Chinese police have uncovered the world’s biggest online video game cheat sales syndicate, netting luxury cars and millions of dollars in cryptocurrency during a string of arrests.
- Chinese police have arrested 10 people accused of selling the cheat software
- One was nabbed with more than $5 million in cryptocurrency and luxury cars
- Data shows there were 2.5 billion gamers playing in 2019 and they spent a total of $199.2 billion that year alone
Following help from tech giant Tencent, the Kunshan Public Security Bureau last Friday arrested the central members of group.
Authorities found “world-class online video game ‘waigua’ circulating in the black market supply chain”, the Jiangsu Provincial Political and Legal Affairs Commission (Jiangsu PLAC) said.
The Chinese word “waigua” refers to cheat programs — software that modifies online game data to benefit a player.
The websites at the centre of the police operation were selling a cheat program called “Chicken Drumstick” for the game Game For Peace.
The cheat program enabled gamers to access extra abilities unavailable to regular users, such as automatic shooting aim and being able to see other players and items through walls.
“For a long time, plug-ins [cheats] have been regarded as a ‘cancer’ in the game industry, especially malignant plug-ins, which seriously damage the player’s gaming experience and affect the normal operation of the game,” the Kunshan Public Security Bureau said.
Chinese police said the case involved six provinces and 17 cheat program trading websites, with 10 cheat program vendors arrested.
It is alleged they have sold various cheat programs to people in many countries, and have turned over about $100 million.
Treating gaming seriously
Gaming is often discouraged for being antisocial, but for many it’s the opposite: an opportunity to catch up with friends and meet new people.
One of those arrested was found with more than $5.2 million worth of cryptocurrency and a collection of luxury cars from makers such as Rolls-Royce, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
It is alleged that in order to avoid police tracing, those trading in the cheat programs mostly used bitcoin transactions.
“Kunshan Public Security Bureau has busted the world’s biggest video game cheat program organisation,” Jiangsu PLAC said.
Criminal proceedings have commenced against the suspects arrested in China, while investigations into alleged co-conspirators operating outside the country continue.
They have been charged with illegally providing programs and tools for the intrusion and manipulation of computer information systems.
Billions at stake in growing online gaming market
Last March, the Kunshan police, in the south-western Jiangsu province, received a report from Tencent saying an individual had opened an overseas sales website for its Chinese video game Game For Peace.
Those involved in Chinese cheat program organisations typically go through software development teams located overseas to gauge consumer requirements and troubleshooting experiences.
‘Cryptobubble’ hits ‘insane’ levels
As bitcoin passes its latest milestone, ‘FOMO’ has led to crypto sceptics piling in, as Tesla boss Elon Musk warns digital currencies should be treated as “speculation”.
These foreign software development teams provide the cheat sellers with password information and software packages at wholesale prices.
It is very easy to access those cheat programs online, and they are almost targeting all popular games.
The global online video game industry is growing rapidly.
Data from Newzoo, a specialist consultancy operating in the sector, shows there were 2.5 billion gamers worldwide in 2019, spending a total of $199.2 billion.
Meanwhile, Tencent’s figures reveal the Chinese market was worth about $46.2 billion in the same year.
Tencent operates social media platform WeChat and has interests in some of the world’s most played games, including Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Tencent declined the ABC’s request for comment.