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Niantic ‘punished’ millions of Pokémon Go players for cheating

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Pokémon Go to your room

Pokemon Go Photo: Michael McWhertor/Polygon

Pokémon Go creator Niantic won a $5 million settlement against Pokémon Go, Ingress, and Harry Potter Wizards Unite hack creators in 2020 — the culmination of a lawsuit that was filed in 2019. But it wasn’t only going after the cheat creators. Niantic announced Tuesday that it has issued “punishments” more than 5 million players across the three games since 2020.

More than 20% of those punishments, Niantic said, were “permanent bans.” Cheating in Pokémon Go, Ingress, and Harry Potter Wizards Unite largely means using hacked programs, like the ones named in the lawsuit, which allow players to access modified versions of the game that allow for GPS spoofing and “auto-walk” functionality. These allow players to play Pokémon Go, Ingress, and Harry Potter Wizards Unite without going outside or actually moving to a certain location.

(Niantic made some changes in March, however, to make the game easier to play from home during the ongoing pandemic. Some of those changes have been reverted, however.)

Though cheating in Pokémon Go and Niantic’s other games largely impacts only the hack users, some argue that it does impact some of the games’ player-versus-player elements, like gyms.

Niantic said that over 90% of players stopped cheating after receiving a warning from the company.

“We are committed to ensuring fair gameplay across our game portfolio,” Niantic said in a blog post. “Every day newer forms of cheating or spoofing tools are made available on the internet, and we are continuously working to combat these cheaters and focus on improving our detection and enforcement; as they have no place in our games.”