Last week, Splatoon 2 players noticed something strange about the leaderboard for competitive play. The top four names on the list spelled out “Please add anti cheat,” courtesy of a hacker with a simple request. This hacker later told players that this wasn’t just a joke. He wanted to send a message to Nintendo about how easy it is to hack their game.
The first Splatoon game had a hacking problem, too. The Wii U was notoriously easy to crack, which led to rampant piracy, and by the time Splatoon came out in 2015, the system had already been exploited to hell and back.
While many hackers used Wii U exploits to datamine and find cool unreleased weapons, characters and maps, other people used it to cheat in online multiplayer games. Hacking the Switch is trickier than hacking the Wii U, but by now, the system has been cracked, and now multiplayer cheaters have returned in Splatoon’s sequel.
Before the leaderboard got hacked, videos and screenshots of players appearing to cheat in multiplayer modes had been popping up on both the Splatoon and Nintendo Switch subreddits.
— JD (Squidiot) (@Water_011209) May 25, 2018
Shortly after the initial post of the hacked leaderboard shot up the Splatoon subreddit last week, a user called “Pleaseaddanticheat” took responsibility for it, providing a screenshot of his hacked profile. “Splatoon 2 is a game that I love so very deeply,” he wrote.
“Despite having its connectivity issues, I think it provides a healthy and competitive environment for all players; it advocates strategy and a strong sense of teamwork. It is because of this, everyone enjoys Splatoon, and enjoys the fun of fighting for a rank or a league position. However, this will not be true as long as there are cheaters lurking around.”
“Overall there has only been maybe a dozen (more of less) sightings of people obviously hacking in online multiplayer,” he said. That isn’t very many, but those are just the players who make their cheats obvious. The hacker pointed out that there could be many players subtly changing weapon accuracy and damage without anyone else noticing, because of how easy it is to crack Splatoon 2. “All one needs is a copy of the game files that they want to modify, then they can change whatever they want,” he explained.
“Anyone who can read numbers and use a hex editor can modify game parameters to whatever they want.” He also said that the game currently has no checks in place to make sure players aren’t fooling around with a hex editor before they play online.
The enterprising hacker went on to say that getting on the leaderboard took almost no effort on his part. “The score that it keeps track of (the X Power) is stored locally,” he said. “At the time when I did it, all I had to do was to change my local X Power.” He said that Splatnet, the phone app that hosts the online leaderboard accessible through the Nintendo Switch app, does not check for inconsistencies in your profile.
Nintendo removed this hacker’s message after it reached the top of the Splatoon subreddit, but the hacker says that as of the most recent update, there are still no signs of anti-cheat measures having been added to the game.
“What they should do, in the least, is to add parameters checks like they did in the first game to correct and misconfigured parameter when someone joins a game,” he said. “On top of that, the game should have various sanity checks during the game play.”
It’s clear that Nintendo has seen his message. Time will tell if they take it to heart.