Blizzard Cracks Down on Over 34,000 Overwatch Cheaters in China in 2020


in Overwatch | Jul, 6th 2020

The Overwatch community has been plagued by cheaters seemingly since the very beginning of the game’s run in 2016 with the beta. Ever since then, Blizzard and the Overwatch team have been iterating on their anti-cheat systems with ban waves smacking down would-be cheaters and forcing them to buy new licenses. The latest report on their efforts comes to us from China, where Netease and Blizzard have reportedly banned over 34,000 cheaters.

Overwatch’s Battle Against Cheaters Continues

Blizzard tends to suspend or ban accounts that are suspected of cheating, and for other violations of its code of conduct, including hate speech, trolling, and other forms of offensive communication or behavior. Accounts are typically only permanently banned for repeated offenses, though cheaters are treated with a bit less prejudice than a small infraction. There’s no way to recover a banned account, aside from buying a new one. Some in the community have questioned if this is indeed the right route rather than a hardware ban, which would prevent the cheating player from playing the game again altogether on the same system and IP.

Of course, this means that any cheater or player who’s permanently banned for other reasons also loses all of their skins, loot boxes, and other account progress. One might expect this would be a significant enough deterrent to prevent cheaters from trying to prosper in Overwatch, but apparently not in every respect. It’s worth noting that many of these accounts could have come from PC bangs and other public places, though this surely has gone down in the wake of COVID-19. On that note, it could also be postulated that cheating as a whole might be up in the wake of the pandemic, with many stuck at home and bored – looking for validation in a video game by cheating and performing far above their usual level might be all the high and reason cheaters need to attempt it, no matter the consequences.

This is on the back of a report showing that Blizzard has also sold 10 million copies in China, making it one of the most successful pay-for games ever in China. This is significant because of China’s penchant for free to play games being a success in the country, and indeed over the entire planet. Having a community of players in a paid for game this long after it launches is a significant win for Overwatch, whatever issues its esports scene might have at the moment.

With Overwatch having more than 50 million players, this means that at least 20 percent of its playerbase is in China. This could be a great reason why the Overwatch League and owners within the league might feel emboldened to invest in the league and have faith in its future.

That number does also show that less than 1% of Chinese players cheat in Overwatch, dispelling a popular myth in the community that many of the hackers hail from that region. While it’s unlikely that the myth will vanish anytime soon, it’s worth remembering this statistic next time you’re in a ranked match and someone starts trying to be racist against a Chinese player.

Where Else Has Cheating Been an Issue in Overwatch?

Blizzard has been fighting this war against cheaters in Overwatch for quite some time. As far back as the game’s beta, ban waves have been hitting the Overwatch servers.

In a recent example of another ban wave, over 6,000 accounts were banned from Korean Overwatch servers for using cheat programs, Over 100 of those players were in the top 500 for the previous Overwatch season, which shows the prevalence of the issue at top levels in the game, even.

In Korea this problem has been especially problematic because of the prevalence of players playing at PC Bangs. In a lot of cases when a player is banned at a PC Bang, they would just get a new temporary account from the owner of the PC bang, or visit a different cafe (which there are many) to continue playing and even cheating in most cases due to the lack of consequence. While this practice has been mostly cracked down on, and Overwatch’s playmates in Korean PC Bangs has fallen to under 10% in recent years, it’s still worth noting when discussing cheating in Overwatch.

This could have a significant effect on the esports scene, as many teams use top 500 matches to scout and identify new talent. If scouts have to question whether or not people are hacking at this level it could make their job significantly harder to perform well, and could have the effect of lessening the amount of new talent recruited into the Contenders and Overwatch League scenes.

Why Are Cheaters Especially Bad in a Competitive Game?

Cheating in a competitive title completely undermines the spirit of competition that keeps players engaged and coming back. If a player loses trust in a particular title or develop and their ability to combat cheaters overall, they are always going to question whether or not a player could realistically hit that shot, or if their own hit detection is off. This could lead to players becoming disillusioned and qutitting the game altogether. And with a game that’s been out as long as Overwatch, and that has growing competition every day from other titles in the FPS market like Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege, and CS:GO, keeping its playerbase loyal and engaged is especially important for Blizzard to do.

The fact that cheating has been such an issue in Overwatch has caused other developers to take a look at their own anti-cheat, at least indirectly. Both CS:GO and Valorant have made recent strides to fight cheating in their own titles, with mixed success. Cheaters are almost always one step ahead of the developers, but as long as the community remains vigilant in reporting these issues, it’s the developers can at least keep their games alive.