Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most anticipated video games in recent years. Developed by CD Projekt Red and based on the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG, it generated a huge amount of hype prior to its release in December 2020. However, the initial launch was plagued with bugs and performance issues, especially on consoles.
One aspect of the PC version that makes it stand out is that it is DRM-free on GOG, the digital storefront owned by CD Projekt. But what about the Steam version? Is Cyberpunk 2077 DRM-free on Steam as well?
What is DRM?
DRM stands for "Digital Rights Management". It refers to various technologies and restrictions used by publishers to control access to and usage of digital content.
The goal of DRM is to prevent unauthorized copying and distribution of games, software, movies, music, ebooks, and other digital media. It aims to enforce the end user license agreement and protect the intellectual property rights of content creators.
Some common DRM schemes include:
Product keys and online activation – Requiring a valid CD key or serial number to install or access content. This ties the content to a user account.
Always online connections – Games that require a persistent internet connection to a DRM authentication server, even for single player. Prevents offline use.
Hardware locks – Binding content to a particular hardware device like a PC or gaming console. Won‘t run on other systems.
Restricting number of installs – Limiting how many times a game can be downloaded and installed.
Anti-tamper and anti-debug code – Techniques that detect tampering, prevent cheating, deter cracking attempts. May cause issues for legitimate users.
Encryption – Encrypting game files and executables to prevent access without authorization.
Watermarks – Hidden identifiers in media content to trace piracy back to the source.
DRM has always been controversial. Publishers argue it‘s needed to fight piracy and protect sales. But critics contend it mostly hurts paying customers, with minimal impact on piracy. DRM systems can be inconvenient, restrictive, or break games in unacceptable ways.
Is Cyberpunk 2077 DRM Free on Steam?
Steam is the dominant PC game platform, with over 30,000 games available. It provides DRM for all titles sold through its storefront.
To play any Steam game you need to have the Steam client installed. You must sign in with an account that owns the game. The Steam client verifies this ownership before launching the game.
So in that sense, no Steam games are ever truly DRM-free. The Steam client itself provides DRM by managing game licenses and activations.
However, individual games may or may not employ additional forms of DRM on top of Steam:
No additional DRM – The game relies solely on Steam for authentication and does not include any other DRM schemes. Can be run directly from executable without Steam after some file modifications.
Extra DRM – The developer has added more restrictive DRM on top of Steam. This includes Denuvo Anti-Tamper, always online requirements, hardware locks, excessive copy protection, etc. Makes it difficult to bypass Steam.
Cyberpunk 2077 does not have any DRM beyond the Steam client. CD Projekt Red opted not to include additional DRM measures. This matches their DRM-free approach on GOG.
So in practice, the Steam version of Cyberpunk 2077 has:
- No hardware locks, no virtual machines
- No always online requirement
- No install limits or watermarks
- No encrypted executables
You need to run it through the Steam client, but it has no other DRM constraints once launched.
Are Any Steam Games DRM Free?
Given Steam‘s universal DRM, it may seem impossible for Steam games to be DRM-free. But there are still a small number of exceptions.
These are games that have bypassed the Steam DRM checks and can run without the Steam client after some simple file manipulation:
The Witcher Enhanced Edition – CD Projekt Red‘s first Witcher game can be DRM-free on Steam. The GoG backup files can replace Steam files.
Machinarium – This indie puzzle game only used Steam for updates. The developer released a DRM free standalone executable.
Grim Dawn – The install folder contains a standalone executable that bypasses Steam.
Legend of Grimrock – Developer provided a launcher to play without Steam.
LIMBO – Steam files can be replaced with DRM free files from the Humble Bundle version.
Super Meat Boy – Developer released DRM free exe as promotion for Super Meat Boy Forever.
So in rare instances, developers may choose to remove or not implement Steam‘s DRM layer at all. But out of the 30,000+ games available, only a handful support this.
Can I Get Cyberpunk 2077 DRM Free?
If you want a 100% DRM-free version of Cyberpunk 2077, there is only one way to get it – purchase it from GOG.com instead of Steam.
GOG is owned by CD Projekt Red and every game on the platform is DRM-free. The GOG version of Cyberpunk 2077 has no DRM whatsoever. You don‘t even need the GOG Galaxy client – the game executables can run standalone with no online checks.
