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!
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 TakeThis 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!