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Pokemon GO is dealing with cheaters

Pokemon Go

Ever since its launch two years ago, Pokemon GO has had major issues with cheaters. One of the most common forms of cheater in the mobile ARG are “spoofers”. These players will manipulate the GPS systems on their devices to fool the POGO servers into thinking the player is in an area without actually being there.

In previous years, it was as simple as loading a GPS spoofing app on a rooted phone and hopping all over the world in an instant. Niantic got smarter and started implementing a variety of controls and punishments to deter this and other kinds of cheats in Pokemon GO. For starters, Pokemon Go began scanning devices for certain apps, like those used to spoof, or for certain signs the phone was rooted. The company implemented server-side code to block these devices from even logging in. They also began blocking the game from running on Android and iOS emulators, since these programs can’t fake IMEI data to pretend to be physical phones.

There are other forms of cheating as well. One common tactic is “GPS Drifting”, where a player will intentionally block or disable WiFi or other location signals, preventing them from reaching the phone. This causes the game to erratically move the player avatar around while trying to get a fix on their location. Some players use this trick to try and hatch Eggs without moving around. Niantic responded by implementing speed controls, that also warn players against playing while driving, and improving the quality of GPS detection and error-handling as much as they could.

Another common means of cheating in Pokemon Go was botting. These tricks involved using 3rd party APIs to interact with the game in an automated fashion. Doing like managing friends and inventory, spinning PokeStops, and other actions that made the game trivial to farm. These botters would also use apps like PokeVision to locate rare spawns and then combined their API actions with GPS spoofing to farm them.

Needless to say, but Niantic cracked down hard. The company crippled 3rd party apps and implemented a variety of server-side checks for botting players. They even implemented an automated ban system.

It’s still possible to spoof or bot and many players, like those in rural areas, still do it regularly.

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And since Niantic has often had problems with communication and transparency in the past, a lot of players got upset. Claiming that spoofing was the only thing keeping them in the game, or that they were unfairly “Shadowbanned”. Shadowbanning refers to the practice of banning a user from the service, while attempting to disguise the ban from that user. In the case of Pokemon Go, a shadowbanned user could still play, but would receive reduced spawns, or have spawns eliminated altogether.

So Niantic has a three strike system in place to deal with any form of cheating, here are the details. The company has also worked to improve detection of cheating in various ways to reduce false positives.

Strike 1: Warning

If this strike is issued, you will see a warning message within the Pokémon GO app informing you that we have detected cheating on your account.

In addition to this warning, your gameplay experience may be degraded in the following ways for the duration of the warning:

Rare Pokemon will not spawn for you, at all. They won’t even show up on the Nearby Pokemon list. You may be excluded from receiving new EX Raid Passes.

Duration: This strike will last for approximately 7 days. After this period, your gameplay experience will fully be restored.

Strike 2: Suspension 

If your account is issued a second strike, you will temporarily lose access to your Pokémon GO account. When attempting to log into the game, you’ll be presented with a message stating that your account is suspended. You will not be able to bypass this message.

Duration: This strike will last for approximately 30 days. After that period, your account access will be restored.

Strike 3: Termination

If you receive the first and second strikes and continue to cheat, your account will be permanently banned.

Duration: Permanent

So if you really want to cheat in Pokemon Go, it’s still possible, but you’re extremely more likely to get caught and banned than you were a few months ago. So be warned.

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