Sonic Mania Reviews On Steam Turn Negative and Nasty Over Denuvo DRM [Updated]

Denuvo DRM see users on Steam revolting against Sega's shot at nostalgia.

News by Mike Williams, .

Update: Sega has patched out the bug preventing PC owners of Sonic Mania from playing the game offline.

"We’d like to thank the community for their honest feedback with regards to Sonic Mania on PC. We’ve found the problem within the game code that was stopping people playing offline and it’s been corrected by the dev team," said the company on Facebook. :We’ve looked into the DRM complaints and can confirm this was not the cause of the problem. We apologise for any inconvenience any of the bugs may have caused players of the PC version at launch and would like to reassure them again, that as with this particular bug, we are on the case and working on fixes so everyone can have an uninterrupted and enjoyable experience playing Sonic Mania both online and offline."

A few days before Sonic Mania was scheduled to launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC, the latter version was delayed. Now Sonic Mania is out on Steam, but fans aren't happy as Sega has added the much-maligned Denuvo digital rights management (DRM) system to the platform. Strike one for the release.

How Steam fans felt when Sonic Mania had DRM.

The problem is that when Sonic Mania launched, the inclusion of Denuvo was not noted on the Steam store page under the features section. Fans already hate Denuvo - for causing performance issues and locking paying customers out of their own games - so when it appeared that Sega was trying to slide the DRM in under their noses, they flipped. Strike two.

In addition, Denuvo seems to be causing Sonic Mania to hit a snag, with some players noting that the game isn't playable offline at all. This version of the DRM apparently needs to have an always-online connection to authenticate Sonic Mania, meaning there's effectively no way to turn Steam into Offline Mode and play the game. Strike three, you're out.

Sonic Mania still holds a "Mostly Positive" rating on Steam, but most if not all of the "Most Helpful" reviews are Negative. All told, there are 612 negative reviews out of a total of 2,097 as of this writing.

"I am beyond disgusted that this was installed without any warning. If not removed I shall seek a refund towards the end of my refund period in a week. More urgently, I am trying to find a way to eradicate the malware from my computer presently," wrote Steam user Miraglyth, the writer of the Top review on the page.

"Sega delayed the release of the PC version to implement Denuvo and they did it in a way that I've never seen before: This game can't be played offline. At all," said user XeidiDent. "And there's nowhere on the Store page informing the customer about this. Lesson learned, Sega."

"I preordered the game, expecting it to be DRM-free because the storefront page didn't mention it. I asked for a refund. Don't waste my time like that, Sega. Not cool," added user Sabin Stargem.

"If I could play offline, you'd get a good review. But it's clear 'delaying for optimizations' was to lazily implement an anti-piracy measure," wrote user Leave3D, tapping on the current fan speculation about the reason behind the PC delay.

In response to the review-bombing, Sega has already released a response about the DRM, pledging a fix for those who can't play the game offline. The publisher also added Denuvo to the list of features so Steam buyers know the game has DRM at all.

"Like you, we've noticed an error in the Steam store not mentioning the DRM for Sonic Mania. We're fixing that now," said Sega in its statement. "Sonic Mania is intended to be played offline and we're investigating reports on that. We're also investigating other issues like controller support, these are all PC specific things that Christian and the team have been working on these last few weeks. Please bear with us while we collate and investigate problems that are being brought to our attention."

As I said, the reviews are still positive overall, but it's not the best start for Sonic Mania on Steam, a game that's already seen accolades and been enjoyed on other platforms.

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for CK20XX #1 CK20XX 6 months ago
    There was a Steam update just now that added offline playability, but I'm still a bit miffed. I wouldn't go so far as to call Denuvo malware, but adding it to a $20 game as opposed to a $60 triple-A game is just ridiculous. I don't know if it's due to paranoia or sleaziness or something else, but I'm amazed at how after 23 years, Sega still retains the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #2 SIGGYZtar 6 months ago
    Sega should just release this game on GOG.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #3 Roto13 6 months ago
    Unlike a lot of the times that game reviews get bombarded, this is a very fair complaint and a reasonable reaction.

    It's weird that this game would have online-only DRM at all.
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  • Avatar for moochan #4 moochan 6 months ago
    I just honestly don't understand DRM. It just makes people more willing to try to break it. Just look at Spore and how they touted at how impervious their DRM was and it was cracked in a week. Also people that wanted this game are people that would most likely have supported the game fully. Like with most PC released just wait a week after launch to see if something is amiss. Hopefully by than a lot more things will be ironed out. Not someone that hates DRM I am just always baffled by it.
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  • Avatar for Thad #5 Thad 6 months ago
    I was going to buy it; now I'm not. Thanks, reviewers, for alerting me.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #6 Roto13 6 months ago
    @Thad The always online DRM was removed already.
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  • Avatar for bigbadboaz #7 bigbadboaz 6 months ago
    @Roto13 The Denuvo has not, and maybe will not. Not good enough.
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #8 BulkSlash 6 months ago
    Apparently the game has been cracked and the DRM removed already. So what was the point Sega? Why saddle paying customers with a worse experience especially when it doesn't even stop piracy?

    Considering the backlash Microsoft received over their original plans for Xbox One DRM I think publishers should take the dissatisfaction with DRM more seriously.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #9 UnskippableCutscene 6 months ago
    It's not cracked already. Someone circumvented the always-online detection, but not the anti-piracy tool. There's a few crack groups that can break Denuvo (most recently it was broken on Agents of Mayhem), but it's not easy and might take a week or so.

    The fact that this game and the Life Is Strange game, both in the $20 and under segment, launched with Denuvo shows that either Sony (which owns it) is looking harder for clients or publishers are getting worse and worse with this stuff. Make no mistake: Denuvo nearly ended PC gaming piracy completely a few years ago, and a huge amount of opposition to it certainly comes from people who just want to see the "honor system" continue, but there's also technical reasons to oppose it (example: it's basically impossible to play the game in the Wine emulator for Linux users, whereas the default Steam DRM that crackers broke a long time ago has never stopped paying customers from using Wine for games that are Windows only) as well as the usual DRM concerns about online backends going down where Valve managed to clear the hurdles. There's an urban legend that Valve will disable Steam DRM if Steam ever shuts down, but nobody can say the same of Denuvo.

    It's being broken regularly enough now that it should discourage the industry from leaning on it too hard. It's crappy to see games that cost so little feeling the need to put it in, expecially a game made by a guy who himself made unauthorized fan games, but Sega hasn't exactly been making a lot of consumer-friendly decisions lately between this and the Persona 5 streaming mess.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #10 Sturat 6 months ago
    How much do you want to bet they intentionally delayed the PC version because they knew reviews would complain about the DRM if it launched along with the other versions?
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #11 UnskippableCutscene 6 months ago
    @Sturat It seems likely the delay was a last minute decision to include DRM, given that they messed up the implementation in such a way that it was configured to require online access.
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