Today, Blizzard announced in a forum post that it has banned 22,865 Korean players from Overwatch for hacking. According to Google translate, the post outlines the numerous sanctions laid out against the offenders, mostly for unauthorized use of third-party programs.
“Creating and delivering a pleasant game environment for the majority of good players is of paramount importance to us and we are committed to taking all the steps we can take to create, distribute and use our programs. We are also aware of the fact that our programs are circulated through various communities, and we will prepare countermeasures,” Blizzard said.
The massive swing of the ban-hammer is a nice step in the right direction, but unfortunately may do little to combat the hacking issues facing Overwatch’s Korean servers.
The main problem is that many of Overwatch’s Korean players access the game at “PC bangs,” LAN gaming centers that let patrons play games on high-end hardware for a hourly fee. This alone wouldn’t cause a problem, but most PC bangs have deals with game publishers (such as Blizzard) to pay a flat rate for all users, allowing their patrons to play games without having to purchase an account or pay subscription fees. In other words, PC bang Overwatch players don’t need to pay $40 for a copy of the game—they simply pay the hourly PC bang fee and play as much as they want.
This means there’s little at risk to deter cheaters from hacking their way to victory, either by downloading third-party aimbot software or “nuking”—a process that involves DDOSing their opponents connection in order to cause massive lag. If a PC bang player is banned for hacking, there’s nothing stopping them from simply creating a new account and continuing on their merry hacking way.
Contrast this to most other regions of the world, where a player would have to spend $40 on a fresh copy of Overwatch if their account was banned. As such, hacking has not been a significant issue for the majority of Overwatch players outside of Korea.
Banning thousands of hackers is a positive step, but this swing of the banhammer might merely be a moment in an ongoing game of whack-a-mole. Moving forward Blizzard will have to address the root of the problem if it wants the game experience to improve significantly for its Korean players.