Cheating, in one form or another, has been been endemic in
ever since the global phenomenon first hit the streets in 2016. Many players may have seen initial efforts at things like location spoofing as simple time saves and effectively non-issues, or even outright required for play for some players with disibilities or living in remote locations with few PokéStops
. From these relatively innocent beginning however, we've seen growing examples of more flagrant, outright cheating spurred by desires for an unfair advantage over other players, such as save game editing and bots, spurred several waves of bans from Niantic
. Whatever the rationale behind any individual player's cheating, the current global situation has only escalated the problem. Niantic sort to help curb this problem with the introduction of Remote Raids
early last year, letting players join raid groups from their homes. However, this feature was monetised, requiring Remote Raid Passes
to be purchased from the store. Many comments from players cite this type of aggressive monetisation as a factor encouraging them to seek out various cheats in GO, a game that made over $1 billion in 2020.
Thus far, Niantic has issued punishments to over 5 million users caught cheating, leading to more than 1 million permanent bans being levelled. While those numbers are spread over all of their mobile AR titles, Pokémon GO, Ingress, and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, it's still an almost unbelievable figure. That said, the situation may not be as bad as it first sounds. Niantic encouragingly pointed out that over 90% of those they gave warnings to stopped cheating afterwards. They consider this a success as they "continue to find the right balance between punishing casual cheaters versus the more egregious ones."
The struggle between hackers and developers is unlikely to ever end, and both sides are constantly evolving their methods and deploying new tools. Should Niantic's efforts with the Fast Track trial for Ingress players "which would enable them to request for a quicker manual intervention." prove effective, it's likely only a matter of time before a similar program is rolled out in Pokémon GO.