Is it Truth When Wrapped in Deceit?
G2A is pretty smart. They know that because they often have the best deals on games, people are going to buy from them. Most people don't care about what buying from G2A does or think about why the deal is too good to be true. A good deal is a good deal. G2A has become the king of responses that say nothing while openly attacking those accusing of them of wrongdoing or otherwise criticizing their business practices. This has happened yet again in their recent dealings with Gearbox Software. G2A's response to Gearbox's list of demands does all that while taking the opportunity to try to beef up their own reputation. What G2A responded with reads more like an advertisement than a refutation, with plenty of deception and half-truths thrown in for good measure.
Most of what they claim in their response can be seen as untrue from my article I wrote last year, but this has offered up some new information, as well as providing the opportunity to get into the specifics of why G2A is so awful. This article is going to go through the entirety of G2A's response, pointing out where G2A is misleading or not telling the whole truth, and expanding on certain elements of G2A beyond the scope of their response to further illustrate their many problems.
This last week brought forth a lot of confusion, and caused a lot of inaccurate information to appear on the internet about G2A.COM. Although this saddens us, at the same time we are also glad to have the opportunity to thoroughly explain many of the inaccuracies and misunderstandings tied to G2A.COM.
It all began with a few negative reactions from some YouTubers, and in particular from John “TotalBiscuit” Bain, to an announcement that G2A.COM is working together with Gearbox Publishing. Our partner, Gearbox Publishing, unfortunately decided to publicly publish a letter with a list of ultimatums, without consulting us about the truth of the allegations made by John Bain. This is an excellent example that rash actions, without full knowledge of the facts, can be harmful to both the developer and the marketplace. Especially since all of the requests made of G2A.COM in the ultimatum have in fact long been part of our marketplace.
This is how G2A begins their response. That the public list of demands and press release from Gearbox Software led to inaccurate information and confusion. This is because, as they say, all of the things listed in Gearbox's demands, what they call ultimatums, have been in the G2A marketplace for a "long" time. I can't really refute that entirely, I suppose, as there is some version of every thing that Gearbox demanded, but that version is so manipulative and created with the sole purpose of preying on the ignorant that it is laughable for G2A to equate their version to what Gearbox demanded. In other words, G2A creates what, at face value—the value of their response here—seems like consumer friendly practices, but then somehow has thought of ways to twist it around to screw the consumer and developers/publishers all in one. Like I said before, G2A is pretty smart.
After that introduction, G2A goes into G2A Shield. For those unaware, G2A Shield is a service G2A offers that provides certain benefits like cash back on purchases, faster customer service response time, and other things. G2A talks about G2A shield, as Gearbox's demands stated they wanted G2A Shield's benefits offered to everyone for free because all customers deserve fraud protection. The assumption here is that G2A Shield's purpose is fraud protection, at least primarily. Here's where G2A starts:
We agree that every buyer on the marketplace should be protected – and that is exactly how it is on G2A.COM. We firmly attest that G2A.COM protects and secures both our sellers and buyers far better than most functioning marketplaces. In the very rare cases in which a purchased key does not work properly, each user has the right to issue a complaint, and either receive a different key or a refund.
The main purpose and function of G2A Shield is to provide buyers with immense convenience and comfort, as well as additional features such as 10% cashback (which actually ensures that the Shield subscription cost and more is refunded to each person that buys games more than once every few months).
There are many things wrong with G2A Shield worth getting into, but this offers a good opportunity to take a look at the image above. G2A Shield members get a "convenient and secure shopping experience" according to the advertisement on its page. The implication here seems to be that those without G2A Shield do not get a convenient and secure shopping experience. The confusion that G2A brought up in their introduction may actually exist due to their own marketing. So does G2A Shield offer customers the guarantee that they will have a key refunded/replaced if it is indeed fraudulent? Or does it mean that G2A Shield members' purchases are more secure in that they will somehow be at less of a risk of purchasing those fraudulent keys? Either way, it seems like G2A Shield offers some higher level of fraud protection.
