Video gaming is huge business, generating billions for companies around the world. However, the way some people choose to play games doesn’t always sit well with entertainment companies.
In order to gain advantages over regular players, some resort to using cheats created by third parties. These provide access to skills and abilities unavailable in the regular versions of games. Development group Global++ provided such cheats for Pokémon Go and other titles but that drew the ire of San Francisco-based Niantic, the game’s original developer.
As first reported by Business Insider, on Friday Niantic filed a lawsuit in a California federal court against Global++, two individuals named as Ryan Hunt (aka ELLIOTROBOT) and Alen Hunter (aka IOS NOOB), plus 20 ‘John Does’.
Niantic’s complaint states that the only permissible way to play its augmented reality games (Pokémon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and Ingress) is via its original apps installable on mobile devices.
These apps, which contain protected proprietary code, have permission to access Niantic’s servers. However, Niantic says that Global++ illegally copied its work.
“Defendants hack Niantic’s apps to access and copy Niantic’s Client Code, then modify and adulterate the Client Code to create what they call ‘tweaks’—i.e., unauthorized, hacked versions of Niantic’s apps. Defendants then market their hacked apps under the titles Potter++ (or, in some cases, Unite++), PokeGo++, and Ingress++,” the complaint reads.
These cheats not only undermine the gaming experience for legitimate players, Niantic adds, they are also used by Global++ to “steal valuable and proprietary game-related information” which is then utilized for commercial purposes.
These cheating programs have been reportedly distributed to hundreds of thousands of users but when Niantic asked Global++ to stop its activities, the unincorporated entity allegedly ignored the US-based developer and continued as before.
Seeking an injunction from the court, Niantic’s complaint begins with alleged breaches of the Copyright Act, given that Global++ copied Niantic’s code in order to develop its cheats, and then distributed that infringing code to its users.
According to the company’s analysis, up to 99% of Niantic’s original code is used in Global++ cheat software.
Niantic further alleges breaches of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act due to Global++ and its users accessing Niantic’s servers “through unauthorized, hacked versions of Niantic’s apps.” According to the company, this illegal activity persisted even after Global++ was informed in writing that their access was unauthorized.
Finally, Niantic notes that since Global++ are Niantic account holders bound by the company’s Terms of Service, breaches of that agreement – including copying Niantic’s code and misappropriating its code for commercial purposes – are also evident.
With Niantic’s new Harry Potter game set for launch, the company is urgently seeking a preliminary injunction from the court to prevent Global++ from launching a new version of its Potter++ cheat within days “or possibly even hours” of that event. However, Global++ now appears to be more receptive to Niantic’s demands.
Following claims in the complaint that Niantic has spent more than $1 million over the past year attempting to deal with Global++ cheats, Global++ took to its official Discord channel to indicate that the show is now over.
“It is with great sadness that we will be shutting down indefinitely incompliance [sic] with our legal obligations,” the statement reads.
“It has been a fun ride with the entire community and we have made some unbelievable memories. We will hold close to our heart all of the people that we were able to introduce Pokemon to that for various reasons could not play the game. Take care all.”
Niantic’s motion for a preliminary injunction can be found here (pdf)