Many users of Chinese social media platform Weibo support the idea of a region block for China in the hit battle royale title “Apex Legends,” amid concerns that lack of regulation could render the newly launched game unplayable.

“Apex Legends” launched two months ago and has already amassed a user base of more than 50 million players worldwide. However, like many other multiplayer first-person shooter games, it has been plagued by cheats. According to a Reddit post from the game developer earlier this month, more than 355,000 players have been banned for cheating since launch.

Cheats are software that boost player performance, and cheaters are immediately detectable to other players during matches. A player using a cheat, for example, can shoot with 100% accuracyeven fatally targeting opponents through walls or by aiming at the ground—or can maneuver through the game at unrealistic speeds.

Chinese players have a reputation among worldwide peers for cheating in games of this genre: 99% of cheaters in “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” are from China, according to statistics from anti-cheat provider Battleye. Subsequently, players from other regions routinely accuse Chinese players of cheating and destroying the game experience during matches. Hundreds of Reddit users have urged the game developer, Respawn Entertainment, to region-lock China, limiting Chinese players to a separate in-country server.

On Weibo, many Chinese players appear to support the region lock, saying that they would rather not play the game than face being shamed in every match. “I am in support of a region lock … most of us are good, but one rotten apple spoils the rest, and we have a lot more than one rotten apple in ‘Apex Legends’,” (our translation) said one Weibo user using the handle, “Jogger Godfather.”

Another Weibo user complained about Chinese players advertising cheats in the game’s voice chat. “Put the region lock in place quickly. I played two matches tonight and I had teammates who were selling cheats in both of them,” the user said.

Comments under a popular Weibo post from a user by the handle “Prog-Veka,” allegedly a concept artist at Respawn Entertainment, highlights the severity of the issue. Some users said that they have seen a sharp rise in the number of Chinese cheaters on several Asian servers, whom they identified by using the pinyin for the user names. Other users said that the game is quickly becoming unplayable because of cheaters on those servers.

“Every time teammates from other regions ask me where I’m from, I have to add, ‘I’m not cheating,’ after saying I’m from China. It’s embarrassing,” a Weibo user going by the handle “Binjiang Sofia” said.

Cheats for “Apex Legends” are thriving in China. They are widely available on platforms such as Taobao and QQ for prices as low as RMB 1 ($0.15) for three hours of use. Transactions for the most popular cheats number in the thousands, enough so that a number of Taobao sellers use bots that automatically send users the software once payments are confirmed.

Screenshot of Taobao store selling cheats for Apex Legends (Image credit: Tony Xu/TechNode).

Cheats are illegal in China and those involved in its development and distribution can be charged with up to four criminal offenses, He Jing, an intellectual property lawyer at Merits & Tree Law Firm, told TechNode. However, since “Apex Legends” is not officially distributed in China, Respawn Entertainment and the game publisher, Electronic Arts, may find it difficult to hold cheaters in China accountable.

“In theory, games not distributed in China are still entitled to a number of rights including their copyrights, but in practice it is difficult for copyright holders to defend those rights,” He said.

Neither Taobao nor QQ appear to be pursuing user reports of cheat distribution. Two Weibo comments under the original “Prog-Veka” post show screenshots of rejected complaints sent out to the two platforms in late February. The two users reported a QQ chat group and a Taobao store that sell cheats.

Since March 15, a number of Weibo users have reported that server locations have been restricted to Taiwan and Hong Kong, suggesting that Respawn Entertainment has implemented a region lock of some sort. While players can vault these restrictions using game VPNs, those who choose to go without appear to be limited to servers in Asia. Another wave of complaints from Weibo users followed, some complaining that cheaters ruined a fun game while others supported the move as long overdue.

“Apex’s region lock is the best news I got today,” a Weibo user going by the handle “2N_Thymolblue” said.

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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