That's not the only place they use such language either. There is a G2A Shield page within each member's account page that also details its features, trying to sell it to them. What you see in the above image is an example of their marketing of the service. Is ensuring a safe purchase a part of G2A Shield or not? Do customers without G2A Shield not have access to safe purchases or are they just not guaranteed that all of their purchases are safe?
Security should never be a membership perk you have to pay for. For any and every other business ever, it is considered the bare minimum.
G2A then continues by looking at the process of what a customer without G2A Shield goes through when a key does not work:
If the buyer does not have a Shield subscription:
1. The buyer reports the problem to the seller. If the seller sees that the problem resulted because of the seller’s error or fault, then the seller either refunds the buyer’s money or provides a new key – and the matter is solved instantly.
2. If the seller does not agree to the buyer’s complaint, the buyer writes a message to the G2A Resolution Center. The message receives a case number, and our employees (G2A.COM’s customer support team is fluent in nine languages, six of which are available 24/7, and the average wait-time is barley a few minutes) begin to investigate. Our customer support then contacts the seller, to give them a chance to clarify any doubts, and then our customer support team does everything they can to bring about a satisfactory resolution for both parties. The buyer typically receives a resolution in a matter of hours, in contrast to many other marketplaces where users sometimes must wait a few weeks to receive an answer (or never receive an answer at all).
It's pretty straightforward but does not address a key issue, one that G2A says, as you will see in a bit, does not exist. What about in cases where a buyer finds a key does not work, then goes to the seller, moves on up to G2A itself, G2A tries to talk to the seller, and the seller doesn't answer. Where does the refund or new key come from then? G2A claims later in this response that they often eat the refund for customers, but I can't imagine them not trying everything they can to get out of it.
And why might this be an issue you ask? Because anyone can make an account in no time flat, post up keys for sale, then disappear. Nobody will get a response from them. They sold their stuff, got their money, and now they're done. But that's a pretty rare occurrence, as most of the time what's for sale is a 100% legitimate key; by that I mean it is one that will work.
Here's the more likely scenario. Someone buys a bunch of keys for games with stolen credit card information. They then put the keys up for sale on G2A or another site like it. The key sells, it works, the buyer and seller walk away happy. Later, the credit card owner sees the charge, issues a chargeback, and the original retailer of the keys has to return the money for the keys and often a fee as well. When many developers or publishers get word of a batch of keys taken with stolen credit card information, they often cancel those keys. This is the exact process a happily self-proclaimed scammer told to Kotaku. It is best summed up here:
Reis [the scammer] doesn’t make money off a chargeback. He makes money by selling the Steam keys. The chargebacks aren’t triggered immediately, so he’s getting the keys before the payment processor has time to investigate (or be alerted to) stolen credit cards. Chargebacks can occur days, weeks, or months later, which means Reis has plenty of time to sell the Steam key sent to his email address.
So the used-to-be happy and now not-happy buyer comes back to talk to the seller because his key magically does not work. The seller doesn't exist anymore. What does G2A do in that situation? They don't really say. And they won't say because they do not acknowledge illegally obtained keys being sold on their platform. G2A claims it does not have a lot of fraudulent keys being sold on their platform.
Before we get more into illegally obtained keys, let's see what the G2A Shield member goes through when they have a key that does not work:
If the buyer does have a Shield subscription:
1.The buyer opens and connects with live chat, which is available 24/7. The buyer does not have to contact the seller – but simply needs to describe the problem to G2A.COM’s customer support team. The buyer will most likely receive a refund during the chat which last a few minutes, and G2A.COM takes it upon itself to contact the seller and resolve the case on that end.
G2A Shied [sic] is very well-priced given the benefits it offers. This of course does not mean that we do not realize the service still requires a lot of improvement. We are constantly working on Shield and we will debut many new solutions over the coming months.
