Well, who could have seen this coming? Following the introduction of a mandatory kernel-level Denuvo anti-cheat solution, regardless of whether players even play the Doom Eternal multiplayer mode, there was bound to be a few ruffled feathers.
There are two sides to this problem. Firstly the technological problem, where this kind of deep integration of DRM into the user’s operating system is seen by many as invasive and potentially harmful. This is a fairly reasonable concern. Denuvo Anti-Cheat was developed by the same team that developed SecuROM in the past, and Microsoft eventually removed compatibility with SecuROM in Windows 10, citing security concerns.
“This DRM stuff is also deeply embedded in your system, and that’s where Windows 10 says “sorry, we cannot allow that, because that would be a possible loophole for computer viruses.” That’s why there are a couple of games from 2003-2008 with Securom, etc. that simply don’t run without a no-CD patch or some such. We can just not support that if it’s a possible danger for our users.”
Microsoft identifying a similar previous system as malware, a system created by the same team, should certainly raise a few flags.
Secondly, there’s the communication side of the problem. Bethesda didn’t mention any plans to use this kind of technology at launch, it was sprung on players without any warning with the May 14th update. With some kind of warning that this kernel-level anti-cheat technology would be required to play the game going forward, players could have decided for themselves if it was acceptable. The language surrounding the announcement doesn’t really help, where the attempt at a jovial tone from Denuvo themselves didn’t particularly assuage fears, and with communication from Bethesda themselves lacking detail and ultimately coming across not as a company interested in any kind of open dialogue with their users, but seeming corporate and indifferent.
In the four days between when the update was released and today, users have taken to the Doom Eternal Steam page to express their distaste for this change. In this time there have been 4,555 negative user reviews posted, the bulk of them citing the Denuvo Anti-Cheat update as the main reason for their dissatisfaction.
A couple of factors to note when considering these reviews. Users who post reviews are always going to be the vocal minority, and it’s anyone’s guess just how representative of the entire user base they are. Steam reviews track reviews only from confirmed owners of the game, so these numbers carry some weight, these are people that have been happy to pay the asking price for the game, but who have found themselves disappointed by this update. These user reviews and statistical analysis of the user review data are quite prominently featured on Steam store pages, so there’s plenty of chance that these new negative reviews could effectively serve as a warning for potential customers so investigate the anti-cheat situation before parting with their hard-earned money.
Whether these reviews constitute “review bombing”, a coordinate campaign against a game or developer, or whether they are simply genuine sentiments from disappointed customers, is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but it looks to me like a lot of these complaints are perfectly reasonable.
Some examples of what kinds of things people are saying in user reviews:
“Latest update forces you to install Denuvo Anti-Cheat, an extremely dodgy always-on Windows Service with full access to your PC. Many anti-virus programs quite rightly detect it as a virus.
You cannot play the game, even in single-player, without installing it.
Since I refuse to allow that on my PC, the update has effectively locked me out of a game I’d just recently bought.
Avoid until they sort out this mess (if ever.)”
One succinct review simply states:
“I wanted Doom, not spyware.”
Some focus on arguing from a legal perspective:
“The game implemented Denuvo Anti Cheat. A software which uses kernel-level drivers and therefore setting the computer system at high risk. This was not present and/or known before/at the time of purchase. It wasn’t part of the End User License agreement either. By not installing this software (Denuvo Anti Cheat), which is my right to do so, the game doesn’t start.
In compliance with european and german law I demanded a full refund, which was rejected by the automated Steam refund process system, of course. Avoid, until it’s cleared and the rootkit being removed.”
These kinds of reviews go on for several pages.
There have been more negative reviews published by Steam users in the last four days than the game had received in the entire time it’s been launched. This has bumped down the “Recent Reviews” rating down from “Very Positive”, meaning above 85% positive reviews, down to “Mixed” meaning between 40% and 69% positive reviews.
For many players, posting these negative reviews is a way to warn others not to buy this game, for others it’s in hope that Bethesda will reconsider their approach and remove or alter their Anti-Cheat solution, for others, I suspect it’s just a way to lash out against a company that they believe to have wronged them. Whatever the motives, the numbers don’t lie, and clearly plenty of customers are not happy. It’s going to be interesting to see if we get any kind of response from Bethesda, or if they will perhaps change course going forward. Perhaps if long-tail sales are negatively impacted by sustained negative reviews?