Why the Destiny Bungie studio continues to prosecute video game stalkers and cheaters

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The Destiny Bungie creator’s unusual series of lawsuits against cheaters and stalkers is part of a legal strategy to improve the community around his games, the studio’s top lawyer told Axios.

Why is this important: Bungie is taking action against behaviors often seen as unavoidable injuries incurred while creating or playing games.

What they say : “We’ve seen historically that bad actors will often be tolerated because the people with the skill and power to remove them don’t focus their efforts there,” Bungie General Counsel Don McGowan told Axios.

  • “To put it simply, we disagree. In our view, eliminating harassment and abuse from our community is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good business.”

Quick catch up: The company has filed numerous lawsuits over the past year.

  • Summer 2021: Bungie files five lawsuits — three on the same day, one joined by Ubisoft – against makers and sellers of programs that allow people to cheat in Destiny multiplayer matches.
  • Spring 2022: Bungie chasing a player who allegedly impersonated the company to trigger nearly 100 fake YouTube copyright takedowns against popular fan-run accounts.
  • Summer 2022: Bungie chasing a player they say they repeatedly threatened one of their employees, publicly contemplated burning down the studio, and sold game items in violation of the studio’s copyrights.

Between the lines: Bungie is not the first studio to pursue perceived bad actors, even though it might be the most aggressive.

  • Many game companies may avoid suing because they don’t believe they can identify anonymous perpetrators online or don’t believe they can recoup the costs of prosecuting “cheaters, stalkers and abusers,” McGowan said.
  • But Bungie, founded 31 years ago, has been laying the groundwork for that strategy since 2020, a year after it split from publisher Activision and the year it hired McGowan, the city’s longtime former top lawyer. commonly litigious International Pokemon Society.

Under McGowan, Bungie initially targeted cheaters in “a strategic thrust.”

  • “This is an issue that affects many studios in the industry, and solving it is essential to maintaining a healthy and happy community that wants to play your game,” he says.
  • Bungie developer stalkers – a problem so chronic the studio recently said it was communications reminder with the fans – are also in the crosshairs now.
  • Bungie workers “do not deserve any of the mistreatment that is sometimes meted out to them,” McGowan said. “They do a job and as advocates my team and I have a skill set that allows us to defend them and the integrity of our players’ experience.”

Warning shots: Bungie adopted an aggressive tone intended to drive others away.

  • In its lawsuit against the alleged impersonator who infuriated Destiny fans, the lawsuit states, “Serious consequences await anyone else foolish enough to volunteer as a defendant by targeting the Bungie community for attack.”

Results: A $13.5 million settlement against a group of cheaters prosecuted last summer, and a 2 million one of costume brought alongside Riot early 2021. Plus:

  • A controversial argument with a cheater who disputes Bungie’s argument that their actions necessarily infringed copyright.
  • Several requests for default judgments against defendants who are off the grid.
  • And Bungie briefs that read like thrillers as they explain how they digitally identified some of their targets.

And after: When McGowan counted Bungie’s recent lawsuits against Axios, he added a parenthesis: “So far.”

At the end of the line : “We strongly believe that most people don’t want to be in communities where cheating or harassment is allowed to thrive,” Bungie General Counsel Don McGowan told Axios.

  • “Tolerating bad actors drives away a lot of people who would like to take advantage of our products.

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