Too Much Free Time

by Timothy Geigner

Filed Under:
cheaters, pokemon go, trolling


Pokemon Go Decides To Troll Cheaters Instead Of Banning Them

from the trollkemon dept

Remember when Pokemon Go was the thing? What once was a legitimate craze has certainly died down from that level, but it's not as though the augmented reality game has simply gone away into oblivion. It still has a dedicated following pumping significant dollars into it. And, as with anything in the gaming space that has reached this level of popularity, the game has its fair share of cheaters looking to automate the game for better rewards. Much like the game's Pokemon evolve as a matter of its ethos, so too is the strategy that those behind the app are employing to combat those trying to cheat the game's system.

In the midst of the craze last summer, the developer, Niantic, had instituted a mass ban of players using automated systems and geo-spoofing techniques to crawl the game's landscape in search of critters to collect. The impetus for doing this is pretty clear: doing this sort of thing allowed players to route around the challenge of the game entirely and, therefore, avoid the reasons for making in-game purchases. But more recently, Niantic appears to be trying to have some fun at the expense of the cheaters instead of banning them.

As detailed by Pokémon Go enthusiast subreddit The Silph Road, a recent Pokémon Go update targets players who use bots to trawl the globe for valuable Pokémon. In case you forgot how Pokémon Go works, it’s an artificial reality game that forces players to move around in the actual real physical world to find and capture Pokémon. People who automate that process with a bot suck the fun out of the game. As of last week, many of those lazybones found popular spawning spots populated not by high-value monsters, but by boring Pidgeys and such. In practice, it’s like hunting for lions and finding nothing but squirrels.

When effective, this sort of tactic works on multiple levels. First off, hey, this is legitimately funny! Second, it also allows Niantic to avoid the appearance of escalation of the conflict between app and cheater. Cheaters want to work around the system through automation to find rare Pokemon? Well, the response is to simply drown them in common critters instead of banning them outright. It feels far more tit for tat than an outright ban.

Which brings us to the third way this is effective: Niantic doesn't come off as the bad guy here. There's no real PR hit to take here. Nobody likes cheaters in the system, but heavy-handed bans can cause everyone's eyes to narrow even when there isn't collateral damage, which there almost always is. Even the media coverage of this tactic looks at it as good fun.

And though yes, it’s mostly just silly fun that Niantic has started feeding its Pokémon Go gluttons a strict sawdust diet, it’s also a reminder that while the game has faded from its initial frenzy, it’s still a very big business.

Regardless, it's always nice to see game makers try to get more creative to combat cheating than simply whipping out the ban-hammer.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 12:26pm

    "but heavy-handed bans can cause everyone's eyes to narrow"

    Hopefully not to be confused with "Turning Japanese" :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 12:59pm

    BEHOLD MY POWERFUL PIDGEY. A wonderful pidgey can still kick your arse in a gym. If you are a new entrant you'll never get into any stadium. Another good way would be to balance the game and allow tiers in gyms. This would leave insanely high levels (mostly cheaters by now) battling with themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Drake, 5 Jun 2017 @ 1:43pm


      A max CP and evolved pidgey is only 2000, I'm a pretty casual player, and I have a few pokemon above that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chuck, 5 Jun 2017 @ 1:46pm


      Don't laugh.

      In Pokemon Red, I first learned of Pidgeot's existence because Blue kicked my ever-loving ass with his. My Venusaur was doing fine, wiped 4/6 of his team, then barely survived through Charizard.

      And out comes f**king Pidgeot.

      One of only 2 times I've ever, EVER lost a Pokemon battle.

      (It was really my fault though. I made the mistake of only leveling 3 Pokemon total, and had nothing good against Flying OR Fire types. NEVER AGAIN!)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 1:08pm

    Do wish they could find a way of getting rid of the bot accounts. Drowning them in pidgeys now doesn't deal with the issue that many already have a number of high level pokemon in their accounts.
    Case in point, my son loves the game. I play with him to get the exercise. We can normally battle one or two of the 4 local gyms and get some coins as a result. However, just this past weekend, all four local gyms (and several others nearby) were all taken over by a number of bots, all from our "team". So, now he can't train up a gym as they are all level 10 and are all bots from the same team, and the other teams can't knock them down because they're stuffed full of the three hardest to defeat pokemon in the game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Machin Shin, 5 Jun 2017 @ 1:34pm

    When they were stupid and blocked rooted devices they lost me. I was kind of enjoying the game, but I refuse to run stock just to play their stupid game. I also don't have time to waste setting up the systems that allow you to get around the ban on root.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2017 @ 5:49am

    I'm all for trolling cheaters and hackers, but this is one instance where I'm partially on the cheater's side. Niantic region-locks a handful of pokemon (for example, you can only get Tauros in NA, Mr. Mime in Europe, and Kangashkan in Australia).

    So If you're an american player and you want a Kangashkan, your choices are: pay $1000 to purchase a plane ticket to Sydney, wander around for a few days and hope that you catch one (because catches are not guaranteed, remember); or spoof your location to get around stupid region locking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2017 @ 9:26am

    One of the biggest issues with pokemon go is the shit tracker. It's completely useless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 6 Jun 2017 @ 5:03pm

    You see this kind of bad behavior in lots of games

    There seems to be a subset of the gamer population that doesn't actually LIKE playing games, they just like the prestige of being high ranked in a game. They don't play for the challenge or the fun, and once they hit that highly prestigious rank, they pretty much quit playing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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