Pokémon GO Starts to Shadow Ban Cheaters

Image Source: Pokemon Go

Image Source: Pokemon Go

American software developer, Niantic, Inc., known for their augmented reality games Ingress and Pokémon GO have recently decided to shadow ban cheaters.

Cheaters Will Never Prosper

Image Source: Indian Express

Image Source: Indian Express

Niantic announced in The Silph Road subreddit that they are “committed to maintaining the state of Pokémon GO and our community of Trainers.” They also declared that anyone violating their TOS (by using third party software and other methods of cheating) will be affected. They will not be able to see all the Pokémon around their area. This shadow ban was not elaborated further than that and Niantic closed their post by claiming that they are still working on the game to keep it fun for everyone.

Of course the reactions are mixed: most of the complainers seem to have cheated in some form, claiming that this ban will ruin the game for everyone, with some claiming to quit on the spot as their reply to the original post.

Niantic’s Fight With Cheaters

Pokémon GO started its service on July 6 last year as a mobile game that uses augmented reality and locating the players via GPS. The aim of the game is to find and catch different monsters known as Pokémon (known in Japan as Pocket Monsters). Pokémon GO is a spin-off mobile game of the original Pokémon franchise’s handheld games, developed by Game Freak for the Nintendo Gameboy.

The game was released for both Android and iOS and was an instant hit. The receptions were mixed but despite them and the technical issues it had to face during the launch it has been downloaded 50 million times by the end of 2016. Though the game is fun some people found the game’s rules a bit tiring or inconvenient. This gave rise to the creation of cheating methods and 3rd party apps that violate Niantic’s TOS. With these bots, people can fake their locations and fool the game’s servers that they’re walking around. This makes it easier for people to catch and collect Pokémon, visit “Pokestops”, or hatch eggs.

Niantic has been dealing with the cheaters since last year. Since then Niantic has been said to have issued 3 ban waves, where the company permanently bans all accounts that they can prove to have been cheating the game. The cheating methods that are banned include using bots to cheat, like NecroBot. Another method of cheating was GPS spoofing, which tricks the game into thinking that you’re walking around by sending fake GPS coordinates to the game’s servers. The bans handed out are permanent but Niantic can be contacted to re-activate the account should someone be wrongfully banned.

Why a Shadow Ban?

Image Source: Youtube

Image Source: Youtube

Shadow bans, though probably not permanent, are almost undetectable. For this reason, cheaters will never know if they got shadow banned unless they go play with another phone that uses a different account or someone who owns another phone with a different account.

Here’s how it works. Supposedly the shadow ban will prevent the banned users from being able to see some of the Pokémons around them. So what they should do is use the other phone, try to locate a rare Pokémon, like a Ghastly or a Pikachu, and then compare what they see in the two phones. If one phone is displaying the rare Pokémon and the other one isn’t, then it is possible that the one that isn’t displaying that rare Pokémon has been shadow banned.

To be sure, this should be repeated at least twice or thrice. You may also use a third phone to check. If the two test phones are displaying the same Pokémon and yours isn’t then you have definitely been shadow banned. Comparing accounts is the only way to make sure if you’re banned and not just having bad luck.

Though if permanent bans haven’t discouraged cheaters before, it is doubtful if this will discourage them. Handing out bans to cheaters isn’t really a good way to solve the issue, especially if the person is playing for free. Those who have made in-game purchases with real money might be more fearful of the bans, though if you’re already making purchases to make the game easier, one should wonder why would you even need to cheat in the first place.