itch.io, the popular website allowing people to sell or just make their games available for download, has a bit of a problem. Scammers will try to do whatever they can to get money from people, and one adventurous scammer noticed a way to do so on itch.io. As reported by a user on reddit, a scammer uploaded a pirated version of a game on itch.io for sale, which some customers then purchased.
Because itch.io is an open platform, where anyone can put a game on the site with relative ease, problems similar to this one crop up every so often. It's not hard to see why when you can go create a brand new account and put a game up for sale right now. itch.io relies on its own internal review and the community to notify them of questionable pages so they can be removed. Usually, as itch.io owner Leaf Corcoran told us in an email, the content is removed fairly quickly.
What happened here was a bit different, however. The scammer took a pirated version of an already released game, RimWorld, and put it up for sale on itch.io. The scammer put the game up for 75% off, which was caught by a bot for a website, IsThereAnyDeal, that notifies people of deals for games. That site sent out notifications to its users within minutes of the listing leading some to purchase the game. What made this one difficult for itch.io is that the scammer used their "direct payment" option, which allows sellers to be paid directly in their PayPal account. That bypassed itch.io's ability to intervene before a sale goes through. This means customers would need to go to PayPal for a refund, but itch.io is going to refund affected customers in this case regardless, while encouraging them to dispute the charge with PayPal so the scammer doesn't make any money. Leaf says that itch.io will be heavily restricting this direct payment option for the "foreseeable future," and the previously linked post says that payment option is closed right now.
It seems this is not an isolated incident either. Just a week ago, a reddit user noted the exact same thing happened with Stardew Valley. In that same thread, a user noted several other games being posted the same day as Stardew Valley as well. If you read a few comments down from that one, you can see another user mentioning a game on sale in the same fashion, which they were notified by through IsThereAnyDeal.
Obviously, itch.io is aware of the issue and as Leaf says in a reddit comment here, they are taking in all of the feedback to see where they should go in the future. itch.io isn't the only one looking to fix a problem, as IsThereAnyDeal says they will be looking into ways to reduce scams being sent to their users as well. One possible solution for them is to create an approved sellers only feed.
Whatever the solutions itch.io and IsThereAnyDeal come up with, the decision will be a difficult one to balance as itch.io is proud of and wants to maintain its open platform.
What do you think of itch.io's problem? What do they need to do to fix it? Have you noticed any pirated versions of games making their way on the platform? Let us know in the comments below!