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A $70 Million Empire From Video Game Cheats: The Catfish Story – Chatborgne

You walk around the map so calmly, clashing with other players. You walk into a house, you pick up a pretty good weapon and you say to yourself “today, yes, today I’m going to release the game”. You walk out of the house and, without warning, someone fills your chest with lead. You see the death chamber and, surprise, it turns out that your nemesis knew you were behind the wall. You think “what just happened? trying to overcome your astonishment. Well, what just happened is that you just got cheated, whatever you call it..

And if we are talking about cheaters, it is mandatory to talk about… Catfish, Cheat Ninja and the $70 million empire he built through his “PUBG Mobile” cheats. Here is his story.

It all started with “PUBG


We go back to 2017. Catfish was playing a game of “PUBG” when he was suddenly eliminated by a player who could see through walls. In his case, any player would have first and foremost, blasphemedI closed the game, re-entered it and left it as one more anecdote. Catfish, who is a software engineer, wanted to try it and developed his own system for him and his friends..

This is how his wall hack and his aimbot. For those less fond of games, a wall hack allows the player using it to see through walls, with the obvious advantage that entails. HAS aimbotis auto-aim software that usually aims for the head for obvious reasons.

In the video above, we can see Kenji, a semi-professional Call of Duty: Vanguard player, using a wallhack in a 2vs2 tournament. It’s funny, because he checked in with the monitor to prove he wasn’t cheating.

The catfish, who had a shark mentality, found a business partner through a chat room and started… selling its “PUBG” cheats for iOS and Android.. The distribution was simple, a bit like buying a key for PC software: you pay, I give you the key, you activate it and pretend to play well. In this case, it was a monthly subscription of ten to fifteen dollars which generated $350,000 per monthaccording to the developer.

Cheats were available for a monthly fee of ten to fifteen dollars.

As Catfish himself explained to Motherboard, “The gimmick was a huge hit. It sold thousands of copies within days. People had never seen this kind of gadget on mobile devices before”. But that success scared the business partner, who feared that Tencent, the huge video game company behind PUBG Mobile, and the police would get angry. would catch him. This is normal: in China, this practice is considered a piracy offence.

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To this it must be added that developing a cheat is not easy. A cheat may work in version X, but if the developer releases version X.1, the cheat may stop working. It’s a constant exchange. In the case of the Catfish software, the system (dubbed Sharpshooter) consisted of a sort of emulator that ran the game and the cheat.

How to solve this problem without running after Tencent to circumvent their fixes? Request root access. It’s a somewhat complicated process and a huge barrier to entry, which has caused revenue to plummet. Besides, it’s the end of 2019 and PUBG is not alone: ​​Fortnite and Call of Duty Mobile have already arrived. next step ? Expand to these games.

cheat ninja

Screenshot of the Cheat Ninja site taken from web.archive.org.

Catfish and his team (developing a cheat requires staff) changed their name and launched Cheat Ninja, whose website is currently not operational. With this expansion and a new business partner, Cheat Ninja reached India, Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, resulting in a few more Cheat Ninja games. income of $400,000 per month. Note, 400,000 dollars a month, even with the obligation to root the phone.

But everything is falling apart

Companies like Tencent are not blind. They are aware that there are people who cheat and they actively fight against these systems. Not because they are tricks and they pose risks, which they are, but because cheating discourages legitimate players.This translates to less potential revenue, especially when it comes to games such as “Warzone”, “Apex Legends” or “PUBG”, which are board games. freemium.

In 2020, Tencent and the Chinese police have significantly intensified the hunt for cheat creators. Tencent exposed Cheat Ninja and even arrested ten people linked to the organization in connection with the so-called “Cheat Ninja” campaign. Operation Chicken Drumstick. Resellers, Catfish said in the Motherboard interview. The hardest part was the arrest of two of his closest associates, He (nicknamed IIIIIIIIIIII) and Wang. The first on January 12 and the second on January 20, 2021.

Luxury cars seized during the Chinese police operation.

Luxury cars seized in a Chinese police operation.

Revenue generated by the organization was estimated at $76 million and at the time of the arrest they seized assets worth $46 million including luxury cars

Catfish, who was unaware of these arrests, received certain messages from IIIIIIIIIIII which aroused suspicion. It was the Chinese police who were pretending to be him. The catfish destroyed the discs with hammers and wiped out the servers.. She also made sure that she didn’t reveal any personal information to her chat partners. Finally, it shut down Cheat Ninja, whose cheats were used by 600,000 people a month.

The farewell message, sent on January 21 via a Telegram channel created in 2019 which, at this point, only has nine days to live before Telegram cancels the owner’s account and shuts down the channel, is the next. In it, Catfish cites “legal issues” with Tencent, says it will provide more information as soon as it can, and warns potential scammers who might use its name to sell tricks.

Farewell message screenshot.

Screenshot taken from Cheat Ninja’s Telegram channel.

Since that time, The catfish remained in the shadows. Nobody knows who he is, nobody knows where he is, and nobody knows what he’s doing. The last thing we know about him is the interview with Vice in which, in addition to telling the story, he says he’s not going to sell traps and that if he does, he will for him and his friends.

Companies fight against cheaters

Valorant

Beyond the history of Catfish and Cheat Ninja, cheating for online games is commonplace. You don’t have to be very smart to find cheat sheets for ‘Warzone’, ‘Apex Legends’, ‘PUBG’ or ‘Rainbow Six Siege’. This is why video game companies arm themselves against them using measures that, depending on the point of view, can be intrusive.

Two of the most controversial systems are Vanguard, the core-level anti-cheat system in “Valorant,” and Ricochet Anti-Cheat in “Call of Duty.” Activision Blizzard, for example, punished by permanent expulsion from the franchise. that repeatedly violates its security policy.

The problem is that cheating in video games are as old as video games themselves. and fighting them is like a game of cat and mouse: I cheat, you fix it, I cheat again, you fix it, and we’ll see who lasts the longest. This is why cheaters are prosecuted, this is why there are complaints and arrests of cheaters and this is why the use of cheats in video games is a debate that is far, far from over. .