Counter-Strike is one of the biggest competitive shooters on Earth, so of course, would-be cheaters flock to it like thieves to an Uncharted 4 delivery truck. Counter-Strike has recently begun dabbling in phone-based account authentication. First and foremost, there's been word of a beta for "Prime", a feature that matches players who've linked their accounts to their phones exclusively with each other. Get banned for cheating in there, and your number is banned. The hope is that smurfs and cheaters, who frequently switch accounts, will have a harder time scaling that walled murder garden.
Today, Valve added another prong to their offensive. As part of a new Counter-Strike update, players who get VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) or game bans now have them applied to all accounts associated with their phone number. Here's how it works:
If an account that has a phone number registered to it receives a VAC or Game ban, all other accounts that used the same phone number at the time of the infraction will also receive a ban. If the other accounts do not own the game they will still receive the ban and be unable to purchase the title on that account. The phone number on an account that receives a ban will be suspended for three months and cannot be applied to another account during that time. The cooldown duration for applying a phone number after a ban will increase each time a cooldown is applied.
It's worth noting that Prime — at least, as it is now — is already restricted to one phone number per player. However, you can still have multiple Steam accounts attached to the same phone number, and Valve's been beating the drum hard on phone authentication lately. This change, then, seems aimed more at weeding out cheaters outside Prime.
There are some potential downsides. Sceptical players have pointed out that carriers tend to reuse phone numbers, though the odds of stars aligning such that you get a new phone number that happens to correspond with a banned CSGO account are astronomically low. Someone in the sky (God or a really mean bird who controls which phone numbers people get) would have to seriously dislike you for that kind of thing to happen.
People have also expressed concern about loopholes by way of VOIP numbers and things of that nature, but CSGO's account matchmaking system expressly forbids those types of phone numbers.
Lastly, I have to wonder how many cheaters tie throwaway Steam accounts to their phone numbers. Valve claims 95 per cent of Steam users take advantage of mobile Steam Guard functionality, but what's to stop cheaters from only doing it with their main account, keeping that one squeaky clean, and using others for dirty deeds?
All of this is still early, but what do you think of Valve's approach so far? Do you think this will actually cut down on the number of cheaters in games like Counter-Strike?