Full disclosure: I don't play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and so the majority of headlines I see about the game don't particularly concern me. This story does concern me, however, because it would seem to indicate that the developers are unfairly siding with the streamers on whom they depend to promote their game, and siding against normal players, the likes of which compose the majority of the constituent player-base. Before we get started, take a moment to watch the Twitch clip above. WARNING: there is some really foul and angry language used here by a whiny man-baby, so prepare for that.
The man playing the game goes by the name "Shroud." Maybe you've heard of him. He has almost a million followers, and viewers have donated (literally) tens of thousands of dollars to show how much they love his channel.
In the clip above, Shroud takes a few very loud shots at another player, out in the open, toward the edge of the closing play-zone. He was very vulnerable, and not hidden at all. Predictably, he gets killed. Apparently it's not the first time he or his buddy were killed by a certain player, so they declare that this player (who goes by the name "lotoe") was "stream sniping."
Lotoe promptly received a 7-day ban from the game, a game that he has paid for, due to reports of stream sniping.
What is stream sniping?
Let's say you get into a game and realize that you're playing with a popular streamer. If you wanted to be really sneaky, you could load up that streamer's Twitch page in a separate tab and check out his livestream to see where he is on the map, and unfairly use that information to kill him. This is "stream sniping."
How do the mods prove that someone is stream sniping? In most cases, they can't. How could prove something like this? All you have to go on is word of mouth, unless I'm missing something big, and when you have an extremely popular streamer and his entire community pouring in with multiple reports of stream sniping, well, you appease your player-base and appease that streamer that shows your game to hundreds of thousands of viewers by banning the "stream sniper" whether you have hard evidence or not.
Lotoe claims he's innocent
Lotoe's buddy started this Reddit thread to bring the entire incident to light. Lotoe claims that he had no idea why he was banned at first, and in the thread is documented his conversation with a discord mod. He asked the mod why he was banned at all. "You were temporarily banned for stream sniping, if you wish to submit an appeal you can do so here..." Lotoe was confused. "Yea but who I don't even watch twitch. Also how long is it gonna last?"
The Reddit thread is packed with hundreds of PUBGs players leaving thousands of comments, and almost everyone thinks that this is incredibly shady, and a really distasteful move on the part of Bluehole.
This is setting an incredibly dangerous precedent, and frankly, I think this is a pretty trashy move. Here's why.
Is Bluehole is favoring its 'sponsors?'
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is an anomaly. With almost no marketing whatsoever, the game has taken off and sold over six million copies. The rising popularity of this game is almost completely reliant on word of mouth and on livestreams of popular streamers like Shroud.
Bluehole depends on people like Shroud who have massive followings. Every time someone like this streams the game, and thousands of people watch and see how much fun the game can be, Bluehole sells more copies and expands its player-base. It's incredibly important to Bluehole, then, to make sure that these streamers stay happy, and stay having fun.
When Shroud and his million followers start throwing a fit and having a bad time in the stream claiming that someone is "stream sniping," this recent ban seems to indicate that Bluehole will take the streamer's word for it. That sucks.
The message sent to me and you
You know what this says to the greater audience? It says, "You better not kill the streamers. And you sure as hell better not kill them more than once across multiple sessions, or we'll assume you're cheating and ban you. Don't ruin our sponsors' streams. We depend on them. If you want to keep playing, you better turn away the next time you see them out in the open firing unsilenced shots and giving away their position."
Hyperbole? Yeah, I'm definitely playing that up a bit, and I have no doubt that Bluehole loves its community and wants everyone to have fun. But bans like this leave a sour taste in everyone's mouth. How about we make sure we're banning people for things we can prove? Popular streamers always claim that their repeated killers are hacking, using bots, "stream sniping," or otherwise cheating in some way or another. It's always been like that; but now it looks like these salty streamers hold sway over mods, who in turn have the power to cut off the rest of us.
That's not cool, and I hope that the PUBGs community at large shines a very bright light on incidents like this one. We've reached out to Bluehole for comment, and will update you when they respond. In the meantime, weigh in on the poll below and let us know what you think about stream sniping bans.