Blizzard Bans Over 20,000 Korean 'Overwatch' Hackers, But Will That Even Make A Dent?

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2016-05-24
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Lucio glancing at the majesty of Overwatch's newest map, Oasis. Mic

In a forum post today, Blizzard announced the banning of 22,865 Korean Overwatch players due to hacking.

Via Google’s rudimentary translate feature, the post notes that most Overwatch offenders were banned due to unauthorized use of third-party programs. Normally, a banwave is cause for celebration in the wider community that prefers to play clean games. But in Korea’s case, it may be too early to celebrate.

In Korea, players largely play Overwatch at PC bangs, or net cafes. The PC bang buys a special license from Blizzard allowing everyone who logs into Battlenet via a PC bang computer access to Blizzard’s games for free.

Korean Battlenet accounts are linked with the Korean equivalent of your social security number, meaning you only get one, and if you’re banned, you’re out of luck. That is, unless you set up a VPN and create a North American or European Battlenet account, which requires no verification. With your NA/EU Battlenet account, you can log into the PC bang, hack until you get banned, make another free no-verification-needed NA/EU Battlenet account and repeat ad nauseum.

PC bangs that consider disallowing the installation of third-party software must consider whether or not the PC bang down the street will turn a blind eye to the hacks installed on their machines, which reimage after every restart anyway. With little economic incentive to disable hacking on their machines and plenty of reason not to, PC bangs appear content to continue as they are.

Much of the PC gaming in Korea occurs in PC bangs, and personal high-end computers capable of running Overwatch beautifully are not as common in homes. After all, why pay for something you can get for an hourly pittance at the net cafe down the street?

In the US, you’re out $40 for your personal copy of the game if your account is banned, but PC bang players don’t have to buy a copy of Overwatch to play it, so they’ve got no skin in the game. Overwatch doesn’t really have a sense of level progression either, aside from skins - levels indicate how much time you’ve spent on that account, not how good you are - so starting fresh on a new account isn’t a deterrent.

That’s why Blizzard’s banwave might sound impressive, but may not really amount to much as it doesn’t consider the reality of the hacking scene in Korea.

However, Blizzard’s post does note, “We also listen carefully to specific opinions (account, IP, etc.) and feedback from diverse communities, and we are conducting research based on your feedback. We are also discussing various ways with our head office to solve fundamental problems.” That points to some comprehension of root issues in the Korean Overwatch scene. Whether or not those core problems are ever successfully solved will be a story for another day.  

What do you think of the Korean banwave? Does it make an impact on your Overwatch quality of lifel? Feel free to discuss in our comments section below.  

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