Pokémon Go developer Niantic has acknowledged that a recent wave of cheating punishments, including account strikes and outright bans, were doled out to players erroneously.
“We’re working on reverting strikes for some Trainers who incorrectly received punishments on their accounts,” the Niantic Support account wrote on Twitter this past Monday. “This will be done for Trainers automatically, whether or not they have contacted us. We apologise for the error.”
According to Eurogamer, these Pokémon Go strikes escalated through three stages, starting with a seven-day warning before moving to a 30-day account freeze and ultimately a permanent ban from the popular alternate reality mobile game. It seems that, somehow, the game’s automated anti-cheat system was tripped and “numerous” players were falsely swept up in the ensuing ban wave, a mistake that Niantic is now looking to reverse.
Over the last few weeks, unofficial Pokémon Go subreddit r/TheSilphRoad has been inundated with complaints from users affected by the glitch. Daniel “Spieletrend” Schilling, a popular YouTuber from Germany who has worked with Niantic at Pokémon Go events in the past, also caught a ban and remains banned as of earlier today. One Reddit thread posits that the punishments may have had something to do with what version of iOS players were using, but no further information has been provided by the developers.
Niantic has also made no indication of compensation for these innocent players, many of whom missed out on this year’s ultimately anticlimactic Pokémon Go Fest.
It’s no secret that Pokémon Go has its fair share of unscrupulous players. Since the game’s release in 2016, Niantic have desperately tried to crack down on folks known as “spoofers,” who use third-party software to trick the mobile game into thinking they’re in completely different locations from the comfort of their own homes. It barely counts as cheating, but Niantic has to keep the lights on in its very fancy San Francisco offices somehow.
Earlier this year, Niantic announced that it had banned over 5 million cheaters since 2020.
“We are committed to ensuring fair gameplay across our game portfolio,” Niantic wrote at the time. “Every day, newer forms of cheating or spoofing tools are made available on the internet, and we are continuously working to combat these cheaters and focus on improving our detection and enforcement as they have no place in our games.”
Pokémon Go has made Niantic over $US4 ($5) billion in the past five years. At least $US1 ($1) billion of that came in 2020 alone.