One Small Step for Riot Games, One Large Step for Competitive Gaming
Cheating is not a new hobby. From classrooms to marathons, casinos to con artists, cheaters take the high-risk, high-reward approach to life in an attempt to bypass the systems they scam. In the billion dollar competitive video games sector, the creation, distribution, and utilization of cheats is not just a hobby: it is a thriving industry. In what requires vastly more technical know-how than inputting the Konami Code, these cheats (or “scripts”) can guarantee optimal inputs or show information normally withheld from the player, among other things. These programmers have found ways to turn a profit by allowing users to access their scripts at a price. However, as the revenue behind competitive gaming has continued to climb over the years, it seems like this market might actually be a bubble in disguise.
If Riot’s litigative victory is any marker, however, that bubble is about to pop. In early August of last year, the League of Legends developer filed a lawsuit against LeagueSharp, a cheating software service. Riot claimed the organization was not only providing players with a means of hacking the game, but also exposing private information of Riot employees and even infringing copyright. As of February 28th, however, LeagueSharp was forced to close its site for good and even incurred a $10 million USD payout to the game studio for damages. While LeagueSharp is not the only scripting service for League of Legends, this does set a precedent and will cause these companies to think twice before stepping into the cheat-building sector.
eSports is, in a push for legitimacy, becoming more professional across the board. With it, legal battles and higher standards are being thrusted towards to forefront of the eSports realm. Similar to the Pete Rose scandal, players have been permanently banned from competing due to gambling and match fixing. Spectators gambling on professional matches using in-game cosmetics, commonly referred to as “Skins Gambling”, has recently been targeted and shut down on a large scale by Valve Corporation. Professional players have even been caught cheating during professional matches, bringing huge questions of integrity to the eSports community. As these problems are becoming the focus of developers and spectators alike, these problems are being addressed, allowing for investors to feel comfortable coming into the space and legitimizing the sector as a whole. Only time will tell if these solutions come quickly enough, but in the cat-and-mouse game that is cheat prevention, Riot Games certainly has walked away the victor this round.