With the gaming industry being one of the fastest-growing and highest valued industries currently, its no surprise that the boom in gamers has also lead to a boom in cheaters. To help with this, the industries are crying out for stronger identification in order to curb the problem
Someone with thoughts on this is Stephen Ritter, the Chief Technology Officer at Mitek. In addition to driving the technical development of Mitek’s mobile deposit, mobile image capture technology and ID card verification solutions, Stephen oversees the company’s computer vision and scientific team at Mitek Labs. He has more than 25 years of experience in machine learning, security, cloud and biometrics technologies, and brings to the team an innovative source of technical leadership and expertise.
Here he shares his thoughts on the need for stronger identity verification in gaming and esports.
Video gaming and esports are among the fastest-growing industries on the planet, estimated to reach $159 billion in 2020 and surpass $200 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, that growth has also led to a substantial surge in cheating; according to a study by cybersecurity firm Iredeto, 37% of gamers have confessed to cheating.
The esports and video-gaming industries are in desperate need of stronger identity verification to help curb this cheating, which can create a toxic environment and ultimately cause players to leave the game. Esports and gaming in general have a common need for identity, but for different purposes. On the esports side, it’s all about money. The esports industry is massive; many people would be surprised at how even single games like League of Legends (LoL) from Riot Games compare to the movie industry, the NBA and even MLB. In 2020, for instance Riot Games generated an estimated $1.7 billion League of Legends alone. Professional LoL teams are sponsored by major corporations, top players can make seven-figure salaries and their tournaments can sell out venues like Madison Square Garden in minutes.
The incentive to cheat is significant, and most gaming accounts are tied to free email accounts that can easily be recycled if and when a player is caught cheating. Esports companies should require users to verify their accounts by uploading images of their government-issued identity documents along with a corroborating selfie, which would both create a critical barrier to cheating and increase the consequences of being caught cheating. Doing so would allow esports companies to minimise the cheating problem and achieve significant upside by expanding professional online competition.
It’s not just esports, but video gaming in general. Cheating removes the fun from the game and creates a toxic environment that prevents new players from continuing to play the game. Using LoL as another example: the game is free to play, but Riot Games makes a substantial amount of money by selling cosmetic upgrades (skins) for in-game characters as well as access to play premium “champions” in the game. If new players have a bad experience due to toxic players or cheaters, then they are likely to quit the game before spending money on skins or paying for access to the non-default champions – costing the game provider significant revenue.
There is also a middle ground between casual and pro gamers – let’s call them content creators. There are a lot of personalities on streaming services such as Twitch and YouTube that make tremendous amounts of money through subscriptions and tips. It is not uncommon for a streamer to gain an audience because he or she is good at a game – the temptation to use cheats to build an audience is large. Because of this, gaming companies need to deploy advanced biometric-powered identity verification solutions to reduce the risk of gamers conducting fraud in the pursuit of developing large fanbases and making money.