Niantic, a relatively small game developer which is suddenly in charge of administering the world’s biggest mobile game, is done with cheaters. In a statement posted to the game’s blog, the development team confirmed that it will “continue to terminate accounts that show clear signs of cheating.”
It’s an open-ended statement that doesn’t specify exactly what the company consider cheating, how it weeds people out, and what the appeals process (if any) is for accounts falsely flagged. But it does make absolutely clear that Niantic is tired of people cheating at the game.
DON’T MISS: Here’s every single leaked photo of the iPhone 7
In the post, Niantic said “after reviewing many reports of in-game cheating, we have started taking action against players taking unfair advantage of and abusing Pokémon GO. Moving forward, we will continue to terminate accounts that show clear signs of cheating.”
There’s no specification on exactly what constitute “clear signs of cheating,” but hopefully it will be more targeted on using bots to level up, rather than using things that many people would consider guides, like third-party Pokemon maps. GPS hacks, one of the most popular ways to speed up leveling up, will probably be a weird grey area.
Niantic continues, saying “our main priority with Pokémon GO is to provide a fair, fun, and legitimate game experience for all players. If our system has determined that you cheated, then you will receive an email stating that your account has been terminated.”
Those bans will be permanent, unless you can prove that you were playing legitimately. The developers included a link where you can submit a ticket if you think your account has been banned incorrectly, but even if the number of false positives is small, the sheer number of players will probably make any appeals process flimsy and dependent on who reviews your case.
Being accidentally banned from a mobile game doesn’t sound like a big deal, but think of it in terms of investment. All games take time to level up, and Pokemon Go in particular is a game where you can invest hundreds of hours of real-world time and effort. If Niantic is trying to do things like prevent GPS spoofing, it’s going to be difficult to separate the genuine cheats from people whose GPS connection is spotty.
While trying to ban actual cheating is a good goal (I’ve been burned way too many times with aimbots in Call of Duty to have any sympathy), the lack of transparency and unique nature of the game means that a lot of innocent people will probably get caught in the crossfire.