Again this seems to add to that confusion G2A spoke about in their introduction, as the service is entirely different for those with and without G2A Shield—not just in the speed of customer service. For those without G2A Shield, they have to contact the seller, then G2A, then G2A has to contact the seller, and then the buyer may get a refund depending on what G2A finds. Those with Shield contact G2A and have the opportunity to be refunded before G2A ever contacts the seller.
That seems like a pretty significant difference to me. In one, there's a real chance a buyer does not get a resolution. Why would a scammer care about making G2A happy if they got their money? They can just as easily make a new account and get on with it. So, again, what does G2A do in that situation? They have not said.
But the G2A Shield member is sitting happy in that they have a real chance they get their refund before this knowledge of the seller ever takes place.
Again, that seems like there's a difference in the fraud protection. So not only is the marketing for G2A Shield suspect, so is their explanation. It just brings up more questions, the most important being, is G2A Shield a service that offers better fraud protection or not? By G2A's own description, it appears to be the case. It's worth reiterating that security and fraud protection should never be up for sale. It is the bare minimum.
Before leaving G2A Shield entirely, as G2A's response has nothing left to say, there are a few more things to look at. First, G2A recognizes that there are problems with G2A Shield, namely in one specific area: cancelling it. To cancel the service is to go through an eternity of pages, clicks, and attempts to keep you paying. It's best shown off here. Over ten steps and some waiting to cancel the service. I think all can agree that is more than ridiculous.
G2A recognized the problem in a reddit AMA they held a couple of months ago where they said that changes would be coming soon. As far as I know, the problem with cancelling G2A Shield remains the same.
Then there's the little predatory snafu with Indiegala last month. Indiegala was trying out G2A Pay, a service G2A offers retailers as an additional payment option, and those that used G2A Pay found themselves signed up for G2A Shield unknowingly. G2A claims that this was due to an IT error, but if you look at the screen above, it seems like a pretty clear attempt at intentional obfuscation to get people on the service. There was a checkbox, that does not look like a checkbox but a shield with "ON" next to it, that customers had to click off to deny the start of their free 30 day trial for G2A Shield. All well and good, they can just cancel the free trial right? Well, it's a little more complicated as G2A does not allow cancellation of G2A Shield until two days before the free trial ends. It seems pretty obvious they were hoping people would not notice the service so they'd later be charged.
Requiring people to wait 28 days until they can cancel makes absolutely no sense either, unless G2A is hoping that people forget about it, leaving it to charge their card. When someone cancels it shouldn't matter. If they try G2A Shield for free and don't like it, let them cancel it. If G2A is worried people will take advantage of the benefits for free and not pay, then require they pay for one month before the free 30 days kicks in. That is a pretty common, acceptable approach, which G2A does employ. But G2A forces people to then have to remember until they have only two days left on their trial to cancel it. And all of this is before the absurdity of the process it takes to cancel G2A Shield.
Is there any other way to interpret its purpose than G2A just hopes they get some extra money out of the deal from those that forget to cancel? There are other ways to interpret that, but are there any valid ones? I don't think so.
This is not the only place where the G2A Shield checkbox was a little off. When you purchase a game on G2A Shield, you're met with this on the checkout page:
There's the price of the game, and the G2A Shield box is already checked, meaning you're going to slap on another $3.18 to the purchase. To be fair, there's a good chance you're going to notice that extra money added to your total. However, I think we can all agree it shouldn't come checked. Even G2A agrees with that, at least in the Indiegala instance. G2A's response to that situation said that the IT error mistakenly had the checkbox already checked. Is the same IT error to blame for G2A Shield being checked on their own service?
Adding salt to the wound, the version of G2A Shield the checkbox signs you up for is the worst. That $3.18 fee is only good for this one purchase and lacks other benefits that are included in the monthly subscription. If you were to buy a subscription to G2A Shield, it is only $1.06 a month. In other words, you pay three month's worth for a single purchase, with fewer benefits.
