Getting banned for cheating is nothing new in Pokémon GO. There’ve been big ol’ ban waves every few weeks for ages now.
The policies have never been totally set in stone, however — at least not publicly. Like many of the game’s mechanics, the player base has had to share info amongst themselves to figure out the offenses and their relative punishments, from slaps on the wrist to lifetime bans.
At long last, Niantic has published a proper “Three-Strike Discipline Policy.”
As the name implies, most infractions will be handled on a three-strike system. Niantic notes, however, that “some misbehaviors” (they leave that one pretty open-ended) will work out to an instant perma ban.
So what’s worthy of a strike? Spoofing (making the game think you’re somewhere you’re not), using modified Pokémon GO clients or bots or doing something that accesses Pokémon GO’s backend in an unauthorized way.
On the first strike, you’ll get a warning message. You’ll still be able to play, technically, but you won’t see anything even remotely rare for seven days.
On the second strike, they’ll close your account for a month.
On the third strike, the account is banned for good.
And if you think you got stuck in the crosshairs by accident? Niantic has an appeal process for that.
It’s worth noting that these punishments aren’t really new; bans of all variety have been happening since shortly after the game’s release. This is just the first time Niantic has really put the hows-and-whys in stone.
Niantic could probably go a few steps further in their clarifications here, though, as plenty of players are still confused as to whether or not they’re breaking the rules.
Will they get in trouble for using third-party software (like an automated IV calculator) that doesn’t modify the client or access Niantic’s backend but does provide the player with more info? What about players using third-party versions of the Go Plus hardware, like the Go-tcha? That thing pretty much automates catching/spinning as you walk around… but it’s also been sold in retail stores for years now, likely to many players who’ve never considered that this thing they bought in their local GameStop might not be allowed.