There can be little doubt that Wikipedia is one of the greatest resources of information available online today.
The platform has plenty of critics but generally there’s a credible effort to ensure that the data presented to readers is properly researched and sourced. That’s also true for the Wikipedia page dedicated to the anti-piracy technology known as Denuvo.
The anti-tamper system is the most well-known product of its type and is regularly deployed on various gaming titles, much to the disappointment of many legitimate purchasers and the vast majority of pirates. As a result, Denuvo has become a target for cracking groups, who aim to defeat the technology in the quickest possible time.
Up until recently, people wanting to see a convenient list of Denuvo titles and their ‘cracked or not’ status had two obvious choices. They could visit Reddit’s appropriately-named /r/crackwatch subreddit or head over to Denuvo’s Wikipedia page, where an entire column was dedicated to the news.
This week, however, a dispute broke out behind the scenes at Wikipedia, as first publicly highlighted by a poster on Reddit’s /r/pcgaming sub.
This resulted in the removal of most of the link sources in the ‘cracked’ column, later followed by the deletion of the entire column, as shown in the image below.
Without going into the minutiae (which is best handled by those more au fait with the rules, intricacies, and etiquette of Wikipedia editing), one of the key reasons the column was removed (the other is detailed here) was that the source of the material relied upon to prove that a crack actually exists isn’t acceptable.
As clearly illustrated in this earlier version of the page, many of the links led to sites (such as Xrel.to) which are dedicated to archiving so-called NFO text files that cracking groups distribute with their releases. These files are usually very informative, providing key information about each release, who made it, and when it was distributed etc.
However, according to the people who made the decisions behind the scenes on Denuvo’s page, sites like Xrel are not reliable sources as defined by Wikipedia. They do not carry absolute proof that a game has been cracked, they only carry text files that claim that to be the case, they argue.
“I do not see how this can be an accurate proof whether a game is cracked or not since this site does not offer any cracks, they just have (easy to fake) nfo files. Notice about not reliable source exist since August 2016 but has been ignored by authors,” one of the editors commented.
Those who understand how sites like Xrel and many pre-databases work will probably be disappointed that they’re not considered legitimate sources. Fake NFO files are simply not tolerated and any sites publishing them would be quickly called out by their users and/or abandoned for a more accurate source.
In this case the Wikipedia rules are being strictly enforced, which creates problems. Clearly, posting a link to a torrent of a cracked game wouldn’t be acceptable, so an NFO database is usually the next best thing. Sadly, however, we know from experience that NFO files don’t meet Wikipedia’s standards.
It has been many years ago now and I no longer have the original emails to quote from. However, I can confirm having a short conversation with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales who was very clear that sites like Xrel (I believe we were actually talking about the now-defunct Nforce NFO database at the time) are not acceptable sources for Wikipedia.
This presents a challenge moving forward. Given that there are so many pirate releases every single day, there is no source for them that meets Wikipedia standards, unless a credible news source reports on each and every one.
Clearly, reporting on everything isn’t necessary but it’s a shame that properly curated and maintained resources for release data can’t be used on the Denuvo page. The fact that games have been cracked can still be reported in the body of the page, but the easy reference column appears to have gone for good.
Given Denuvo’s controversial nature, there’s some speculation that the edits were designed to protect the company’s position. However, as numerous people have pointed out, potential customers in the video game industry won’t be using Wikipedia as their primary research platform before deciding whether to spend money with Denuvo.