Esports has a problem. An identity problem.

While esports players and the emerging multi-billion-dollar industry certainly know who they are and who their audience is, their identity problem lies within the lack of effective digital identity security protocols many esports organizations have in place.

New account creation, tournament competition and monitoring player activity are being compromised by multi-accounting. 

Multi-accounting is, albeit unwittingly, enabled by esports organizations that lack a modern identity proofing and authentication system. When organizations rely on legacy security factors and outdated technology, they place their company and their players at risk of reputational and financial losses.

The solution to esports’ identity problem? Biometrics combined with AI-powered identity proofing and verification.

The risks of multi-accounting

While most organizations do their best to mitigate the impact and existence of multi-accountholders, their presence — no matter their number within a community — can have lasting and damaging effects on not only that organization, but on the entire industry. 

Multi-accounting is a form of fraud that has many faces. “Smurfing” is a type of multi-accounting wherein a player creates secondary accounts — often at skill levels below their own — to pass themselves off as someone else, win more money in tournaments and gain an unfair advantage in gameplay. “Griefing” or “Trolling” is another kind of multi-accounting where bad actors engage in disruptive behavior towards other players, often causing those players to abandon the game. And the list goes on.

These forms of fraud (and many others) can do a lot more than just turn the tide of a competition in the offending player’s direction for financial gain; they demoralize and insult other players, in turn ruining the experience for both fans and contestants and placing valuable esports sponsorship deals at risk.

Even in non-tournament play, or in situations without monetary rewards up for grabs, players have complained time and again about these multi-accountholders harassing them online — effectively unchecked. 

To make matters worse: an organization’s ability to keep these nefarious players in check is nonexistent if the player can simply open another account under different credentials after being banned.

But identity proofing and verification eliminates all of these risks and more, giving esports organizations the visibility into who is using their network so they can keep players in check — for the safety and enjoyment of everyone in their online communities.

Identity proofing

Identity proofing and verification (IDV) is a convenient yet sophisticated solution to the esports identity problem. 

When powered by biometrics, like facial recognition, IDV is fast and frictionless, giving gamers who are eager to get online a secure way to start playing in a matter of minutes. And when identity proofing and verification includes matching against existing registrations, companies can be assured each player only has one account. All the player is asked to do is scan an identity document and snap a selfie.

First, the player simply scans an ID, like a driver’s license or passport. The identity document is checked to ensure it is authentic and unaltered (not tampered with or forged) and demographic data, if present, can be compared with information the player provided (like address, email, and phone number) when first registering with the esports organization. 

Then, the image on the document is compared with a facial biometric captured when the player takes a selfie. During this step an AI-powered biometric algorithm can analyze the player’s face, ensuring they are truly the person they claim to be. In addition, liveness detection verifies that the player is “real” and not a fraudulent photo, video replay, deepfake, or other kind of manipulated content known as a presentation attack. Finally, biometrics is used to “bind” the player to that unique ID. 

Once approved, a player is verified and may only be asked to authenticate their identity at certain transaction points again in the future — like when entering a tournament or match — by snapping a selfie. The passwordless aspect of IDV is a huge selling point for user experience, especially for a tech-savvy group like gamers. 

IDV can be instrumental for esports organizations because it offers ease of buy-in and limited loss of users; organizations can gain maximum security with minimal effort. 

Some early adopters have made ID verification opt-in, offering players who choose to do so some kind of credit or even opportunities to play in special tournaments. Other organizations have chosen to take a layered approach to identity protection, where players can choose just the facial biometric without the ID match, giving them lower levels of access that still successfully prevent multi-accounting.

Identity proofing is built with Privacy By Design principles, meaning a player’s biometric template — not their actual face — is safely stored and rendered meaningless even if it is somehow accessed by a bad actor, as it’s nearly impossible, with market-leading IDV tech, to match a template to a specific player’s personal information. This eases any concerns a player may have about their identity being “stolen” or otherwise misused by the organization or a fraudster if a data breach were to occur.

From the organization’s standpoint, esports companies implementing IDV benefit from definitively knowing who every player is and enjoy the peace of mind that identity proofing eliminates any incentives a bad actor previously had under total anonymity.

To preserve the user experience players are accustomed to, even with these enhanced security measures in place, esports organizations can continue to give players the in-game anonymity they have always enjoyed.

Widespread adoption of identity proofing and verification in the esports industry would allow companies to engage with new and existing players confidently, reassured that they are authorized to play in a match and that the player is genuinely who they claim to be and not a fraudulent multi-accountholder. IDV fosters safer esports arenas and positive gaming experiences for all — something everyone can root for.