Grand Theft Auto Online players who amassed mountains of in-game money through exploits and mods woke up today to gargantuan deductions from their virtual bank accounts. Rockstar Games started the day with a new offensive against players who break the game's terms of service to their advantage. Image of GTA Online account deduction Tweeted by gamer Carbine King
On forums for the game, players who freely admit to breaking the game's rules to get their fortunes reported losses of millions and billions. Some lost even more. One affected player who goes by the name Carbine King tweeted a bunch of middle fingers at Rockstar atop a screenshot showing that the studio had just deleted $117,944,768,843 of in-game money from his account.
On its support page, Rockstar dubbed today's purge the "GTA Online October 2016 Illegitimately Gained In-Game Money Removal" and explained what was going on in a brief Q&A:
Question: Why did I receive an alert when logging into GTA Online saying that illegitimately gained in-game money was removed from my shared bank?
Answer: To keep the gameplay environment fair we have removed illegitimately gained in-game money from player accounts. If you received an alert saying that your shared bank balance was adjusted, that is because you had illegitimate funds in your account.
In a follow-up, the studio explained that players who have a mix of "illegitimate" in-game money and GTA dollars they obtained through the legit real money purchase of "Shark Cards" would keep the latter. That means they wouldn't zero out the account of a player who only cheated from time to time.
Rockstar also significantly increased punishments for in-game cheating, moving from what was assumed by players to be a three-strike policy to two strikes. A severe first infraction for cheating, modding or other behaviours that Rockstar says violate the game's terms will get the player suspended. On a second severe infraction, Rockstar will ban. In a move clearly intended to scare cheaters straight, Rockstar indicated that suspended players would see their character's progress reset to zero, wiping out bank accounts and character-levelling: "All GTA Online progress, property and inventory will be reset."
Some GTA Online fans are thrilled to see Rockstar push back against people who they feel upend the game by using hacked money to buy all the best weapons and vehicles in the game and cause more mayhem in the game's shared world. They also don't see what grounds any cheaters have for complaining.
"People being mad at Rockstar for removing their non-legit money," tweeted GTA Online player Yan 2295 player. " You don't respect the [game's terms of service], and THEY are in the wrong? Pls go back to COD." Some players loudly agreed with that sentiment though others claimed that cheating was necessary to gain enough in-game money to get the coolest stuff in GTA Online without having to play an inordinate amount of time.
Some GTA Online players have worried in forum posts that innocent gamers will get wrongly suspended and lose their progress. Rockstar's official policy is that their decisions are final and that suspensions and bans can't be appealed.
The cheaters and modders are in a frenzy, too, trying to figure out what triggers Rockstar's anti-cheat detectors. Some speculate that having under a billion GTA dollars might avoid detection or that unlinking accounts from the Rockstar Social Club account system will help them dodge a bullet, but others on those forums who have had less than a billion or did unlink say they got hit. Others say they're shocked that they haven't been caught.
Rockstar also announced some bonuses for the game today, including a new mode for Halloween and a perk tied to the online game's three-year anniversary. If players log in on PC, Xbox One or PS4 between now and the end of Monday, they will receive $250,000 of in-game money. It will be clean, of course.