The last thing I wanted to mention is something I noticed when looking for hidden fees for the next section of this article. When you end up getting your key for a game, you're met with this page:
Whether you have G2A Shield or not, the message on the right is always displayed. As another reminder, it was G2A who said all of the information out there about their service is confusing and Gearbox only added to it with its inaccurate information. It is interesting, then that the message included here seems to be confused with G2A's claim that G2A Shield is not about fraud protection. That all of their users have that protection.
The message says that G2A Shield gives you a 100% guarantee of either a working key or a refund. Again, the implications seems to be that you are not 100% guaranteed to get a working key or refund if you do not have G2A Shield. Nearly every piece of marketing I've come across for G2A Shield seems to be pointing towards one thing: G2A Shield is indeed a paid service for fraud protection.
It becomes really easy, then, to understand why so many may have what G2A would label an inaccurate misconception. When everything points to G2A Shield being one thing and G2A says no it is not that thing, it's really hard to take anything they say as truthful. The age old saying that actions speak louder than words applies here. G2A's words say one thing, but their actions in the form of their marketing paints the exact picture everyone accuses them of.
G2A said in the introduction of this response that "this last week brought forth a lot of confusion, and caused a lot of inaccurate information to appear on the internet about G2A.COM." As far as I can tell, the only confusing information came from G2A itself and existed long before their most recent controversy.
G2A and Hidden Fees
This is all, in this response, G2A has to say on hidden fees and transparency:
G2A.COM has over 13 million clients precisely because it offers attractive terms for both buyers and sellers. We would not have been able to build such a successful marketplace by introducing hidden fees. All fees and rates are clearly and explicitly described in corresponding tables. In addition to the price, VAT is added based on the buyer’s country, and if applicable, a fee depending on the buyer’s chosen payment method. Both of these fees are independent of G2A.COM, and we clearly inform the buyer about them before any purchase is made. No one on our marketplace is unwittingly charged extra fees.
This, of course, does not mean that we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and call it day. We are constantly working on bettering the marketplace and regularly make improvements. In fact, some improvements are currently in the final stages of testing and will soon go live.
Now, I can't say that there are 100% truly hidden fees on G2A, because if you go looking for them, you will indeed find them. However, they do their damndest to hide them from you without being 100% hidden.
Here's what the checkout page looks like when purchasing a game. So far you can see the $4.12 Total.
You're then taken to this page once you move on. So far, pretty easy. The now Grand Total remains $4.12. However, it is on this page where things take a turn. Let's take a look at the well-advertised G2A Pay button.
That takes you to this page. Very clearly you can see that if you use G2A Wallet—a more convoluted Steam Wallet where people pay for coins that are then used to buy games—you pay no fee. The implication here is that the other payment options do have fees attached to them because they very clearly do not have the green "NO FEE" icon on them. But, I did not want to use G2A Pay so I went back a page to the one before. I put in my credit card information, paid, and was met with the following.
Oh, there was a payment fee. I don't remember seeing that anywhere. It was not on the checkout page, nor was it on the payment options page.
I went back and tried it with a different game. Here I can now obviously see the fee there before I go through with the payment. However, because I was unfamiliar with how G2A worked, as I have never purchased anything from there before, I had no idea a fee was involved. And nowhere along the way did G2A let me know there would be, except when I went into G2A Pay. Unfortunately, I thought those fees were just with G2A Pay. My own mistake, for sure.
Looking at that image, the total is at the very top right of the page. Now look at the Credit Card / Debit Card box at the bottom of the image. That is the beginning of the box, which opens up quite a lot where you put in your name, address, credit card info, etc. All confirmations for purchase are done down there, away from the Grand Total. You do not see the final price in that box. There is no warning of a fee associated with your purchase.
So, for me to have seen the fee on the first go around, I would have had to have known to look at the Grand Total, scroll down and put in my credit card information, get to the part where I confirm purchase, scroll back up to see the new Grand Total with a little Payment fee added on, then scroll back down and hit confirm on my purchase.
