According to Deloitte’s 2018 Holiday survey, 40% of household spending goes towards experiences ─ socializing away from home or entertaining at home ─ while 34% is spent on gifts, and 26% on miscellaneous holiday spends. Going deeper, the cohort known as ‘Generation Z’ was found to be the most actively engaged consumer segment across holiday seasons, and ‘Online/Video Gaming’ was one of their most sought after experiences.
Every year, the online gaming industry experiences peak engagement and sales during the holiday season, starting from Black Friday and extending up to early January. Along with high seasonal peak traffic to gaming sites comes a whole lot of unwelcome bot traffic.
Bad Bot Behaviors
Betting and gambling sites constantly get hit by bots that try to scrape critical betting line data to capitalize on their unique content. They also use electronic arbitrage techniques to maliciously disrupt the level playing field. Bots also create new accounts and leverage free spins to collect points, which they cash out or proceed to sell on the Dark Web. New and popular games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty attract so many players ─ many of whom reuse passwords across several sites they use ─ that they are heavily targeted by hackers and fraudsters.
Mobile games generated $61.3 billion in revenue in 2018, compared with $35.7 billion on PC games and $12.7 billion on dedicated gaming consoles, and these figures are expected to double over the next two years. Clearly, massive sums of money are involved in the online gambling and gaming industry, especially in mobile apps, which botmasters prefer to target to make a quick buck using little or no human intervention.
Bots vs. Humans
In online gaming arenas, bots are deployed to play against humans and win games with higher difficulty levels. With the rapid advancement of AI in the gaming industry, bad bots are also evolving with more human-like behaviors and are getting more capable at defeating humans in challenging multi-player games. They are programmed to quickly learn the intricacies of game play, and with their machine-powered speed and accuracy, can snatch away credits from human players and teams to earn large winnings for their handlers.
MIT researchers recently announced that their ‘DeepRole’ bot can play with multiple human players and consistently defeat them using ‘deductive intelligence’. These innovations also give rise to fraudulent botnets that can be programmatically deployed to defeat players on popular online gaming platforms to rake in large winnings.
Apart from ruining the gaming experience for real users, traffic from these advanced bots can have considerable impact on the performance of gaming portals, slowing website response times and game progression. This in turn increases the dropout and bounce rate for users, who may switch to a competitor’s gaming portal.
Our research indicates that during the holiday season, over 90% of all traffic on website login pages comprises bad bots. The online gaming and gambling industry is no exception to this trend, as their portals represent a lucrative target for fraudsters. The gaming industry is cognizant of this fact, and businesses are increasingly seeking out bot mitigation solutions to prevent bot threats such as:
How Can Online Gaming Services Protect Themselves?
- Dedicated bot management solutions are specialized at detecting bot traffic with extreme accuracy and minimal false positives, so that humans are never mistaken for bots.
- The pace at which sophisticated bots are progressing at mimicking human behavior on websites and apps makes them particularly dangerous to online businesses in general, and gaming portals in particular.
- Customer trust and brand loyalty are heavily eroded when users are defrauded of gaming tokens and winnings, as well as when bot traffic impacts website and app performance.
- Regulations such as the GDPR and the new California Consumer Privacy Act require businesses to stringently safeguard personally-identifiable data, and breaches can lead to litigation, punitive financial penalties, and loss of brand reputation.
- Subscription-based bot management services are affordable and drastically reduce business risks by ensuring high up-time and user satisfaction, and by maintaining the integrity of user accounts as well as critical business and personal data.