Your Next Device Might Not Play PUBG Mobile

It's a sweeping move that mangles the second-hand market.

Mobile technology is going from strength to strength. Compare the games on the original iPhone to the ones you play on your modern Apple device today: they’re leaps and bounds more graphically impressive and technologically sophisticated. So imagine what would have to go wrong for your next device to not be able to play PUBG Mobile. Say you dropped your current phone down the toilet, you live paycheck-to-paycheck, and all you can afford is some big-buttoned handset that can’t do anything but call, text, and play a polyphonic ringtone. Then it would make sense. But what if your next phone was more powerful than your current one (as any new phone should be) but it couldn’t play PUBG Mobile. How’d that happen? The game’s new player banning protocol.

On December 14, 2021, PUBG Mobile announced a feature players have been begging to see implemented for years — device ban. Tencent’s premier mobile battle royale, while played by millions, is viewed as being infested with cheaters using third-party hacks and tools to gain unfair advantages, rapidly scale leaderboards, and defeat opponents they shouldn’t even be able to see. Cheat sellers want to make money, and cheaters want to “win” by any means necessary, creating a cruel circle of supply and demand that continues to chip away at the game’s legitimate playerbase who are unable to fight back.

Tencent has tried for years to get to the bottom of the game’s cheating scandal. It regularly bans ten of thousands of accounts, adds new features like Death Replay to help players shine a spotlight on hackers, and even works with the police to arrest those who make and sell cheats. Now, the company is flicking the kill switch. In the past, cheaters would have their accounts banned. A fair and viable punishment for those who’d have to wave goodbye to accounts they’d put serious time and money into. But for most cheaters, it’s a slap on the wrist that’s easily fixed simply by opening up another. It’s a free-to-play game after all.

The device ban feature isn’t the cleanest solution to be problem, however, far from it. Cleverly pointed out by concerned users in the PUBG Mobile subreddit, using a Device Ban feature means that your next phone may be incapable of running the game. Not because it lacks the processing power to render it, but because its previous owner may have used it to cheat, pawning it off as soon as it was blacklisted. Tencent staff even responded to these concerns by advising players to not “purchase used devices if you plan to play PUBG Mobile on them,” or to “try PUBG Mobile on the device before buying it.

The second-hand phone market is huge. And given the unlikelihood of anyone being able to hold a device, install PUBG Mobile, and log into their account before buying the device in question, there being no way to identify a banned device beforehand runs a very real risk of blocking a buyer from the game based purely on the bad decisions of the user before them. And in countries where PUBG Mobile is especially popular, the risk of someone being unfairly barred from the game is even higher.

While a PUBG Mobile device ban feature might sound like the all-encompassing cure to the game’s ongoing hacker problem, it could very well be the start of another. The supposed fix for the declining population of Tencent’s biggest game threatens to be yet another nail in its coffin.


Disclaimer: Fanbyte is owned by Tencent, which also runs Tencent Games, developer and publisher of PUBG Mobile. Tencent also subsidizes much of Fanbyte’s PUBG Mobile coverage by covering freelancer budget costs. Those covering PUBG Mobile for the site have no contact with Tencent, however, and are given complete creative control to write whatever they wish.

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