‘Pokemon GO’ Finally Getting Serious About Banning Cheaters

Pokemon GO cheaters: We know who you are. Especially those of us who are long-time players of Niantic’s Ingress. We see you hopping from gym to gym at something exceeding light speed. We watch you deploy your extreme-power Pokemon all over the place while legitimate players struggle to beat them. We know that you’re out there refreshing your inventory in mere heartbeats, jumping from PokeStop to PokeStop, and we’ve probably even filed reports against you in frustration.

Well, our prayers have finally been answered, and cheaters are about to stop prospering, as Niantic is finally getting serious about cracking down on Pokemon GO cheats and bots.

Why go outside and meet people and enjoy yourself when you can have no fun ruining the game for people from the comfort of your own home?
TAIPEI, TAIWAN - AUGUST 07: People play Pokemon Go on their smartphones on August 7, 2016 in Taipei, Taiwan. 'Pokemon Go,' which has been a smash-hit across the globe was launched in Taiwan on 6th August. Since its global launch, the mobile game has been an unexpected megahit among users who have taken to the streets with their smartphones. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)

According to Gizmodo, Niantic took time out to reiterate what is already in Pokemon GO’s Terms of Service, making a post on their official website reiterating that they can and will terminate the accounts of offenders.

“This includes, but is not limited to: falsifying your location, using emulators, modified or unofficial software and/or accessing Pokémon GO clients or backends in an unauthorized manner including through the use of third party software.

“Our goal is to provide a fair, fun and legitimate game experience for everyone. We will continue to work with all of you to improve the quality of the gameplay, including ongoing optimization and fine tuning of our anti-cheat system.”

The post also includes a link to a ban appeal form, for those who feel their accounts were terminated unjustly, and an admonishment not to “post appeals on social media” for “privacy reasons.”

The reaffirmation of Niantic’s intentions to punish Pokemon GO cheaters will come as good news to many, but it might possibly leave even more ruffled feathers in its wake than it soothes.

A quick search for 'Pokemon GO' bots produces pages of results.

Meanwhile, popular bot MyGoBot (now renamed Pokefarmer) has allegedly been raking in money hand-over-fist — a single-account subscription costs €3.95 per month (about $4.40 USD) and many players use multiple “instances” to run several copies of the game and outfit gyms with packs of their own Pokemon. Of course, all of that is coming to an end; their own official forums confirm that their users are being banned at an unprecedented rate.

So how exactly do Pokemon GO cheaters get caught, anyway? While Niantic isn’t revealing all of their methods, the company has had very comprehensive anti-cheating measures in Ingress for a long time, and most Ingress players know better than to even try cheating at this point. As the Verge notes, one thing that’s certain is that they don’t just rely on players breaking the laws of physics to detect cheaters; their systems are set up to detect players using “GPS spoofing” — tricking their device into believing it’s somewhere that it’s not. All bots rely on it, and there is no way to do it completely undetectably, so cheaters will inevitably get banned.

Why have cheaters prospered in Pokemon GO for so long, then, if Niantic has such good anti-cheating measures? Pokemon GO is built on the same underlying infrastructure as Ingress after all. Well, this is just speculation, but Pokemon GO has proven infinitely more popular than Ingress. So much so that Niantic was forced to disable their “Pokemon tracking” mechanic almost immediately after the game’s U.S. launch, because it caused too much server load and made the game unstable for everyone. It’s fair to assume that the anti-cheating measures are as resource-intensive, if not more so than the tracking features; the two have many things in common, including tracking a player’s location relative to the location of in-game assets.

You’ll probably have noticed that Niantic has recently made changes to reintroduce Pokemon tracking, albeit in a different format; it’s probably safe to say that they now feel confident enough in their server stability to switch the anti-cheating measures back on as well, and that will have the side-effect of eventually significantly reducing their server load and increasing stability — cheaters also consume a lot of server resources, blinking around quickly to points of interest.

So, legitimate players, rejoice; the playing field is about to be leveled in your favor. Cheaters, we’d say we’re sorry to see you go, but we’d be lying; rather, we’ll look forward to your return as future legitimate trainers.

[Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]