A Pokemon GO player has been banned after spending over $2,400 in microtransactions, claiming he’s the target of falsified report harassment. According to ABC 15, a local news channel in Phoenix, Arizona, Dave Summers is a hardcore Pokemon GO player. Not only did he spent exorbitant amounts on in-game items, but he’d travel as far as San Francisco to catch rare Dratini. Yet after almost a year of playing he was banned, first receiving warnings for an offensive usernames and then being completely banned for a assortment of reports.
Summers says his initial username was “PG-13,” but it’s easy to understand how VagizardBeater might get reported by another Pokemon GO user. However, his name continued to be reported as it was changed to PokeBeaterUpper and PichuPuncherPHX as well. With each name change, Pokemon GO developer Niantic would follow up on additional reports and force Summers to constantly change his name. It didn’t seem like Niantic cared about the situation beyond immediate acquiescence to a report.
The next step for Summers involved contacting Niantic directly. As any Pokemon GO player who has run into technical problems can tell you, there aren’t many options. Niantic doesn’t have customer service via phone and their email service is extremely limited. Summers was forced to deal with form emails from ever-changing Niantic support email addresses, each only ever citing their first name. There was no way for him to flag the situation as a whole in the system. He had to deal with Niantic reacting to each report as a separate incident.
According to Summers, he was targeted by a “rival” who would report his account constantly, perhaps because he was a max-level trainer with powerful Pokemon. It’s also possible that Summers had become a Pokemon GO Gym Leader in a popular area and received large amounts of reports in one surge, which Niantic would then deal with in sequence over a large amount of time. Either way, Summers says he was banned in one final swoop where customer service said his account was reviewed and was reported for actions including falsifying his location with third-party software. Those actions are denied by Summers.
“I’ve traveled. I’ve spent countless hours grinding toward this goal. I’ve spent money on it, real money–$2400 and to think that it could have been taken away again just at anybody’s discretion?”
Unfortunately for Dave Summers, he’s right. Pokemon GO accounts can very much be taken away at the discretion of the company’s support team based on non-public criteria. And there doesn’t appear to be any recourse for him, or other players.
In an industry where cheating runs rampant, developers like Niantic have to stick by their banning decisions and are unlikely to have the time or resources to respond to every ban complaint. For instance, Valve just banned over 40,000 Counter Strike: Global Offensive players’ Steam accounts for cheating in one fell swoop. Dealing with 40,000 frustrated players each sending emails would be a monumental task. Valve simply has to trust in its process, as does Niantic. Summers, whether he’s guilty or innocent, has probably learned a very expensive lesson about the industry in that regard.
Pokemon GO is available now for both iOS and Android devices.
Source: ABC 15