Crucio, Imperio, and… Denuvo? Hogwarts Legacy and the “Protection from Piracy”

There are three curses in the Wizarding World whose effects are so heinous that they are seen as “unforgivable.” Imperio, or the Imperius Curse, which surrenders full control of its victim over to the witch or wizard who cast the spell; Crucio, or the Cruciatus Curse, which torments the victim with excruciating pain, often permanently debilitating the victim in the process; and, of course, Avada Kedavra, the Killing Curse, which you might be able to guess.

But now we can add a third Curse, which has the potential to combine all three: Denuvo. That’s right, Hogwarts Legacy is the latest game to add the controversial Denuvo Anti-Cheat/Anti-Piracy software to its code. The software, which uses a variety of tactics to prevent game pirates from accessing the game’s files and uploading them to pirating sites, has a well-earned bad reputation with gamers, as it has been linked to poor performance and anti-consumer practices, and has often proven so ineffective that it ends up being removed from some 20% of games which launch with it (some of which within the first few days of launch).

Like the Death Eaters, Denuvo’s spread is insidious and broad, and it can be found hiding just beneath the surface in a huge number of high-profile games. I would list examples, but that would do a disservice to just how widespread Denuvo is: rest assured, Denuvo is everywhere. But why is it so hated and despised? Well, for the same reasons that the unforgivable curses are.

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Hogwarts will surrender. Or it will be destroyed”

Let me explain.

Denuvo is like Imperio. They both control things they aren’t meant to. In the Wizarding World, Imperio is used to bend other beings to the will of the caster, ripping agency away from its victim, which is what makes it unforgivable. Denuvo, on the other hand, controls players in a more subtle way, by refusing to allow them to play the very game that they purchased unless they are connected to the internet.

hogwarts legacy denuvo drm check failed

That’s right, Denuvo has DRM, which means that it must connect to the internet to verify files if you want to play them. In a multiplayer game, this would be fine — after all, those require an internet connection anyway. But, Hogwarts Legacy is an entirely single-player experience, making the DRM an affront to game accessibility for anyone without a stable internet connection, or even anyone who wants to play it on their gaming laptops on the go. Denuvo, like Imperio, controls when (and whether) you get to play the game you purchased.

Denuvo is like Crucio. They both torment their victims. Crucio makes this plain, being the spell that causes unimaginable pain. It was used to terrible effect against Neville Longbottom’s parents in the books and movies, leaving them debilitated for life. And, by contrast, Denuvo is aimed at driving a player insane by tormenting them with unacceptable PC performance.

hogwarts legacy callisto protocol denuvo
Portkey Games, Please don’t let Hogwarts Legacy release the same problems at The Callisto Protocol

While there have been times when Denuvo has been blamed for poor performance that wasn’t its fault, the fact is that the kernel-linked software has undeniably caused every problem in the books, from stuttering to frame dips to crashes, because of just how invasive it is. And, because it roots down to the core of a system, its effects are unpredictable (based on system differences) and sometimes unfixable, sometimes leaving players praying for a patch just so they can enjoy the game how it was made. Denuvo, like Crucio, makes some games downright unplayable, making for a tormenting, frustrating experience.

Lastly, Denuvo is like Avada Kedavra. They both kill their victims. Although, unlike the Killing Curse, Denuvo tends casts the curse upon itself, in one of two ways. The first, and more preferable, option is for Denuvo to strike itself down. Many developers have (due to the aforementioned issues and community backlash) removed Denuvo after launching with it, sometimes within the first few days, killing it rather than letting it continue to make its game worse. Games that have done this include the Borderlands series, Jedi: Fallen Order, and both of the recent Tomb Raider games. On the other hand, Denuvo can also cast the Killing Curse on the game itself, especially if there are other technical issues, leading to subpar reviews and, thus, subpar sales.

This was recently seen with The Callisto Protocol, which launched with both Denuvo and an unbelievable amount of technical issues ranging from stuttering to crashing, even on systems that should’ve been able to run the game fine. While there has never been any confirmation that Denuvo was behind these issues (and there rarely is, since it can be hard to tell), its invasiveness and bulk sure didn’t help. Not long before that, Gotham Knights launched with Denuvo and myriad crash issues. And once Denuvo was removed, lo-and-behold, the crashing issues vanished. Coincidence? I think not.

hogwarts legacy gotham knights denuvo
Gotham Knights is one of the most recent examples of Denuvo causing problems for a game

But, while both The Callisto Protocol and Gotham Knights did end up rectifying their technical problems, it was too little, too late. Both games were already on unstable ground after receiving middling scores from critics, and so dreadful technical performance from each was enough to make enough gamers hold off on buying them that they both underperformed, with The Callisto Protocol being a certifiable flop.

Hogwarts Legacy, already embroiled in controversy and threats of a boycott due to JK Rowling’s recent transphobic statements, might not even need middling reviews for something similar to happen: bad performance might just be enough for many gamers on the fence about whether or not to buy the game to decide against it, even if the game received excellent critical reception (and, personally, we think it will). While the early indicators of the game’s pre-orders seem like they will be strong enough to overcome that, such estimates have been wrong before.

Hogwarts Legacy is one of the most hyped games of the year and will be the first massive release of 2023, setting the tone of the year going forward. After the recent box office failures of the last two Fantastic Beasts movies and the flagging sales of Wizarding World publisher Pottermore, this game might be the last big Harry Potter-related project that has fans hopeful for something great. And yet, it has chosen the path of the Dark Arts and put Denuvo into its game. This attempt to prevent piracy might be understandable, but it comes with its own risks, as I’ve mentioned above, as well as community backlash.

hogwarts legacy hogwarts express denuvo
Will the train back to Hogwarts in Hogwarts Legacy bring the franchise to new heights, or will it derail an already shaky franchise? Image courtesy Universal Studios.

The developers at Avalanche Studios and publishers at Portkey Games. Interactive should really be asking themselves whether preventing piracy is worth risking a flop, especially for a franchise that already seems to be flagging and trapped in controversy. The game will certainly launch with Denuvo — I don’t think there is much that will change that. But, once it does, they need to be able to respond immediately when issues present themselves.

If the game launches and is a buggy mess or people can’t play because of its DRM, or if potential customers are just turning their noses up at such an anti-consumer piece of software, then Hogwarts Legacy may be left with two options. Either let Denuvo cast Avada Kedavra on it, making its “legacy” that of a flop, or cast the Killing Curse on the software itself, leaving behind it’s anti-tamper protection in exchange for a functional, successful game. Personally, I’m hoping for the latter. Though we will see when the game launches on February 10th.

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Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he'll try. When he isn't working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.

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10 months ago
Well I admit it, I got the game for free and alreadey played it through.
If it hadn't been contaminated with Denuvo I would have bought it.

In the past I would have just bought it for consoles in such cases, but I wanted it on PC and didn't want to wait for Denuvo to finally be removed for consumers.

And since I've already gotten used to not having any achievements because of Far Cry 6 (also no achievements on Steam), I didn't care about the achievements in Hogwarts Legacy either.

And so, after so many years of always buying the newest games on Steam, Denuvo successfully drove me back into piracy. Congratulations!