Over the past week, Lost Ark has lost roughly over 300,000 players according to Steamcharts and SteamDB. This hugely popular action MMORPG, which launched to ridiculous levels of success earlier this year, appears to have wiped out a significant number of players via a recent ban wave which resulted in the dramatic drop.
For those not in the know, the team at Amazon Game Studios have been battling an ongoing botting problem for some time now. Through multiple official blog posts coinciding with major updates, the topic of botting has been a near-constant presence, and the continuous cat and mouse chase between developers and cheaters has trucked along over several months.
It’s been a major issue too! Lost Ark, having already existed in Korea and Russia for some time prior to the western release, practically launched with a pre-existing botting ecosystem who had been sharpening their fangs on the aforementioned versions of the title. This botting problem has resulted in some frustrating side effects too, as a healthy real-money trading environment has been able to flourish thanks to the ample number of bots running around, farming content, and generating in-game wealth.
For those not sure why that’s a bad thing, bots farming resources and money 24/7 uncontested inject an inflated amount of currency into the game which players with a little bit of know-how can just buy. This inflated amount of gold in the economy leads to - you guessed it - inflation, which means Ted the construction worker coming home from a hard day at work will find useful materials drifting further and further outside his budget. Not necessarily a problem for those who can invest some extra time, or have no issues buying gold, but a rough situation for casual players and those morally against real money trading to find themselves in.
That’s not to say that the folk at Amazon Game Studios have been taking this lying down. According to prior reports from the publisher, anti-cheat software updates have continuously cut down the numbers of bots in waves. However, as is the nature of any anti-cheat vs cheater battle, the player population has historically bounced back in the wake of these ban waves as users have figured their way around the anti-cheat and redeployed whatever sketchy software they had on hand.
This ongoing botting problem has led some to speculate on the “real population” of Lost Ark, and while it’s obviously impossible to know for sure exact figures, shifts in overall player count such as the removal of an easily exploitable gold farming method seemingly cut a whopping 200,000 players off the top back in March. These occurrences have occasionally popped up as strong indicators of just how many bots were present behind the scenes. For the record, we’ll likely never find an exact number, as websites like the aforementioned Steamcharts and SteamDB while helpful aren’t official tracking websites and thus can be off the mark a little.
Fast forward to June 16, and it looks like both botters and real money traders have been hit hard. A day before, it was announced via Twitter as well as an official post on the Lost Ark forums that a "massive" ban wave will be coming alongside the scheduled update. They weren't kidding! This otherwise regular patch seems to have been packing some extra juice under the hood, resulting in a sharper drop than usual of players in the days following the patch. The number of concurrent players did initially reach roughly 550,000 immediately after, but began plummeting to around 200,000 over the weekend.
As we continue our battle against bots in Lost Ark, we want to let players know that will be rolling out a wider, massive wave of fresh bot bans over the course of the next week.— Lost Ark (@playlostark) June 15, 2022
More information below!https://t.co/YYlRx2qK89
This resulted in two vastly different reactions from the two factions. On popular cheating forums and botting hubs, threads with users performing pseudo damage checks are easy to find, with posters reporting on what accounts of theirs received bans, the duration of these bans, and what services or in-game actions may have gotten them caught on Amazon’s radar.
On the flip side of the coin, you have users on Reddit, Discord and other popular hangouts for legitimate Lost Ark play hyped about the purge, in what is probably the most triumphant celebration of player falloff you’ll see anytime soon. This came in the form of genuine disbelief at the impact, dunking on those caught at the sharp end of the bans, and memes.
But if we all drop our party poppers for a moment, as tempting as it is to break out the bubbly, is it too early to get excited? Maybe. It’s widely accepted that generally speaking first time offenders only receive a three day ban, likely a measure to both warn those being dodgy and not absolutely body regular players caught in the crossfire, which means a portion of accounts removed in the last few days may very well be back in operation. While they likely won’t be hopping back into the firing line, those who make a living developing and selling botting software are likely picking apart the recent update to find new ways around it.
That doesn’t mean it’s all for nothing though. As it becomes more frustrating to use bots in Lost Ark, while players who slam significant amounts of cash get their main accounts permanently banned for acquiring suspect amounts of in-game currency via real money trading, there are hopes that bad actors will move on to greener, less hazardous pastures. As fewer and fewer buyers hang around, it’s possible we’ll start to inch closer to that illustrious “real population” over time.
As for what this means for Lost Ark, all in all it’s good news for those who play the game. Even with the depleted figure, Lost Ark remains in the top five most played games on Steam right now, so anyone echoing chants of "dead game" remain dead wrong. Having such a large figure lopped off the concurrent player numbers certainly creates an initial shock, but think of it as a full-body detox. It’s a rough but temporary process which washes all the nastiness out. Sure, it’ll creep back over time, but continuous attempts to keep the junk at bay will only lead to a healthier game, a happier player base, and a better Lost Ark.
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