eSports are in many ways like traditional sports. They attract big sponsors, big names and big money. However, they also attract one thing that nobody wants to deal with, corruption. Earlier this month, after a years-long legal battle, pro Counter-strike player Ryan Tan Shern pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Singapore. Tan had allegedly thrown a Counter-strike game as part of a tournament intentionally, in order to make money back on bets he had placed.
The relevancy to mobile games is clear, as many more companies expand into mobile eSports. Whilst we may not see stories as outrageous as that of Optic India player Nikhil Kumawat who was ejected from a tournament and served a five-year ban for flagrant cheating, it’s important to anticipate that something like this may happen in future.
Real money, real problems
Tan’s case was where a perfect storm of circumstances coalesced, with his original debt accrued due to gambling issues, and the intended outcome being that a new loan would pay off both this debt and settle a tidy profit. Whilst Tan’s case is unique, real-money betting is not. In many places it’s illegal, but as prize-pools grow and eSports tournaments on many platforms become more high-stakes and organised, illegal or unauthorised betting is virtually guaranteed to happen.
What can be done to combat this? Well, already, scrutiny is high for players who cheat. The previously mentioned Nikhil Kumawat was caught with multiple traces of cheat software being used, even when he attempted to delete it mid-game in front of a judge. Unlike with doping or intentionally throwing a game, many hacks are detectable based on player behaviour and software traces.
The mobile platform is relatively new. So for those looking to expand and make it more ubiquitous match, fixing and cheating is going to be something key to anticipate before it ever becomes a problem.