In a recent livestream of the online battle royale game Call of Duty: Warzone, the popular streamer Nickmercs got killed as soon as he landed on a roof.
"Oh, I'm dead," Nickmercs said in the stream, according to a snippet of it posted on Reddit.
After watching a replay from the other players' point of view, which showed that they were probably cheating, Nickmercs laughed and quit the game in a fit of rage.
"This game is fucking horrible. What are we playing this shit for? Seriously. What are we playing it for? It’s not fun. I’m not having fun," Nickmercs said. "I’m done. I’m done."
Activision has been proactive about ridding its game of cheaters, announcing several waves of bans, each including tens of thousands of cheaters. Recently, however,cheaters have returned, according to players on Reddit, other Warzone content creators, and the anecdotal experience of Motherboard staff who play the game regularly.
Nickmercs is far from the only streamer, who's complaining about cheaters. In the last few days, other streamers such as JGOD, TheTacticalBrit, Jackfrags, and TheXclusiveAce, have all criticized Activision for what they describe as a rampant cheater problem.
"I come across maybe three or four cheaters a day," TheTacticalBrit said in a recent video.
"Sure every once in a while they tweet that they banned a bunch of accounts but this is a free-to-play game," TheXclusiveAce said in a video. "It doesn't matter if you ban accounts, they're just gonna make new ones or they're gonna continue stealing other people's accounts which is also a massive issue in Warzone right now."
Jackfrags said that "it comes in waves doesn’t it with Warzone. They do a banwave, they tweet about it."
"But it just feels like we haven’t had a ban wave for ages and ages. Verdansk in particular I think is really bad right now for cheaters," he continued. "And it’s the blatant ones, the obvious ones."
Jackfrags even advocated for a different type of anti-cheat system like the one Riot Games uses for Valorant. Known as Vanguard, this anti-cheat system runs in the computer's kernel, the core of the operating system, a level that has access to most of what is happening on the system. This way, the anti-cheat system can monitor anything that happens on the machine, being able to detect if a player is running a cheat alongside the game. For some, this goes too far. But Activision does not employ this type of anti-cheat.
Activision did not respond to a request for comment.
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It's unclear if there's a real uptick in cheaters, or if this is anecdotal. But if popular streamers are complaining about cheaters, there's a good chance regular players are seeing them too, and it's possible that some players will stop playing the game to avoid getting the fun spoiled by cheaters.
The latter is the very real business risk that cheating creates for online multiplayer games. In reality, only a tiny fraction of players are actually cheating, but it only takes one cheater in a battle royale match of 150 players to ruin the game for everyone else. Encounter a cheater enough times, and you might just move on to a different multiplayer game. In fact, Nickmercs said he and his group of friends should switch to Apex Legends, Electronic Arts's battle royale, which he ended up streaming on Monday. If enough players stop playing because of cheaters, they don't have reason to buy Warzone's in-game items, and the revenue stops flowing.
"Apex Legends has me by the fucking neck bro, absolutely addicted," Nickmercs tweeted on Sunday.
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