id backtrack on invasive Doom Eternal anti-cheat

Player outrage has forced their hand to roll back this controversial change

Well that went well. Less than a week after introducing the controversial and invasive Denuvo Anti-Cheat solution into Doom Eternal, id has announced that actually they’re going to reverse this decision, and players will be allowed to continue playing the game they have bought and paid for without granting id access to the core operating system files with a kernel-level driver.

It kind of feels like they could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by simply speaking to their customers before introducing obviously controversial measures like this. They’ve not achieved whatever their intended goal was, as their multiplayer is no more secure after this series of events than it was before. They’ve suffered reputational damage, including a big hit to their user reviews on Steam, and frankly they’ve made themselves seem out of touch.

Wind the clocks back not all that long, and id would have been considered a developer with the interests of their players and the wider community around their games on the forefront of their minds. They have made earlier versions of their id Tech engine completely open-source, which has been a massive benefit to modders, bedroom coders, and players. Even if there was no direct profit motive, it was a decision they made for the greater good that I wish more developers would follow.

But this movie seemed extremely corporate and has made them seem oblivious to what their players would want. Did no one involved in this decision even consider the possibility that there would be some backlash? I feel like most medium or large game developers should probably have someone on staff that has at least a rudimentary insight into their customer’s mindsets, especially on such serious subjects as anti-cheat software that makes drastic changes to your computer as this anti-cheat does.

id put out this statement, which in my view is kind of full of deflection and excuses:

“Despite our best intentions, feedback from players has made it clear that we must re-evaluate our approach to anti-cheat integration. With that, we will be removing the anti-cheat technology from the game in our next PC update. As we examine any future of anti-cheat in DOOM Eternal, at a minimum we must consider giving campaign-only players the ability to play without anti-cheat software installed, as well as ensure the overall timing of any anti-cheat integration better aligns with player expectations around clear initiatives – like ranked or competitive play – where demand for anti-cheat is far greater.”

Ultimately this cycle of bad decision, outrage then backtrack feels like a big waste of everyone’s time. Hopefully if any lesson can be learned from this, it’ll be that developers should be clear about what restrictions or bundled DRM or anti-cheat will be required prior to when players make their purchase decision. This story would have played out very differently had id warned people about this prior to the game’s release, rather than springing it on people unexpectedly.

But in the end, this is the outcome that many users will have wanted, and a game that might have otherwise been permanently marred by an aggressive anti-cheat implementation can now move past this temporary setback, and players can get back to enjoying it. This incident can serve as a warning for any other developers thinking about trying similar in the future.

Are you more likely to play Doom Eternal now this anti-cheat has been removed? Is this something you’re going to be considering when making future purchase decisions? Were you in the vocal minority making your voice heard via Steam user reviews or elsewhere? Let us know in the comments.

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I skew Chaotic Good where possible, and love pressing buttons, viewing pixels and listening to sounds. I’ve written for publications like Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, VG247 and Kotaku UK, and spent 13 years running SavyGamer.co.uk. If you ever get the chance you should ask me to tell you the story about that time I had a fight with a snake on an island off the coast of Cambodia.

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