Hidden? Not by a strict definition. It is not hidden. However, G2A does nothing to help make you aware that a fee is coming your way. Obviously, I fell victim to what they hoped with my very first purchase. And I bet many people experience that for the first time and say screw that, time to go buy some coins to put in my G2A Wallet to avoid these fees in the future.
Note: While I did end up purchasing a key from G2A for SUPERHOT, and did use it on Steam to verify it was in fact real, I went ahead and purchased the game directly from the developers themselves as well at full price.
G2A: Those Against Us Are Against a Free Market
G2A then moves on to the topic they spend the most time on, attempting to refute the idea that they are a harbor for people to sell illegally obtained keys:
It is of the utmost importance to us that only legally acquired keys appear on G2A.COM. Our marketplace only loses due to fraud, as G2A.COM refunds buyer’s out of our own pocket for keys that stop working, even though we have no legal obligation to do so. We even issue refunds for keys that stop working a year and a half later, regardless if the buyer had a G2A Shield subscription or not. Let us be clear here: we care about the satisfaction of every single customer.
Some developers, and a few influential YouTubers (with John Bain at the forefront) would like to spread an image of G2A.COM as a place which exists from being an intermediary in selling illegally acquired keys. This depiction is far removed from reality. The reality is that the keys on G2A.COM come from legitimate sources. Our marketplace is a leader in security and boasts one of the lowest fraud rates in the industry. G2A.COM employs over 100 people whose job is to ensure the legality of keys, transaction security, and compliance with the most stringent anti-fraud regulations.
If there was not so much evidence to the contrary, this statement wouldn't be so absurd. Looking back at the article I wrote on G2A last year, let's revisit the list of issues developers have had with G2A (and this list is by no means exhaustive):
- tinyBuild had thousands of chargebacks at once, which led to the closing of their storefront.
- "Ubisoft had an issue with Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed Unity keys on G2A, which they then deactivated the keys for, causing a flood of players to ask what happened."
- Devolver Digital came out and said that keys on G2A were not legitimate.
- "The Elder Scrolls Online deactivated a bunch of keys because they found them to be fraudulently obtained."
- "Natural Selection 2 deactivated over a thousand keys, while losing around $30,000 due to chargebacks."
- "7 Entertainment, owner of sites like Kinguin (a G2A competitor), purchased thousands of Humble Bundles and then resold them on their site later for a low price. 7 Entertainment has since changed their policy to specifically prohibit Humble Bundle codes to be sold on Kinguin. That article goes into several developers running into problems with G2A and other sites as well.
- "IndieGameStand, an online indie game retailer, has lost thousands of dollars to G2A and sites like it, in exactly the same way as tinyBuild with chargebacks."
- "Due to the widespread issue of fraud, Trion Worlds has invested a lot of time, money, and effort into developing a fraud protection system for themselves to prevent loss."
- "The Worlds of Magic developer, Wastelands Interactive, ran into an issue where people posed as YouTubers in emails to request keys for preview. They found that roughly 70% of the keys they sent went to the so-called YouTubers and resold later on services like G2A."
- "Riot Games, developer of League of Legends, had a run in with G2A where they found G2A selling LoL accounts and boosting services, something that is very much against LoL terms of service. Riot says they spent weeks trying to figure something out with G2A but could not find a resolution, which ended in Riot banning G2A from sponsoring any LoL pro team."
Nowhere in that list is a developer, publisher, or other company having a problem with keys being resold. Nothing there calls for the end of sites like G2A because they offer people the chance to sell spare keys they have lying around. Nearly all of the developers and companies get to the same core issue: they lost thousands and thousands of dollars on chargebacks. And the only reason those chargebacks exist at all is because of those scammers. And why do they keep on stealing credit card information to then resell keys?
Well, revisiting that Kotaku article, it's because it is easy. The scammer they spoke to specifically mentioned that G2A was one of the best sites to sell stolen keys on because of how easy it was. The scammers don't care about chargebacks, that's not where the scammer makes their money. All they are looking for is a place to quickly unload a lot of stolen keys at once. Again, as said before, the keys are legitimate keys in that they will work, they are just obtained illegally. So there's nothing to alert anyone right away until the chargebacks come rolling in. By that time, the scammers utilizing G2A are long gone on their next escapade.
