Cheating has always been an issue for Pokémon Go, but Niantic has largely kept the decision-making behind warning and banning players close to the vest. The developer has now come out with a detailed explanation of how it disciplines those found playing the game using unfair methods.
The three-strike discipline policy laid out in Niantic’s latest blog post is pretty clear about who qualifies as an offending Pokémon Go player. If you’re spoofing your location to access regional exclusives or having bots help you speed up the catching process, you’re cheating, according to the Terms of Service and player guidelines.
Niantic actually has an optimistic view of cheaters, as long as they’re first-time offenders.
“Everyone can make mistakes,” the developer wrote. “That’s why we have created this policy to enable offenders to learn from their mistakes and change their ways. If you have been issued a strike, don’t ignore it. Take action to ensure that you do not commit any further transgressions.”
It would be hard to ignore that first strike, which Niantic considers to be a “warning.” That sets the bar at a seven-day probation period, which only grows longer from there. The full three-step process is outlined below.
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:
You may not be able to encounter rare Pokémon in the wild. These Pokémon may not appear on the map or on the Nearby Pokémon tracker.
You may be excluded from receiving new EX Raid Passes.
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.
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.
Pokémon Go players’ reaction to the policy as outlined is positive thus far, with fans applauding Niantic for being forthcoming about its anti-cheat measures. Since the game launched, Niantic has quietly issued shadow bans that would let players log in but not access any other Pokémon Go features; it’s also permanently banned some accounts with minimal communication beforehand. Players who datamined the game’s code were able to piece together why and when Niantic was terminating accounts using third-party apps to hack through Pokémon Go.
And for anyone who feels as though this policy may actually go easy on the cheaters who strong-arm honest folks out of gyms, or who became Pokémon Go masters without putting in the effort, one user of The Silph Road Reddit community has a smart counterpoint.
“The policy might sound lenient to some but they want to retain users,” wrote LeekDuck, one of several supporters of the discipline policy on the major fan forum. “If people are temporarily banned first, they are more likely to change their ways as they don’t want to lose their progress. They aren’t going to risk it again. If you just permaban them right away, they’ll just cheat more.”
Now that everyone is on the same page about what will get you kicked out for good, maybe players will start staying on the right side of the in-game law, or at least a little closer to it.