The gaming industry, undoubtedly, is one of the most rapidly growing tech industry in this era. With the enormous magnitude of increase in its radius, the dark sides have hugely increased, too.

Over the years, challenging gameplays have been both exciting and frustrating for gamers. There always have been two kinds. First, the players who stick to the rule books and apply an out-of-the-box thinking approach to enjoy a game. Second, those notorious players who tend to get access to cheats/software that can allow them to crack the difficulties of a game. Although this gives them an advantage over their former competitors, it is plain unethical.

In recent times, a lesser-known but equally devouring plague has emerged in the gaming industry, matchmaking rating (MMR) boosting. It serves as a tool for the weak players to increase their skill level in a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). High-skilled gamers get paid to play and showcase their skills from another user’s account, resulting in level increments for that user.

MMR boosting has deeply affected Tencent’s two widely popular games: “League of Legends” and “Honour of Kings.”

Recently Tencent made significant progress in their fight against cheats and MMR boosting. For starters, the company bans any account that happens to be using any of them. But, lately, the company restricted various livestreamers of their popular games to let people know about certain cheats and hacks of their games. This attempt brought a significant improvement in the use of cheats. However, MMR boosting is still a problem at hand.

MMR Boosting Mechanics

MMR boosting services (dailian in Chinese) are available for several Tencent games on platforms such as Dailiantong and Dailianmao. There is a proper platform for the customers, also known as “boostees,” to get their demanded services for a significant amount of money. This process continues by the assignment of an appropriate “booster,” who will provide the demanded services and increase the levels as promised in the agreement. The real attraction is the money-back guarantee provided by these platforms if any of their boosters fail to complete a commitment

Since MMR boosting is a widely used service in China, its prices are distributed intelligently by the competitors to attract their customers. But they are still cheaper in comparison to their US counterparts. For instance, an MMR boost for “League of Legends” – from the lowest to highest division costs around RMB 1,953 ($290) which is super cost-effective than non-China servers. The same service would usually cost around $1300 in the United States.

Tencent actions

MMR boosting, in reality, is affecting both publishers and game developers to a significant degree.

In June 2018, Tencent made it very clear for their users in an official announcement that strict measures will be taken against MMR boosted accounts. First-time offenders’ accounts would be suspended for a week, second-time offenders will receive a one-month suspension and have their season-end prize canceled, and repeat offenders will be banned permanently from the game. If a repeat offender registers other accounts and continues violating the rules, the company will also consider issuing a hardware ban on their device.

Since January 2019, the company has increased the process of suspensions. Last year, nearly 10,000 suspensions were recorded across the globe, in December alone. But gamers didn’t learn and the count increased to a staggering 25,000 and 40,000 in the next two months.

Gamer reactions

It is a relief that players generally dislike boosters. But player opinions towards boosters have met a mixed set of result. According to Peng Ying, a 21-year-old student at Nanjing Audit University in East China’s Jiangsu province, a booster is easily identifiable as they take our best and top layers with great ease. However, he admitted that he doesn’t report a random teammate booster since he is a useful asset to the team.

Majority of the players don’t even care about reporting boosters. They believe that boosters also need to make a living. They also believe that a game shouldn’t be taken that seriously.

Legal actions surely an option for Tencent

Tencent has always been vigilante towards the users who use and produce cheats. In 2017, Tencent worked with police authorities to arrest more than 120 suspects who participated in the development and distribution of cheats for their games. This didn’t trigger the users at all. As a result, the number of arrested suspects grew to over 300 in 2018 involving around RMB 151 million.

However, Tencent’s stance on the crackdown against MMR boosting is still unclear. Boosters can’t be labeled illegal as compared to the cheat manufacturers who are clear offenders. But the spokesperson of the company said that the company reserves the right to “hold accountable those who threaten game security and who profit illegally.”