On GOG you truly own the game files. You‘re free to:
- Install on as many PCs as you want
- Play without an internet connection
- Backup and burn discs
- Mod and tweak as desired
- Free from external restrictions
The GOG version does lack Steam features like achievements, trading cards, and the Steam workshop. But it‘s the only way to get Cyberpunk 2077 completely free of any DRM.
Steam‘s DRM – What You Need to Know
Understanding Steam‘s DRM system and its implications can help you make informed purchasing choices. Here are some key facts about Steam‘s DRM:
Online Account Required – You must have an active Steam account and remain logged in to play your library. Can‘t play in offline mode indefinitely.
Sync Save Games – Steam will automatically sync save games and settings to the cloud. Limited options for local backups.
Auto-Updates – Games update automatically through Steam by default. Some mods and downgrades may get overwritten.
Limited portability – Game files are tied to your Steam account, not your local PC. It‘s convoluted to move games between installations.
Remote disable – Valve can theoretically disable access to games remotely for various reasons, though instances of this are rare.
Contingent access – If Steam ever goes out of business or discontinues the DRM servers, games could become unplayable.
Can‘t share – Steam‘s DRM prevents freely sharing purchased games with friends and family.
So while convenient in many ways, relying solely on Steam DRM does impose certain limitations on title availability, ownership rights, and long-term access.
Do Games on GOG have DRM?
In contrast to Steam, GOG does not impose any DRM on its games. Every title can be downloaded and run DRM-free. This gives users full ownership and flexibility.
When you buy games on GOG, you can:
- Install offline on multiple PCs
- Copy to as many backups as you want
- Share freely with friends & family
- Keep games forever – no remote disable
- Mods and downgrades stay intact
- Completely DRM free experience
GOG still provides auto-updating, achievements, and social features like forums. But all optional. You aren‘t locked into an all-in-one ecosystem.
The benefits of GOG‘s DRM-free philosophy make it popular with players who value long-term ownership rights. However, GOG‘s catalog is much smaller than Steam‘s – around 4000 games compared to Steam‘s 30000+.
Does GOG Provide Steam Keys?
A common question – if you purchase games on GOG, can you also redeem Steam keys to have the game on both platforms?
Unfortunately, no. GOG and Steam keys are separate and buying the game on one platform will not grant you a free key on the other.
When you buy a game on GOG, you get the DRM-free version to download and install directly from GOG. If you want the Steam version, you would have to buy the game again on Steam.
In the past, GOG did have an integration program called GOG Connect which granted Steam keys for certain titles bought on GOG. But GOG Connect has been discontinued since 2019.
So if you want your games on both Steam and GOG, you‘ll need to buy two separate copies. The platforms are not directly compatible or integrated anymore.
Can You Get Refunds on GOG?
GOG has a generous refund policy, especially compared to Steam. You can request a refund up to 30 days after purchase, even if you downloaded, launched, and played the game already.
Steam only offers refunds under 2 hours played or owned for less than 2 weeks.
To get a GOG refund, you simply log into your GOG account, go to your Order History, select the game order, and choose the "Ask for refund" option.
As long as it‘s under 30 days, you should be able to get a full refund on any game you bought, no questions asked. This policy makes it easy to test out GOG games risk free.
Why are Some Games Released DRM Free?
Developers and publishers choose to release DRM-free games for several reasons:
Increase sales – DRM like always-online requirements, install limits, etc often deters paying customers. Removing DRM widens the audience.
Appeal to principled customers – Some gamers refuse to buy DRM games as a matter of principle. Catering to this market can boost sales.
Support modding – DRM like encryption hampers modding. DRM-free builds allow fuller mod support. This helps build a long term community.
Avoid DRM headaches – Implementing DRM takes development resources. It can also cause technical issues or bugs down the line. Skipping DRM avoids these headaches.
Belief in goodwill – Some developers simply trust most players will pay for games and don‘t feel DRM is needed or justified.
Releasing DRM-free is seen as a way to build goodwill and get free word-of-mouth promotion from players. The tradeoff is increased risk of piracy. But many developers feel the benefits outweigh the risks.
