Every year, the online gaming industry experiences peak engagement and sales during the end-of-year holiday season, starting from Black Friday and extending up to early January. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Holiday survey, 40% of household spending goes towards experiences ─ going out or entertaining at home ─ while 34% is spent on gifts, and 26% on miscellaneous holiday spending. The post-Millennial cohort known as ‘Generation Z’ was found to be the most actively engaged consumer segment across holiday seasons, and ‘Online/ Video Gaming’ was one of their most sought-after experiences.
Mobile games generated $61.3 billion in revenue in 2018, compared with $35.7 billion on PC games and $12.7 billion on dedicated gaming consoles, and these figures are expected to double over the next two years. Clearly, enormous amounts of money are involved in the online gambling and gaming industry, especially in mobile apps, which botmasters are increasingly targeting to make a quick buck using little or no human intervention.
The lure of easy money brings lots of bot traffic to gaming sites and apps. Betting and gambling sites also get frequently hit by bots that try to scrape critical betting line data or otherwise try to capitalize on their unique content. Botmasters are known to use electronic arbitrage techniques to maliciously disrupt the level playing field. On popular gaming sites, bots create new accounts and leverage free spins to collect points, which they cash out or proceed to sell on the Dark Web. New and popular games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty attract so many players ─ many of whom reuse passwords across several sites they use ─ that they are heavily targeted by hackers and fraudsters for account takeover.
Bots are widely deployed in online gaming arenas to play against humans and win games with higher difficulty levels. With the rapid advances in AI in the gaming industry, bad bots are constantly evolving to exhibit more human-like behavior, and are getting more capable at defeating humans in challenging multi-player games. They are programmed to quickly learn the intricacies of game play, and with their machine-powered speed and accuracy, can snatch winnings away from human players and teams.
MIT researchers recently announced that their ‘DeepRole’ bot can play with multiple human players and consistently defeat them using ‘deductive intelligence’. Innovations such as this can also give rise to botnets that can be programmatically deployed to defeat players on online gaming platforms to rake in large winnings. Apart from ruining the gaming experience for real users, traffic from these advanced bots can have considerable impact on the performance of gaming portals, slowing website response times and game progression. This in turn increases the dropout and bounce rate for users, who may then switch to a competitor’s gaming portal.
Our research indicates that during the holiday season, over 90% of all traffic on website login pages comprises bad bots. The online gaming and betting industries are no exception to this trend, as their sites present a lucrative target to fraudsters. The gaming industry is cognizant of this fact, and businesses are increasingly seeking out bot mitigation solutions to prevent bot threats such as:
- Scraping of betting lines
- Account takeover and fake account creation
- Transaction fraud/ money laundering/ chargeback fraud
- Service unavailability due to distributed brute force attempts
- High bounce rate and customer churn due to frustrated users
How can online gaming services protect themselves?
- Dedicated bot management solutions are specialized at detecting bot traffic with extreme accuracy and minimal false positives, so that humans are never mistaken for bots.
- The pace at which sophisticated bots are progressing at mimicking human behavior on websites and apps makes them particularly dangerous to online businesses in general, and gaming portals in particular.
- Customer trust and brand loyalty are heavily eroded when users are cheated out of their gaming tokens and winnings, as well as when bot traffic degrades website and app performance.
- Regulations such as the GDPR and the new California Consumer Privacy Act require businesses to stringently safeguard personally-identifiable data, and breaches can lead to litigation, punitive financial penalties, and loss of brand reputation.
- Subscription-based bot management services are affordable and drastically reduce business risks by ensuring high uptime and user satisfaction, and by maintaining the integrity of user accounts as well as critical business and personal data.