Increasingly, eSports is becoming as popular and lucrative as physical contests such as football and basketball. Indeed, the global competitive gaming market will be worth $1.79 billion by 2022. The popular activity has even received recognition as a varsity sport in the United States.
But as eSports brands are gaining mainstream acceptance, they also have to deal with a problem that has plagued major league sports for decades; cheating.
World Cup Cheaters
Earlier this month, Epic Games banned more than 1,200 players for cheating during the first week of its Fortnite World Cup Online Qualifiers. Additionally, the games company revoked 206 cash prizes for policy violations and removed offending players from the tournament’s leader boards.
The cheaters employed a range of different methods to subvert the eSports competition. Forty-eight solo players lost access to the game for a week for sharing their accounts. Furthermore, 1163 gamers received two-week bands for bypassing “Fortnite’s” region locks. Another 8 competitors lost access for an unknown amount of time for “teaming” (the practice of two or more players working together in a solo game).
Epic also introduced a new algorithm to its platform intended to improve its detection of teaming activity.
Most notably, Epic banned a player who made it to the semifinals using a program that made in-game objects transparent for life. Funnily enough, the unsportsmanlike professional gamer was exposed by the cheating software’s creator. Apparently, even the programmers of high-end game hacks find poor sportsmanship unacceptable.
The Fortnite World Cup Online Open runs through June 16 and the finals will take place on July 26-28. The competition has a total prize pool of $100 million.
A Concerning eSports Trend
“Fortnite” isn’t the only eSports brand to encounter high-profile cases of cheating recently. In October 2018, a player in a “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” tournament was found using an aiming program. The tournament administrator’s disqualified the cheater’s entire team and his employer later canceled his contract.
In January, more than a dozen competing in a “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” tournament were found using illicit software. The cheaters utilized a hack that allowed them to monitor the positions of rival players during the competition, which had a $2 million prize.
Notably, the competition rule breaker escaped a December 2018 purge of policy violators. Ahead of the tournament, the PUGB Corporation banned 30,000 players from the game for cheating.
eSports titan Blizzard has also had to deal with a cheating scandal in recent months. Late last year, the publisher busted a four-player team for cheating during its Heartstone Global Games Tournament. However, the firm allowed one offender to compete in and win a March 2019 Heartstone tournament. Blizzard pledged to revise its policies following widespread outrage regarding the perceived light punishment the fraudster received.
Game developers and competition administrators will need to address eSports’ cheating problem if the activity is to become a true cultural force. The viewing public, sponsors, and major broadcaster won’t invest in an activity where cheating is commonplace. Consequently, the big brands and tournament facilitators need to do something hugely expensive and popular; introduce uniform conduct standards.
Regardless of their differences, one thing all major popular sports have in common is that they are regulated. If eSports are to be taken seriously, its stakeholders need to ensure it follows suit.