Niantic, the developer of the mobile Pokémon spin-off, Pokémon Go has repeatedly taken a stance of disapproval regarding the use of third-party applications which interact with their game. The company’s latest countermeasure to cheaters is a “shadowban.” Players affected by this maneuver will have their game modified in such a way that only the most common of monsters will even appear to the player, making it considerably more difficult to catch and evolve monsters.
While the shadowban is the company’s most recent approach to cheating players, it is not the first. August saw the company issuing permanent bans to any player who violated the game’s terms of service. Violating the terms of service included the use of emulators, modified software, location spoofing or directly accessing the game’s client through a third-party application. August’s permanent bans were seen as controversial as it penalized the use of sites like PokéVision, which offered a map detailing where Pokémon could be found.
Silph Road, a subreddit dedicated to Pokémon Go, remarks that the accounts of shadowbanned players are flagged as illicit and that while many bot accounts had been flagged, many continued to function without issue. Initially, the concern among players was that accounts would be targeted for using deprecated API calls to Niantic’s private server. While this concern turned out to be true, it was not the sole condition for an account to be classified as illicit. Currently, it remains unclear which exact behaviors will result in the declaration of an account as “illicit.”
Pokémon Go players that make use of bots or certain third-party applications have reported warnings about the game’s detection of third-party software. The warnings go on to state that continued use of such programs is a violation of the game’s terms of service that can lead to a terminated account. Lastly, it cautions players who play the game without such devices to change the password of their account for fear of someone else spoofing their identity within the game.
The Silph Road cautions that not all known bot accounts have been flagged as illicit. While some bots were able to scan common species of pokémon within the game, like “Pidgeys” and “Rattatas,” other accounts have been shut down in order to avoid Niantic’s shadowban.