It's super easy create an account and start selling keys on G2A as well, which only invites more people in to use the service to sell illegally obtained keys. After the tinyBuild incident in June of last year, G2A rolled out some new security that wasn't there before. Now sellers must verify a social media account and telephone number. They are also limited to only ten auctions at once; any more than that requires further verification. After trying to sell more than ten at once (I did not put anything up for sale, only went far enough to see the verification), sellers must go submit a ticket to G2A for further verification, as seen below.
To their credit, that is indeed the case. Limiting people to only ten auctions at any one time before they have to get further verification does make it a bit more inconvenient for scammers to sell a lot of keys at once. But making a fake social media account and setting up dummy phone numbers is incredibly easy to do, so it wouldn't be too hard to make a bunch of profiles at once time and then just put ten auctions up at once on each simultaneously.
The press release announcing this new security last year shows G2A claiming even more stringent verification would be coming, like forcing sellers to have a valid credit card or something along those lines on their account. As of now, I can see nowhere where that is the case currently.
I went ahead and submitted a ticket to see what it would take to sell more than ten auctions at any one time on G2A and received this response:
Here is a description of how proofs should look like depending on your auction's type:
Scans or screenshots of keys which you have listed in your auctions. Name of products and game codes should be visible. What is more, add receipts for your codes as an attachment.
Please make a full screenshot in a way so your Steam account's name, button 'Send Gift' and the description of your gift are visible. Here you can see how it should look like, but it should not be blurred: https://scr.hu/pv14WO On top of that, please add a screenshot from your Steam purchase history where payment for the gift is visible
That actually seems pretty solid to me and fairly hard to fake, so good on G2A for that. They have made it more difficult for one single account to sell a large batch of keys at one time. Regardless, as said above, getting around this may definitely be more of a hassle, but it's still very possible to sell keys in large batches using multiple accounts to do so.
The verification at this level needs to start at the very beginning—from the moment someone wants to sell a key on G2A. Right now just requiring people to tie a social media account and phone number to an account is not really any verification at all. Right now it's just another step scammers need to take to sell something illegally obtained but is not any real barrier whatsoever. Before last year scammers simply strolled down the street, then the new security came in and they had the inconvenience of having to step up the curb; any real security would require scammers to at least have to scale a chain linked fence lined with barbed wire on top.
After attempting to tackle the idea that they are not a haven for illegally obtained keys, G2A goes on to attack everyone who says bad things about them:
For some developers, however, the sole problem is that their games are sold on G2A.COM – which is why they accuse us using baseless and unproven allegations.
Before we explain this more thoroughly, we want to establish two basic facts:
1.We fundamentally value and respect the right to a free market operating within the law.
2.The law does not prohibit the sale of digital goods by those who have acquired them legally.
If someone does not agree with the above points, then we will unfortunately never reach an understanding. If you do agree, then we ask that you please read further.
Let us imagine a situation in which a developer sells a large number of keys to a service which offers bundles. The developer’s game, along with four other titles, end up in a bundle which costs two euros. A user buys the bundle, and instead of assigning all five games to the user’s account, the user re-sells them on G2A.COM – setting a price of one euro per game. The developer does not lose anything on this sale, as they have already sold the key once and received money for it. The user, on the other hand, gains three euros (simple math: the user spent two euros, and made five).
The problem is that some developers do not want to accept that people resell their games. The developers would like to control the market and all the sales channels within it, imposing higher prices and prohibiting the resale of unused games. G2A.COM does not agree with this – we respect the buyers’ rights, buyers who often unfortunately believe that the rules set forth by developers follow the law.
