Rockstar Games has never gone easy on cheaters in Grand Theft Auto Online. There has been a seemingly unending fight since the multiplayer mode went live to rid the game of hacks and exploits, but each time a new security measure countered a cheat, a new cheat countered that security measure. Rockstar began cracking down hard, both in-game and without. Most recently, they gained warrants to search the houses of five individuals suspected of creating cheats for the online part of the game.
Two homes in Melbourne belonging to five people allegedly involved in the creation of the now unavailable hack "Infamous" were searched. Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar Games, gained Search and Seizure warrants from the Australian Federal Court. Infamous hasn't been online for about 6 months now.
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Reports indicate that attorneys from the Bird & Bird law firm, representing Take-Two's interests, their IT expert and a neutral tech expert were on site, conducting the search. Conflicting reports make it unclear whether police were on site at the time.
The assets of the five named in the order - Christopher Anderson, Cyrus Lesser, Sfinktah, Koroush Anderson and Koroush Jeddian - have been frozen, preventing them from withdrawing any money from bank accounts save for a low amount designated as living costs. Though they have yet to file a defense, asset freezing is common procedure when people are accused of gaining income through illegal means.
Take-Two and Rockstar will most likely proceed legally by seeking damages, likely by way of copyright infringement claims. Previously, Rockstar had shut down a number of GTA Online hack sellers and operators through their legal team, and sued a creator. Such severe approaches have only been carried out on paid cheats, and always the distributors and creators, not the users, are targeted.
While arrests, jail sentences and heavy fines are almost common for video game related hacking in China, such severe legal action in relation to this kind of activity is unheard of in other countries. TorrentFreak - the site which reported on this story initially - Editor-in-Chief Ernesto van der Sar spoke with BBC regarding the case.
The search and freezing order go beyond what I've ever seen in any cheating related cases. It shows that the copyright holders and the court take this issue rather seriously. Many cheaters may believe that it's a relatively harmless activity - but they ruin the fun for legitimate players.
Infamous, which cost users $40, allowed not only in-game environment manipulation, insta-killing, teleportation, prop spawning and other effects which lent users an unfair advantage, but also allowed them to spawn virtually unlimited amounts of in-game currency.
GTA$, the game's currency, can be earned via in-game activities, or bought with microtransactions. These "recurring player spending opportunities" as Take-Two calls them are a huge source of revenue for the company. With the popularity of GTA Online, even the relatively low microtransaction adoption percentages that are average for games equals millions of dollars.
Way back in 2016, it was reported that by April microtransactions in GTA Online alone had earned over $500 million.