Tackling the Surge of Bots in Online Gaming

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In the dynamic world of online gaming, bots have become a two-sided coin. While some bots enhance gameplay experiences through automation, others threaten to undermine the very essence of fair competition and security. Gaming companies face the daunting task of identifying and managing these bots to ensure a level playing field for all.

The rise of gaming bots

The prevalence of bots in online gaming has reached staggering levels, with experts estimating that they now account for a about 63% of all online gaming traffic, surpassing their presence in other industries. This surge can be attributed to various factors:

  • AI-Powered Good Bots: Game companies have increasingly deployed AI bots for a range of purposes, including customer service, testing, anti-cheat measures, and non-player characters (NPCs). These "good bots" aim to enhance player experiences by providing support and enriching in-game interactions.
  • Player-Operated Bots: Players themselves have embraced automated bots for tasks such as mass account creation, data collection, and repetitive gameplay activities. While some of these bots remain within the bounds of fair play, others venture into the realm of cheating.
  • Malicious Intent: Malicious bots have emerged as a serious threat, engaging in activities such as credential stuffing attacks, data theft, spam propagation, and manipulation of in-game economies. These bots pose a significant risk to both players and the gaming ecosystem.
  • Third-Party Services: A lucrative market for third-party cheating and botting services has thrived, despite violating the policies of most game developers and publishers.

Identifying the bad bots

The primary challenge for gaming companies is to differentiate between harmful bots and their benign counterparts, all while ensuring that legitimate players are not adversely affected. To address this complex issue, several tactics have been employed:

  • Behavioral Analytics: Advanced algorithms analyze patterns of behavior, including click rhythms, movement styles, aiming consistency, and social interactions within the game. Deviations from expected human behavior can signal the presence of a bot.
  • Account Verification: Techniques like CAPTCHAs and email confirmation are employed to deter the rapid creation of fake accounts, a common tactic used by bots.
  • Bot Honeypots: Gaming companies set traps in the form of bot honeypots, luring cheating bots into revealing themselves through abnormal gameplay and reactions.
  • Fingerprint Services: Unique attributes from player devices, such as hardware specifications, mouse movements, and in-game choices, are tracked to identify anomalies that may indicate bot activity.
  • Traffic Pattern Analysis: Observing traffic patterns helps identify bots through characteristics such as non-human peak usage, unusually high speeds, and repetitive actions.

Conclusion

Thoughtful bot management is key to maximizing the benefits of automation while upholding the principles of fair gameplay and community health. The same identification data that helps detect and deter malicious bots can also be leveraged to customize experiences for human players in positive ways.

With the ongoing evolution of bots and their tactics, maintaining vigilant bot hygiene remains paramount. Furthermore, it's worth noting that the resource demands imposed by malicious bots, in terms of network traffic, computing power, and engineering costs, can have a detrimental impact on gaming site performance and budgets. Therefore, effectively distinguishing and deterring bad bots while enabling good bots offers not only fairness and security improvements but also operational and financial advantages for gaming firms. Learn more about how Fingerprint services can help you identify your visitors by behavior patterns, anomalies, locations, and more, chat with an Enterprise Solutions Architect.

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