If you believe that G2A is 100% legitimate, ethical, and utilizes good business practices that are pro consumer, then yes this is really the only conclusion you can come to if developers/publishers were truly against the free market, as G2A says. If G2A had a lot of things in place for fraud protection for the consumer, the seller, and the developer/publisher, I couldn't help but to agree with them. But, I definitely do not think G2A has any of those things in an acceptable state. That's the brilliance of their attacks against developers who have spoken out about G2A, though. Pretty much everyone can agree a free market is best and people should have a right to sell things they own. If G2A can succeed in painting a picture of game companies who are against that, meaning G2A themselves are the victims here, they'll win. Let's hope that doesn't happen.
My biggest problem with this is that I have not seen a single developer anywhere mention that one of the sole reasons they do not like G2A is because they offer a marketplace to resell digital products. Not a single time. There are definitely developers/publishers out there trying to prevent people from reselling digital items, like cd keys, but they're not at the forefront of G2A's detractors. Look at list of companies/developers who have had dealings with G2A again. Do any of them go into the problem of people reselling their own keys? No. All of them are about fraud protection.
Next, G2A says it cannot give every developer access to some sort of system to look through active cd keys, one of Gearbox's demands, because they cannot be trusted:
This is why G2A.COM will not give developers with whom we have not signed an agreement unlimited access to and the ability to modify our databases. G2A.COM has to protect every honest seller, and by giving such access to all developers, we would allow for a situation in which a developer could delete every key on our marketplace regardless of its origin. Such an action would be damaging to the industry, to gamers, and illegal.
So G2A would set this up in such a way that all developers could do whatever they want? There would be no safeguards for this exact scenario, even if some were deleted by mistake? This is such hyperbolic nonsense that I can't really give it any credibility. This makes entirely no sense whatsoever, and even me in my quick reactions can think of a system that would work just fine (like allowing developers to just run codes against G2A's database with those that match getting flagged). Besides, there's already the prefect system in place that does exactly what developers are looking for in G2A Direct.
And it's hard to ignore G2A protecting their "honest seller" while at the same time painting a nefarious picture of developers who disagree with them.
The solution to this from G2A's point of view is already in place, G2A Direct:
What is the solution to this situation? G2A.COM currently cooperates with all interested developers to ensure only legally acquired keys are sold – without any contracts and, more importantly, without any fees. All a developer must to do is provide evidence that the keys that they want to block have been illegally acquired (this evidence can be, for example, a report from a financial institution). Our cooperation is not limited to just the immediate deletion or blocking of keys – we will without hesitation, and, of course without charge, provide all information about fraudulent sellers to appropriate law enforcement agencies.
This situation is different only for those developers who are in the Direct program – since we have signed contracts with these developers, we have complete confidence that they will not do anything which would contradict the two above-mentioned facts [about the free market]. Therefore, they are the only ones who are able to check our database independently and without limitation.
Our Direct program (which, as an aside, already counts over 100 developers) is the answer to all of the complaints developers have about not just our marketplace, but marketplaces in general. We say this not only based on the arguments laid out above, but also on the fact that G2A.COM is the only marketplace in the world which allows developers to charge a commission on the sale of their games by third-parties. An analogy of this in the “physical” market would be if Samsung received money every time an individual on eBay resold a Samsung TV which had been previously bought in a different store. Additionally, participation in G2A Direct is at no cost to the developer. This program has been crafted in such a way that there is no reason why any developer could in any way suffer losses by participating in it.
So that thing G2A won't do before? Well, developers that have entered a contract with G2A get access to G2A's database. So what was the point earlier about why developers can't be given access? It probably has to do with certain protections created in whatever contract developers have to sign to become a G2A Direct partner. They "trust" these developers because why else would they become partners? Obviously, only pro free market developers would become partners with the likes of G2A.
If the alternative is to have G2A full of stolen keys from your game that will then lead to thousands in chargebacks, it doesn't seem like there's much of a choice at all for most is there? It's pretty simple, lose a lot of money or partner up with G2A where all of these protections are suddenly in place.
Feels wrong, doesn't it? It's a very mob-like mentality, and I'm not talking a big group of angry people. It's like someone comes around to your store and robs it. Then not so long after a couple of guys show up offering you some "protection" and the promise this will never happen again, with a fee of some kind of course.
