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Update: If you want to learn more about this situation, we had a talk with Atari1337 who did some of the decryption, using a tool created by Infogram who made the tool to decrypt Halo 5: Forge. There’s a lot more information on it there!

Original Story:

First reported by Dark Side of Gaming, it appears that Microsoft’s newest attempt at DRM on PC have fallen flat. This goes beyond just straight Digital Rights Management, as with Halo 5 and Forza Horizon 3 on PC this method also would block mods. The system used a new encrypted appx format that required the games to get decrypted-on-the-fly using the Encrypting File System feature of Windows, something that some users believe may have impacted performance in the games, although this is not proven.

Reddit User Atari1337 worked on decrypting Forza Horizon 3, which was a more advanced version of what was used and previously decrypted for Halo 5: Forge. In addition to what was for Halo 5, with Forza Horizon 3 they have apparently added scrambling the files to the mix, but because the game has to interface with it at some point, he was apparently able to decrypt it. He posted a couple of videos confirming that he was able to do so.

While this can potentially allow piracy and crackers into the games, it also may lighten the load depending on how it goes, and more importantly will allow modding of the games. Various Window Stores releases have had issues, and the Win 10 apps tend to already be less moddable in general, even before this encryption attempt was put in.

He also clarifies a common misconception about Forza Horizon 3 being always online; instead, according to him, the game only has to be online for the main menu when it grabs the decryption key and you can take it offline after that. With the game being decrypted, that means that even if Microsoft were to take the servers offline, it should be possible to keep the game alive—an ongoing concern with the era of digital and online games.

Due to some of the legal grayness of the situation, we are not linking to any of the places where you can find it, but it is not particularly hard to find. There do not appear to be any mods made for either game yet.

We’ve reached out to Atari1337 and hope to learn more about the situation in general. Additionally, we have reached out to Microsoft for comment. We will update this article when we learn more.

Quick Take

This is a pretty disgraceful DRM move by Microsoft that actively further hinders their game and shows complete and utter disrespect for the platform. Beyond that, it was even completely ineffectual as well. Realistically, this time of lockdown is BAD for the platform and limits what it can do. It is yet another sign of worry with how Microsoft is going with Windows 10 and PC Gaming in general. Stop it Microsoft. Stop it now.

What do you think of Microsoft encrypting their games? Do you think the hackers are in the right to decrypt it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Don Parsons

News Editor

I've been a gamer for years of various types starting with the Sega Genesis and Shining Force when I was young. If I'm not playing video games, I'm often roleplaying, reading, writing, or pondering things brought up by speculative fiction.

  • Random Marine

    Wow i thought this time they wouldn’t be able to crack it since it’s “Real Time” encryption……nope, they did it again. At this point those companies should just give up and be like CD Projekt Red, trust their customers. Forza Horizon 3 is easily the best arcade racing game out there and if it wasn’t for this stupid DRM system, it would be 100% worth the purchase

  • mrwizeass

    When will they learn? DRM only punishes their legitimate customers, and it’s only a matter of time before someone cracks it. Speaking of which, it’d help if PR reps stopped saying that their code is uncrackable. All they’re doing is issuing a challenge.

  • SevTheBear

    I hear ya. I would be playing it like crazy if not for this BS DRM

  • Hiro

    Sorry that I’m a bit out of sync… if you bought a uwp game legitimately, what’s the limitation there?

  • mrwizeass

    Read the article. In this case, performance issues. If you look back further into other software like secuROM that had a host of problems like not detecting the game disc in the drive. Or Ubisoft’s bullshit always-on DRM where you need a constant internet connection to play a game regardless of whether or not you’re playing online.

  • Random Marine

    Plus, the lack of mods which is such a BS since most of the fun on PC gaming is installing mods on the games.

  • NorBdelta

    Its amazing that Microsoft et al will beat the c*** out of their paying customers like this. No wonder quite a few pirate, it tends to be easier just to pirate than put up will this crazy DRM.

  • Hiro

    Sure, a disc with DRM will have that issue (own the disk but server is not available anymore) but UWP is already online, DRM shouldn’t be an issue cause network is compulsory, you knew what you get yourself into the second you press that purchase button.
    I was thinking there might be some restriction on how many computer you can install the game or things like that.

  • BurntToShreds

    The idea of Halo with mods makes me violently ill. Also, someone could just mod the game so that they can see through walls and ensure that they know where everyone is on the map. Since Halo 5: Forge is all custom games, why would that player ever be penalized?

    I’m guessing Don won’t be satisfied until every single game in existence is on Steam, replete with all of its uncurated trash, horrible customer support, and trading card crafting BS.

  • Don Johnson

    Mods can make people want to buy a game that they wouldn’t buy if it didn’t have mods.