Sellers who market hacked accounts for Call of Duty: Warzone are running out of stock, suggesting new security measures are hampering this black market, Motherboard has learned.
Warzone is one of the most popular online battle-royale games, with around 100 million players, according to the game's publisher Activision. The game is free, but players can buy or earn upgrades by reaching certain goals or beating challenges, which give them custom and rare weapons or skins. This has created an underground market where hackers takeover players' accounts that have valuable upgrades and resell them.
Some of these hacked accounts can cost as much as $300, according to listings in Discord channels viewed by Motherboard. For accounts with unlocked Damascus, the hardest to obtain weapon skin in the game, the price can be as high as $2,000. But thanks to beefed up security, hackers are having a hard time getting new accounts.
"Since accounts are in short supply due to security measures changing, we'll now be offering a variety of unlock services. In short we can help you unlock pretty much anything in [Modern Warfare / Cold War]," read an announcement in one of the Discord channels.
"I wish I got any good news, so far none :) [Call of Duty] market is pretty much fucked in terms of lobbies and accounts," one of the channel's admins wrote.
A listing published by an established seller and admin in another channel showed that it was "out of stock."
In that channel, a user asked when "aged accounts," meaning accounts that weren't just freshly created, and so may come with additional upgrades unlocked, and potentially be useful for cheating with less chance of detection, were getting restocked.
"Never," responded another user.
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Older accounts may have certain skins from earlier seasons of the game, which are no longer available, already unlocked. This can include the popular black Roze skin, which at one point gave players a distinct advantage over others because the character's dark outfit made it harder for opponents to spot.
"They are gone," said another user.
"Why are aged so expensive now?" asked another.
The answer is that Activision has been implementing new security features to strangle this underground market, according to a games industry source with knowledge of anti-cheat technology, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The company has implemented a captcha system that slows down the automated tools that the hackers use to brute force accounts using public lists of previously hacked passwords. Moreover, as the biggest sellers have dozens of accounts, Activision is able to track and identify those stocks and account farms and ban them all, the source said.
"The price of cheating has been going up: you have to buy accounts, buy a more expensive cheat and buy a spoofer these days," they added.
While the stock of hacked accounts may be drying up a bit, "the selling won’t stop," as the industry insider put it. There are dedicated websites for hacked accounts, as well as sellers on eBay.
Ever since Activision launched Warzone in March of 2020, the company has been playing a game of cat and mouse with cheaters.
Last week, the game's studio announced that it had banned 50,000 accounts, the latest ban wave targeting cheaters. Since the game's launch, the company has banned at least 600,000 accounts, according to an unofficial count. Activision also added two-factor authentication last year, prompting players to add a phone number to their accounts, making it harder for hackers to take over their accounts.
Activision did not respond to a request for comment.