Do DRM-Free Games Get Updates?
One common concern is that buying DRM-free games will mean missing out on updates and patches. Without DRM, how do you ensure players get the latest builds?
Fortunately, most DRM-free games give you full access to updates and patches. Whenever an updated build is released, it simply becomes available for download on your purchase page.
There are a few ways DRM-free games handle updates:
Manual patches – You download update patches manually from the site and install them over your existing version.
Full installers – A completely new installer is released with the latest build baked in. You download and install this to update.
Delta patches – Smaller incremental update files that modify your existing install, instead of replacing the whole thing.
Self-updating executables – Some DRM-free games include self-update functions to seamlessly update themselves.
So going DRM-free does not mean losing access to updates and critical fixes. You just may have to manually check for and install updates more frequently. A fair tradeoff for most fans of DRM-free games.
Does Cyberpunk 2077 Need Cracks to Pirate?
For all the controversy surrounding its launch, Cyberpunk 2077 notably does not include Denuvo or other advanced anti-piracy measures. It relies solely on Steam‘s DRM on PC.
This makes Cyberpunk 2077 very easy to pirate. The GOG version requires no crack at all to work, since it‘s already DRM-free. And the Steam version only needs a simple Steam emulator or crack to bypass the Steam API connectivity.
Scene groups were able to crack Cyberpunk 2077 and distribute pirated copies within hours of the official launch. With no advanced protection schemes to thwart them, it was trivial to get the game running for free.
While certainly controversial, CD Projekt‘s decision to forego restrictive DRM does align with their consumer-friendly values. Piracy is always going to be an issue, but their focus is delivering a quality experience for paying customers rather than trying to fight a futile war against cracks.
Is Cyberpunk 2077 Worth Buying on Steam?
Despite the rocky launch and ongoing bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 has become one of the top selling games on Steam. It has over 500,000 reviews with 79% rating the game positively.
When it works, Cyberpunk 2077 offers incredible immersion with its dense futuristic open world. The characters, story, and environmental design are incredibly well realized. It‘s one of the most detailed and impressive city-based sandboxes ever created.
However, base console performance is still very poor. High-end PCs are required to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077 in all its ray tracing enhanced glory. It remains best suited to PC gamers with robust hardware.
If you have a capable gaming rig, Cyberpunk 2077 delivers an expansive action RPG with limitless player choice and an incredible sense of atmosphere. Exploring Night City is a one-of-a-kind dystopian experience.
But console players may still want to wait for more patches and next-gen updates. When it works, Cyberpunk 2077 stands as a milestone in open world design. Yet for many, the bugs continue to hamper the experience.
Should You Choose Steam or GOG?
Deciding between purchasing games on Steam versus GOG boils down to a few key factors:
- Huge library of 30000+ games
- Social features like chat, forums, guides
- Cloud saves and achievements
- Frequent discounts and sales
- Workshop mod integration
- DRM requirements
- Limited backup options
- Less ownership rights
- Auto-updates can cause issues
- Completely DRM-free
- Full ownership rights
- Unlimited installs and backups
- 30 day refund policy
- Bonus goodies and extras
- Smaller library of ~4000 games
- No achievements or cloud saves
- Must update games manually
- Less frequent sales
For most gamers, Steam provides the best overall package. But fans of DRM-free experience and ownership opt for GOG when key titles are available there. In general, combining both libraries gives the greatest access to games.
While not completely DRM-free, Cyberpunk 2077 on Steam only uses the Steam DRM layer and has no additional restrictions. This light DRM approach matches the GOG philosophy.
For a 100% DRM-free version, purchasing the title directly from GOG.com is the way to go. But those who buy on Steam at least avoid dealing with more draconian DRM systems found in some other modern releases.
Understanding the implications of DRM in games helps consumers make informed purchasing choices. There are valid arguments on both sides – the need to protect intellectual property versus maintaining ownership rights and flexibility for customers.
Cyberpunk 2077‘s flexible DRM stance, despite the risks, shows CD Projekt‘s continued commitment to consumer-friendly values. While not perfect, it‘s a refreshing change of pace from the increasingly restrictive and controlling DRM found elsewhere in the industry.