Of the games that currently have Denuvo, it can be argued that a few of them don’t perform well and will suffer FPS drops, either down to being extremely demanding, unoptimised, or, the third unknown - Denuvo. Games like Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Dishonored 2 and Deux Ex: Mankind Divided have all had the ‘Denuvo tanks performance’ card thrown at them. The vast majority of the list hasn’t though. Not many people are out there complaining about Battlefield 1’s performance, or FIFA 18, or Resident Evil 7, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Mad Max, Metal Gear Solid V, Far Cry Primal, Abzu, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. I could go on. Suffice to these are games that are all loaded with Denuvo, and yet they all run great. Is Denuvo really the connecting factor that determines whether a game runs well or not?

I’ve done a few tests myself and also done plenty of reading around on the subject, and the actual evidence we have either way is pretty threadbare. Actually performing a true (and legal) test of Denuvo Anti-Tamper’s performance impact is a tricky process. Firstly, we need the hardware to be the same before and after. Secondly, we rely on publishers actually removing Denuvo. Thirdly, we need our benchmarks to be as close as possible to one another to rule out extraneous factors like driver updates and performance optimisation.

Last year I benchmarked DOOM with Denuvo vs DOOM without Denuvo and noticed a few percentage points difference in frame rates. Because I didn’t know Denuvo was going to be removed though, these benchmarks are separated by a year, meaning several patches and driver updates happened in the intervening 12 months, all of which categorically affected performance.

I also downloaded Hitman this week to try and compare it when benchmarks performed back when we reviewed the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB. I ran through roughly the same scenario shown in our gameplay footage here and could discern no difference in performance whatsoever. Frame rates average around 86 fps with occasional dips down to 60fps and peaking in the 90’s.

Out of curiosity I also took a look at any benchmarks I could find that other people had done. We’ve got someone claiming removing Denuvo from DOOM caused a huge uptick in performance, another showing no performance change in Shadow of War, and multiple people claiming Hitman’s performance was unchanged when Denuvo was removed.

I think there’s a growing argument to be made that Denuvo isn’t tanking performance in the way the internet at large would have us believe. It’s just a factoid that’s been repeated enough that it’s become an irrefutable truth.

None of this is to say that Denuvo never has, or never will, affect performance and frame rates. It very may well have, and when it’s poorly implemented, as we saw with Rime, which sent thousands of calls per second, this too almost assuredly affected performance. But, until there’s some evidence to suggest otherwise, I think Denuvo is rarely the culprit for poor gaming performance. It does make for a handy burning effigy when a game doesn’t run as well on your system as you’d hoped though. It’s become the whipping boy for Assassin’s Creed Origins’ PC performance when in reality I think it’s far more likely AC: Origins is just a great looking open-world game that doesn’t run well on a four-year-old graphics card.

As with anything like this though, I think the best way to try and get some info together on this is work together as a community. If we can all pool in with our benchmarks and experiences, hopefully we can get to the bottom of all this.

So, does Denuvo really impact gaming performance? Have you experienced performance improvements when Denuvo’s been removed? We’d love to know your own thoughts on Denuvo, as well as any benchmarks you’ve done that shed some light on either theory!

Does Denuvo negatively affect frame rates in a perceptible way?

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11:31 Feb-12-2018

We've got a lot of responses here, but does anyone have any links to evidence that Denuvo harms performance?

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18:28 Feb-12-2018

probably not

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12:04 Feb-15-2018

It seems you were right lol

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18:41 Feb-12-2018

just putting this here to remind myself to come back and check I know a dude on my buddies list had ac origins bought and had ''another copy'' that he found online and did a comparison in a blog ill have to try to find it

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00:55 Feb-13-2018

There is a video, where Denuvo doesn't affect performance tested on Shadow of War with a Vega 56 and GTX 1080
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hGbBj_j0vQ

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01:43 Feb-13-2018

that's also a very powerful pc what about more mid/low range gaming pc and it may vary game by game

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07:48 Feb-12-2018

YES. end of Debate.
And there is plenty of evidence to support that...like every game using Denuvo.
Just because AC Origins was a badly optimized game from the get go doesn't mean Denuvo gets off the hook for its crimes.

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00:04 Feb-13-2018

"Like every game using Denuvo" MGS 5 and Mad Max are both decent looking open world games with Denuvo protection that would run on my toaster. Click the link in the article, many of the games run well on mid/low end hardware.

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11:00 Feb-13-2018

Yeah but if you removed Denuvo altogether, it would even run a potato :D
What's your point?

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07:20 Feb-12-2018

plzz stop this topic man wanna buy the game go for it or wait eventually its gonna get cracked just play it who cares about this f****n DRM

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05:22 Feb-12-2018

ive seen proof and benchmarks between malware version that's legit and the version that's not recommended by this website and its volumes different so most definitely yes


reason I say malware is even if you remove the game parts of the denuvo stay on your pc


anyone notice the pc market is booming in many recent years even though pirating in the early 2000's was easy and it still is not supporting it but by any means but its easy and pc is growing everyday and already is the most popular platdform so don't let these companies fool you when they say its because were preventing piracy


these people will literally spend 100$ to save $1 cause theyre so focused on the $ they don't realize theyre losing sales cause of this drm and if the pirated version is better sadly enough people will flock to it because some big guys in a office think this is the best way to go I'm not against drm denuvo should die though

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21:57 Feb-11-2018

yes, I have all of 3 games still using Denuvo, and I will say certainly, for as eye wateringly (pun not intended) beautiful as Abzu is; that game has no reason to be the beast that it is especially with my rig, it shouldn't have been running in the 40 fps range when I had an HD7870, part of the beauty of the game is the simplistic graphics and it nearly melted my 7870. Weirdly, since Doom stopped using it, the FPS on my laptop has improved but has degraded on my desktop

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17:09 Feb-11-2018

without a doubt, it does.

