With more than 25 million players, Apex Legends is one of the most popular games on the planet. With popularity comes problems, however, and at the top of the list is cheaters. As developer Respawn Entertainment explained in a recent Reddit post, as of March 8 it had banned more than 355,000 Apex Legends players for cheating.
Like many PC games, Apex Legends uses a program called Easy Anti-Cheat, which uses both client and server-side analysis to make sure there’s no cheating programs running alongside the game. However, cheating in online video games is a profitable, underground business that developers have to keep fighting against, and that fight is even more difficult than usual because Apex Legends is free.
“The service works but the fight against cheaters is an ongoing war,” a Respawn Entertainment community manager said on Reddit. Respawn Entertainment said it planned to keep its anti-cheater plans secret but that it’s reaching out to experts outside of publisher EA. The biggest upcoming change will be a reporting system that will let players single out cheaters directly to Anti Easy-Cheat.
The struggle against cheaters is as old as competitive online gaming. Anti-cheat programs generally work, but it’s a constant arms race between developers and cheaters, who are always on the lookout for ways to circumvent the latest solutions. Even reporting other players directly isn't a perfect solution, since it opens the door to false reports and harassment.
Apex Legends’ popularity and price-point are likely factors in why Respawn Entertainment has had to ban so many cheaters. The game is free, which means there’s no barrier to entry and cheaters don’t necessarily lose out financially if they’re caught.
A player caught cheating and banned from Battlefield V, on the other hand, will have to pay for another copy of the game for $60, and get a different account if they want to keep playing. An Apex Legends cheater doesn’t have to spend any money to get back in the game. Sure, there’s IP bans—preventing players from logging into the game while using the same network—but a clever cheater can get around those too.
Video game cheating is a money-maker, and the sudden popularity of Apex Legends created a whole new market for people who manufacture cheats and support cheaters. One popular site is already openly advertising that its cheats for Apex Legends weren’t affected by the recent ban wave.
From wall hacks to aim-bots, cheating will never leave the world of online competitive shooters. Games such as Counter-Strike and Fortnite have struggled with problem players, and Apex Legends’ massive ban-hammer simply proves it’s entered the big leagues.