If you're one of the players who loves Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Ingress, and Pokemon Go, Niantic wants a word with you. The company minced no words in a February 23 blog post stating it had enforced punishments on at least five million player accounts for violating its anti-cheating guidelines.
It's not clear what penalties targeted these players but out of that total of approximately five million, one million accounts were hit with permanent bans for repeated violations. Ouch.
Niantic plans to increase the intensity of these punishments in the future. "More than 90 percent of users who received their first warning, stopped cheating afterwards. This is quite encouraging for us, as we continue to find the right balance between punishing casual cheaters versus the more egregious ones," the company officially stated.
Play fair and square — Niantic says that it normally refrains from talking publicly about cheating issues within its gaming communities. This is mainly because, according to the company, it doesn't want miscreants to spot its efforts and find ways to thwart detection, which makes sense. But it had to step forward and shed light on the issue because scores of users were found violating Niantic regulations around fair play, especially when it came to location information. The company says that it has invested in anti-cheating capabilities and will "reinforce efforts in the coming weeks."
Among Niantic's headaches were Ingress Portals getting spoofed and Pokemon Go users relying on GPS location spoofing, which are unethical ways to falsify information around locations. Some users had been hacking the games and playing from their couches without ever leaving to reach a specific location.
When it comes to playing by the book, Niantic has created a formidable reputation over the past few months. The creator of Pokemon Go won a $5 million settlement in January against hackers who tried to cheat around the game. The group, officially known as Global++, tweaked Niantic's code for its official titles and helped players "auto-walk" to locations without ever actually walking.
Niantic knows that its hunt is only starting. Cheaters, it says, constantly improve their methodologies and strategies, so it's on the firm to keep up especially if it wants to make an industry name for itself during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Every day newer forms of cheating or spoofing tools are made available on the internet, and we are continuously working to combat these cheaters [...] as they have no place in our games," the company asserted.