- Niantic, the creator of "Pokémon Go" and the forthcoming "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite," has filed suit against Global++, an "association of hackers" that allegedly makes and distributes "hacked" versions of its games.
- Those versions, which Niantic calls "hacked" and Global++ calls "tweaked," give players what Niantic says is an unfair advantage — and infringes on Niantic’s intellectual property, it alleges in the lawsuit.
- The lawsuit comes shortly before Niantic is expected to officially launch "Harry Potter," which has been in a beta phase in Australia and New Zealand since April.
- "Niantic files this motion on the eve of the United States launch of Harry Potter, the culmination of a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment by Niantic, the success of which is threatened by defendants’ unlawful conduct," Niantic says in its motion for a preliminary injunction.
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"Pokémon Go," the mega-popular smartphone game from developer Niantic, has had to stay one step ahead of cheaters since its launch in 2016.
Some players have used a surprisingly sophisticated array of tools to circumvent the rules and do things like automatically walk in circles to hatch Pokémon eggs, spot exactly where rare monsters are hiding, and even spoof their GPS location so they can trick the game into thinking they’re suddenly halfway around the world.
Now, Niantic is drawing a line in the sand, as it files a lawsuit against Global++ — what it describes as an "association of hackers" that allegedly makes and distributes "unauthorized derivative versions" of apps including "Pokémon Go" and "Ingress," another game made by Niantic. Those apps, called "PokeGo++" and "Ingress++," give users an unfair advantage, while simultaneously infringing on Niantic’s intellectual property rights, Niantic says in the lawsuit.
Also named as defendants in the suit are alleged members of Global++, including one Ryan "ElliotRobot" Hunt, who Niantic describes as "leader" of the group, and the "principal developer" of these unauthorized apps, as well as Alen "iOS n00b" Hundur, who Niantic says helps develop the apps at issue, and promotes them on a YouTube channel. The lawsuit also names 20 so-called "Doe defendants" — members of Global++ who couldn’t be personally identified.
"Among other things, defendants’ schemes undermine the integrity of the gaming experience for legitimate players, diminishing enthusiasm for Niantic’s games and, in some cases, driving players away from Niantic’s games altogether. Defendants’ schemes therefore damage Niantic’s reputation and goodwill and interfere with Niantic’s business," the lawsuit says.
Niantic is seeking a preliminary injunction in this lawsuit, which would require Global++ and its members to immediately stop distributing the apps at issue, as well as to stop any work on reverse engineering the code to its games.
The lawsuit further alleges that the Global++ group has earned money by selling "subscriptions" to these allegedly hacked apps: "On information and belief, defendants have sold ‘subscriptions’ to their Cheating Programs to hundreds of thousands of users, reaping massive profits," the lawsuit claims.
Notably, while the complaint refers to Global++ as "hackers," nowhere in the complaint does Niantic indicate that its users’ personal information was compromised by the group. Which is to say, there doesn’t appear to be any reason to believe that Global++ had access to any data of those playing Niantic’s own, standard-issue versions of each game.
The Harry Potter connection
The suit alleges that the Global++ organization has already developed "Potter++," a cracked version of "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite" — Niantic’s next big game, expected to launch soon. The game has been undergoing beta testing in New Zealand and Australia since April.
Niantic and co-developer WB Games are hosting a special event on Tuesday at Universal Studios Hollywood, where more details on the game and its launch are expected.
"Niantic files this motion on the eve of the United States launch of Harry Potter, the culmination of a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment by Niantic, the success of which is threatened by defendants’ unlawful conduct," Niantic says in its motion for a preliminary injunction.
Representatives for Global++ did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via the organization’s Facebook page.
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