For the last couple of days, the Pokémon Go community has erupted over a new security measure that allegedly hides rare monster spawns from cheaters.
By now you’ve probably heard about the myriad of third-party applications that Pokémon Go players use, such as tracking maps that tell people what creatures appear in a given area. While Niantic considers this cheating, within hardcore communities, playing Pokémon Go with “mappers” is considered an optimal and enjoyable way to play. All the same, Pokemon Go Hub reports that some people using these services have been flagged by Niantic, sometimes getting a warning like so:
Players are calling this a “shadowban,” meaning that they can be in the same exact area as other players, but will only be able to view common spawns, such as Rattata and Pidgey, rather than rare and coveted ones. On Reddit, players have started to compile a list of monsters shadowbanned accounts can no longer see.
Niantic, the makers of the game, have not addressed this publicly, neither confirming it nor shooting it down. We reached out to Niantic to ask about the so-called shadowban, but they have not yet responded to our requests for comment.
UPDATE 5/25 3:29 PM: Here’s Niantic, confirming some of the recent changes:
Niantic is committed to maintaining the state of Pokémon GO and our community of Trainers. People who violate the Pokémon GO Terms of Service (including by using third party software and other cheats) may have their gameplay affected and may not be able to see all the Pokémon around them. While we cannot discuss the systems implemented, we can confirm that we are constantly refining new ways to ensure the integrity of the game in order to keep it fun and fair for all players.
Pokemon Go experts from The Silph Road are reporting this anti-cheat’s supposed existence, stating “Some accounts suddenly stopped finding Pokémon at certain known spawnpoints. It turned out that they were incapable of seeing anything more than very common species.” Services that allow players to track rare monster spawns are currently polling their users to see if their accounts have been “blinded” by this change. Some mapping services, which rely on bots to gather data, are no longer working as intended, or are reporting outages. Some trackers are also starting to find workarounds for inaccurate scans due to, in their words, “changes made by Niantic.”
Around the web and on social media, various players are seemingly confirming the existence of this anti-cheat method, with large public Pokemon Go communities, Reddits, and Tweets full of comments like:
“What the hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Niantic treat my account as a BOT. I cannot see any rare pokemons.”
“That answers my question about why my maps are blank.”
“That new...nothings rare come out from nearby sighthing for me...”
“I get nothing on the maps now.”
“My account appears to have been shadowbanned. I noticed because my brother and I were playing together this morning, and I was missing half of the spawns (the good ones).”
“Was at the park today and a dude in the crowd couldn’t see the Dratini everyone else could because he used an IV checker that logged into his account.”
“Anyone chasing the larvitars on discord and noticing they’re not always popping up on everyone’s accounts?”
“idk what flagged my account, but I went out to play with my fiance and all the commons popped up for me but it wouldn’t load the onix shuckle or kabuto she found right next to me.”
Within these comments, multiple users claim that they have been falsely flagged as cheaters, but we cannot verify if these players have used a third-party app or not. Additionally, some players who confess to cheating claim that they have not been dinged by the latest changes, while others argue that using mapping services should not be considered cheating in the first place. Some players, for example, use maps because they lead busy lives, or live in rural areas.
While Niantic’s war against mapping services and cheaters goes back since the release of the game, it’s also worth noting that the developers recently teased the inclusion of legendaries this summer. It would make sense for Pokémon Go to beef up its blockade against cheaters, thereby preventing players from gaming their way to the rarest monsters.