G2A Direct just strong-arms developers into a relationship they don't really want to be in in the first place. The really great benefit they are offered is what should be available to everyone: tools to root out illegally obtained keys. Other than that, it's not much. Their listings for their games come up first. Well, when the developer price is $24 and the best price from another seller is $4, what are people going to choose?
They also can put a royalty of up to 10% on every key sold of their game on the platform, which is admittedly pretty neat. But shouldn't that be the real selling factor for developers partnering up to be in G2A Direct? Why is the most attractive part of the service that which should be the most basic feature offered to all?
Again, G2A has failed to provide the fundamental, the most foundational, aspect of a service they offer, instead trying to spin snake oil as liquid gold. G2A Direct is just G2A Shield for developers. They have a lot of the same problems, as well as the same purpose, all the while G2A tries to market them as these great premium services that only idiots would pass up.
At the bottom of the article I wrote last year on G2A, I talk about the G2A Direct program some more, which was newly announced back then. There are also some initial developer reactions to its announcement.
Also, last month Polygon spoke to several G2A Direct developers on why they joined the service and what they thought of both it and G2A itself.
G2A is now done responding to Gearbox and ends their response with this:
G2A.COM’s goal is to provide the best possible conditions for both buyers and sellers, while providing the best prices for legal games. We do everything in our power to uphold the best possible relationships with developers and ensure the highest standards in the fight against dishonest sellers.
At the same time, we respect our critics and believe that they have the good of the industry at heart. Unfortunately, sometimes they do not understand how G2A.COM works and as such this misunderstanding causes them to mislead the public about our company. The best proof of this are the four ultimatums formulated in part by John Bain, which, it turns out that were completely unnecessary as all of the issues raised have long been a part of the G2A.COM marketplace. Most of the allegations levied against us are based on both a lack of knowledge, and a lack of desire to learn the other side of the story. The best example of this is quoting false and defamatory statements while ignoring the facts. This is why we constantly emphasize that we are open to meetings and discussions with anyone who has doubts about how our marketplace works.
Maciej Kuc [Head of Public Relations] & the G2A.COM Team
I don't think the problem is that G2A's critics don't understand how it works, the problem for G2A is that they understand too well how it works. All the right buttons continue to be pushed, and it's clear G2A's critics are on to something when G2A sends out responses like this. The responses are wishy-washy at best, throwing up smoke all around the tender area recently poked to try to make people look elsewhere.
While I'd normally have a problem with the lack of dialogue between two groups, which G2A calls for at the very end, here it's hard to blame G2A's critics. What would be the point when G2A consistently puts out responses and press releases that read like this one? Where they offer half-truths as refutations against their problems all the while insinuating nefarious intent behind those that would criticize them. What sort of open or real dialogue could be had from that?
Right now G2A just emulates old time gangsters brought into the modern age of the Internet, forcing their will on consumers and developers alike in an effort to line their own pockets. They will offer "solutions" every once in a while for good press, but don't buy it. Everything is a band-aid, or a "step in the right direction," but none of it really fixes anything. More than that, every step in the right direction is three steps towards another avenue for G2A to make money, like G2A Shield. Simple bandages won't fix G2A's problems, it will take some major surgery. We can't leave it totally up to G2A either, as if they were in charge of the treatment, they'd keep handing out the thinnest bandages to keep people believing they were on the right track, applying a new one only after the first is bled well through. Then they'd return with a new one but also have the premium offer as well; the one that may actually work and only stupid people would pass up.
Don't buy what G2A is trying to sell in this advertisement for their services disguised as a response to Gearbox and don't buy anything from their service at all. It hurts you, it hurts developers, and it hurts other legitimate third party sellers out there.
And remember that G2A is not the only place out there like this, it is just the biggest. If a retailer looks too good to be true, it is.
What do you think of G2A's response? What needs to be changed? Will you use G2A in the future?