Korean PC Bangs place in Overwatch are a primary source of contention, allowing Koreans to play games in a public setting, not having to pay for their own desktops or games while also allowing for a flood of hackers.
PC Bangs, also known as Internet Cafés by most, provide high-performance computers for gaming and in some cases, numerous other high-end amenities. In June, just a month after the release of Overwatch, youtube channel LinusTechTips ran a descriptive piece on the lengths to which PC Bangs service customers.
The issues PC Bangs create have been frustrating to legitimate Korean Overwatch players since the game’s release. This issue began to peak when a Korean player within the top 100 players in Korea was banned while hacking on stream, then proceeded to make another Battle.net account so they could continue playing.
In Korean PC Bangs, when a player is banned for hacking, resetting the computer and making another Battle.net account lets the player continue hacking, rather than having to wipe your computer’s hard drive and purchase another copy of Overwatch like everyone else in the world.
This opened the floodgates for rampant hacking in Korea, which resulted in many players in Korean using VPNs to access servers in other parts of the world. This is the cause for a high amount of Korean players in American servers. While uncertain, this issue may be spilling into other servers as well, but its much more visible in America since English, Russian, and Korean speaking countries make up the majority of Overwatch’s playerbase.
Thankfully, Blizzard has just announced a method of removing hackers’ ability to create a new account after a ban. More on that later.
VPNs are security methods which hide the location of a device in a wifi hotspot, but can also be used to trick servers into thinking your device is in another part of the world. They’re useful for hiding sensitive information, accessing geo-blocked information such as videos only available in some countries, and bypassing internet companies’ throttling of internet service.
The way Koreans use VPNs in PC Bangs however, is much less productive in nature. Hackers use VPNs to register for American Battle.net accounts, then play on Korean servers. The reason hackers can’t use Korean accounts is because Korean Battle.net accounts require inputting the user’s social security number. This means most Korean players will only get one Korean account.
Not all players use VPNs for malicious reasons however. Think about it, if a ludicrously large number of players you encountered were hacking without potential for repercussion, would you want to play with them, or the people known for having clean servers? Most Koreans using VPNs to play on American servers would never even consider hacking, but just want to play a fair match.
I’ve had many encounters with Korean players on American servers and although not being able to communicate with them is frustrating, those who can and do attempt to communicate in English have always been friendly and shown an eagerness to play well. These experiences of speaking Korean players have sadly been extraordinarily rare for me though.
Overwatch is a team-based game so this vision of a fair and balanced experience that Korean players are pining for is mostly an illusion. A team of six all communicating and working together will more often than not lose to a team of mixed-language players with no communication whatsoever.
This is an issue Blizzard has decided to finally fix, almost a year after the game’s release. A large part of Overwatch’s presence in Korea is of course the PC Bangs. PC Bangs, being businesses, require a license to run copies of Overwatch on their PCs.
Blizzard announced in a recent Korean blog post that the easiest solution to curb the hacking pandemic in Korea is to make PC Bang owners responsible for people who hack in their establishments. Users will soon be required to register Korean Battle.net accounts in order to play Overwatch in Korean PC Bangs. This means anyone in Korea who hacks in Overwatch and gets banned will not only have that account banned from the game, they will be banned from playing Overwatch in any way in Korea until they get a new social security number. This change is also going to apply to every other Blizzard-made game.
What this means for Overwatch as a whole is enormous. This will ultimately drive sales of Overwatch up in Korea, as PC Bangs will no longer be a venue for hackers, thus forcing them to buy their own copies of the game. If they decide to then again make an American account and hack, getting banned means being permanently banned.
This in turn will bring the number of hacking Overwatch players in PC Bangs to nearly zero, and thus incentivize legitimate Korean players to return to Korean servers.
This fix, albeit it a little under a year late, is monumental in improving the public image of Overwatch’s community.
Whether it will have the affect intended by Blizzard is yet to be seen, but I’m sure every legitimate player a can be happy for this change and the future of Overwatch as a fair platform for gamers of all nationality.
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