- Trust & Safety
Improving the player experience by combatting games fraud
For many, gaming is a way to take a break from the stresses of everyday life. Especially in today’s challenging times - when many of us are facing additional life pressures and spending our days physically distanced from others - gaming serves as a way to decompress and connect virtually with others who share our interests.
But, imagine waking up one morning to find your credit card has been charged hundreds of dollars on in-game purchases that you did not authorize. Worse, when you log into your game account, you see the upgrades that were purchased have already been transferred to another player’s account.
This type of fraud severely damages the player experience and can significantly impact a game company’s revenue in the short and long-term, as most rely heavily on these types of in-game purchases to fuel their growth. In fact, a Newzoo industry forecast estimates players will spend in excess of $159 billion in 2020.
Clearly, the games market is growing rapidly, but unfortunately games fraud is on the same upward trajectory. As such, games companies need to take action and learn new ways to walk the fine line between preventing disruptive and fraudulent activity while still enabling players to make in-game purchases easily and seamlessly. Interestingly, this could mean looking outside their industry for best practices to find new ways to protect their players, including financial institutions.
Gaming fraud’s impact on customer experience
Perhaps not surprisingly, a high number of game players have experienced fraud in one form or another. Nearly one in five of the two billion active players, including mobile games players, have been victims of payments fraud. Whether it’s a case of friendly fraud, account takeovers (ATO) or financial fraud, it all affects a gamer’s overall experience.
One reason fraud may be so prevalent in gaming is due to companies wanting to enable seamless payments such as single click purchases. To do this, many online games store their users’ payment information in a centralized location, which can make it easier for hackers to acquire data via ATOs. In the case of an ATO, scammers message players directly or approach them with phishing messages. These attempts to defraud players can be distracting and annoying, but in some cases they can actually render player accounts useless or result in financial losses.
Accounts that have been compromised can result in gamers being locked out for several weeks as the company struggles to make the situation right. More sophisticated fraudsters will then sometimes use the locked-out player’s character to spread spam and ruin the gamer’s reputation, further impacting the player experience in a negative way.
Most common types of gaming fraud
Video games fraud is more than simply inconvenient and frustrating, some types result in abusive behavior, and some are outright illegal and punishable by law. Other types of fraud may fall into a gray area between illegal and disruptive. Games producer, Wargaming.net, categorizes fraud into three categories: 100% fraud, where individuals are making money from their activities; fraudulent users, where gamers are knowingly cheating in order to advance or gain advantages in a particular game; and ‘friendly’ fraud, where players may break the rules but don’t express an explicit intention to cheat.
By clearly delineating fraud into these three categories, Wargaming.net has been able to develop remedial steps for each type, ensuring that minor infractions don’t prevent otherwise loyal players from continuing to play the company’s games. However; those that do intentionally break the rules or the law are more likely to face strict sanctions that range from cease-and-desist letters to full and permanent account suspensions to legal action.
Combatting fraud with technology and good player support
Video games companies have the difficult task of simultaneously fighting fraud while ensuring frictionless payments for gamers, and they are turning to next-gen technologies and new approaches to customer support to achieve this goal.
As with player support in general, quick response times, self-help options and video support are particularly helpful in assisting gamers when it comes to fraud. Game developers can also offer empathy training and coach frontline personnel to approach gamers that have been defrauded in a more personal and sensitive way. Recognizing that many gamers have dedicated hundreds of hours to advancing through their favorite games, only to have their hard work imperiled by fraudsters shows a level of understanding and respect that will encourages them to remain loyal over the long-term.
On the technology side, AI-enabled automated fraud detection technologies and limits on payment transactions can work together to flag suspicious activity, similar to what traditional credit card companies do. In this scenario, fraud detection units receive alerts and flag the most obvious instances of fraud, locking accounts where necessary and flagging others for personal follow-up.
Beyond these types of approaches, gaming companies should also investigate adopting more stringent security requirements—the same ones used by traditional financial institutions and entities—depending on where they operate. In 2019, Europe introduced a directive called strong customer authentication (SCA), which mandates an enhanced security protocol for credit card and online transactions. SCA requires two-factor authentication on electronic credit card transactions, where a merchant must provide the card issuer at least two independent factors, including a password or PIN, a device or credit card, or a fingerprint or other biometric.
Unfortunately, fraudsters are crafty, continuously adapting and perennially seeking new targets. Identity theft and other types of games fraud continue to spread, particularly among people in their 30s — which also happens to be the average age of gamers. For games companies, this means staying one step ahead of fraudsters by taking a proactive approach to fraud prevention to protect their players and reassure them that they can be trusted with their personal and financial information.
By taking direct aim at fraud, and transparently communicating security measures that are in place and their commitment in this regard, gaming companies can improve relationships with their players, establish loyalty and trust to help them get that much-needed break from the stresses of everyday life.