Video game scams are million dollar business

Cologne – “Cheater” – this is what video players are called, who gain advantages with unauthorized technical means. Many spend money on it and poison the game world. Millions of dollars are being made in the constant arms race.


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Cheats were once found in almost every game. If you’re gambling a bit longer, you might remember the codes for new weapons or more play money in “Doom” or “Warcraft”. And on consoles, for example, there was the so-called Konami code, a key combination with which players could gain a small advantage in several titles of the Japanese developer.

Unlike today’s cheats, these little chicanery games were part of the game, built by the developers as an extra service for lazy or experimental users. But they were mostly only usable in single player mode. Cheating was prohibited in competition with other players.

Competition entices many

This is different today: Popular cheats and hacks come from the outside, so as an additional program. And by far the biggest offer is for popular multiplayer titles like “Counterstrike”. For the tactical shooter there are, for example, aimbots that take away the player’s aim, or wallhacks with which he sees enemies through walls. For tactical games such as “League of Legends” or “DOTA 2” exist tools that take the player tasks or uncover the entire map.

Sure, that’s a huge advantage – and also clear that this does not go down well with other players. “Once there are cheaters, players lose confidence in a game,” says Marcel Menge, anticheating expert at e-sports organizer ESLGaming. “It can go so far as to poison the climate of a whole community.”

Allegations are made quickly

Because where there are cheaters, the accusation is “You cheater!” usually not far. Even if the other one is just better. This spoils the mood over time – and the sports spirit. “One of the dangers of cheating is that it leads to more cheating,” explains scientist Jeremy Blackburn, author of several studies on the subject. “When I see people cheating, I’m more prone to try it myself.”

At the same time, such scams are not considered a trivial offense among players: disguised cheaters quickly become outsiders in the community. Why are so many trying it anyway? “Cheaters just do not think they’ll get caught,” says Blackburn. “And many actually get away with it, at least for a while.”

When money comes into play, fun often stops

For many, cheating is just about the feeling of being superior to others, Blackburn said. In addition, games are no longer just about fun – but also about money. Why cheating is not only a problem for the masses of casual gamers, but also and above all for professional e-sports tournaments like ESLGaming.

“On our two platforms, we locked 4200 people for cheating last year,” says Anticheat expert crowd. “That’s well below the single-digit percentage range.” The scammers are mostly good players who would have a chance even without cheats. “As with doping in cycling, it’s more about getting the last bit out of it.”

To prevent this, ESLGaming obligates its athletes in online tournaments to use special anticheat software – a kind of urine sample for the PC. “It works like a kind of virus scanner that participants in our competitions have to install on their computers,” says Menge. The software will then detect if unauthorized helper programs are running alongside the game.

Manufacturers try to stem scams

For Otto normal players, the fight against cheats is not quite that far: Here are the publishers of the games that fight the cheats – Valve for “Counterstrike” for example, Blizzard for “Overwatch” or Riot Games for “League of Legends” , Anticheat software such as EasyAntiCheat, VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) or Punkbuster are usually integrated into the game software.

The user will notice nothing of it in the ideal case. But in the past, there were always a lot of problems with inquisitive anticheat solutions, which screen the whole computer in search of cheats. What information the tools collect there and what happens with it, the user can hardly understand.

Legal disputes with commercial cheat developers

In addition, the anti-leak solutions can not filter out all scammers. Because behind the cheats is a whole industry with development teams and professional download shops, in which there are even money for cheat subscriptions – constant updating guaranteed. “We have our own development team there to respond to the latest developments,” says Menge. “This is a constant race between cheat developers and people like us.”

Publishers like Valve and Riot are also legally against cheat developers – and achieve some damages in the millions. If you only use cheats, you do not have to fear that. Legal trouble threatens cheating but still. “If you play a game, you enter into a contract of use with the provider of the game,” explains lawyer Konstantin Ewald. “And in these contracts, it’s commonplace that you can not use the games with technical tools like cheats or bots.”

Anyone who violates this must expect penalties. “There are a number of sanction options available to providers,” explains Ewald, an expert on playing law. The most popular variant of this is to lock the player – either for one game and on time, or for a whole platform and forever.