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13:30 Feb-11-2018

Doom is one of the few games which had Denuvo removed. We all know how well optimized that game was in the first place, so the difference with no Denuvo was negligible.


I believe the difference was 2-5 FPS overall. However, no one bothered to measure the difference of CPU usage.

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23:48 Feb-11-2018

If I wanted to prove the effect, I would also measure two things, CPU close to minimum requirement and high FPS on recommended CPU, both more likely to show difference than scenarios with GPU bottleneck in place, those will have minimum difference. So bigger sample of hardware would be needed to test this properly.

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08:49 Feb-11-2018

majority of the GD users are pirates, of course they will vote Yes.

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09:50 Feb-11-2018

bilkul sahi bola bhai !

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10:09 Feb-11-2018

Sorry but i have to disagree with you, i know some GD members, and i have some friends on Neogaf too, i'm a Maya PG for a company i'll not mention, and trust me when i say that my steam account is over 430 games, i can get free codes for almost every game as a dev, but when a game is well done i really prefer to pay it. and talking with other users i can say that there are a lot of players that share my ideas.I think up to now i "downloaded" like 4 games since when i got my Commodore Vic 20.

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10:33 Feb-11-2018

how and where do u get free codes and I dont think its that easy to get free AAA titles costing upwards of 60 dollars

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18:38 Feb-11-2018

i dont think that denuvo tanks the performace because i had worst fps in cracked just cause 3 than legit one and in doom i saw no difference in eather vulkan nor dx11 modes.

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09:07 Feb-12-2018

what gave it away?!

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16:15 Feb-14-2018

182 steam games over here guess I'm a total pirate facepalms we don't even support piracy on this website unless you have some proof or a good reason to state such things I don't see the need for your asinine comments

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08:37 Feb-11-2018

The biggest issue with AC:O was that it used two layers of anti-tamper: Denuvo and VMProtect, people seem to forget that pretty easily..

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18:43 Feb-11-2018

in that particular case i think that vmprotect is the fault for really high cpu usage not denuvo. in denuvo only protected games i never saw cpu usage that constantly high. in ac:o my cpu usage is almost all the time at 100% at max and even low settings.

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05:24 Feb-11-2018

Truthfully, I don't know, but whatever impact Denuvo does have on gaming performance I'm about 99% sure the gaming community has completely over hyped it.... which we always tend to do if you hadn't noticed......... that doesn't mean I'm a fan of Denuvo.... I'm more or less indifferent about it, one pointless one sided DRM is as good or as bad as any other..... I'm more just making an observation about the gaming community being drama queens that blow everything out of proportion, let's admit!

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04:50 Feb-11-2018

I can confirm it does get a lot better in case of DOOM. For people using AMD FX 8350 there will be some part like VEGA Central map that will bottleneck the CPU and you can't tweak anything to gain fps. It's gone after they removed Denuvo.

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18:44 Feb-11-2018

i didnt get any boost on mine. maybe it's tide to gpu power paired with that cpu

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00:48 Feb-11-2018

assassin origins totally F up high cpu load


my i3 7100 3.9ghz 70% above cpu load menu and ingame playing 70%-100% cpu load


other user i5 100% cpu load

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17:00 Feb-11-2018

My gpu usage never goes above 80 ingame but in the menu it works at 100% -.-

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00:47 Feb-11-2018

I prefer to be as honest as possible, Denuvo can affect games but is only related to those games that use a lot the CPU, meaning that not all games are affected, to make an Ex, i will say this, try to run Rise of the Tomb Rider, and then try to run it while you are decompressing a 12 GB file from rar. That is a CPU usage. If you decompress the file while you play Elex or Shenua nothing happen, if you decompress when you play AC Origins game crash.

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23:45 Feb-10-2018

AC origins ?
is Fuc*ed Up from that

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21:33 Feb-10-2018

I'd say if a game is unoptimized to begin with, it might. If it is, it might see no difference at all because the game ran smooth from the start.

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00:50 Feb-11-2018

denuvo just add oil to fire

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19:45 Feb-10-2018

It depends on the game. Ultimately it is a yes to it affecting frame rates, but on well optimised gamed like BF1, my PC reaches its frame limit anyway. On badly optimised games like AC origins the lost frames due to denuvo are infuriating.

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21:22 Feb-10-2018

But we do not know how much denuvo impacts AC origins

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00:52 Feb-11-2018

lol check ur cpu load when u play AC origins 70%-100% for i3 i5 7gen cpu


have to open my desktop side cooling or else melt inside T_T

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01:18 Feb-11-2018

We don't, but we do know that in general it has an impact on game performance, and we know that AC origins isn't all that well optimised.
From those things its not unrealistic to predict that without denuvo the performance would be better.

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19:43 Feb-10-2018

Deadnuvo does a lot more then negatively affect gaming performance... i would expect nothing less from a trojan :P


Meanwhile on the internet...

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19:38 Feb-10-2018

It does affect the performance, but by a tiny amount. Unless it's terribly implemented (I'm looking at you Just Cause 3)

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19:16 Feb-10-2018

Yes! No! Maybe! I don't know.
Can you repeat the question?

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19:39 Feb-10-2018

You're not the boss of me now!

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18:52 Feb-10-2018

Denuvo is surly using lots of CPU/RAM resources yet it's not that big of a deal to affect gameplay
still we can't be sure as cracking games is just bypassing denuvo not deactivating it

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