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Developers and G2A clash over the impact of grey market keys on indies

Developers and G2A clash over the impact of grey market keys on indies

July 5, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

What started out as a tweet from No More Robots founder (and former Gamasutra editor) Mike Rose has since spiraled into a petition for the key reseller G2A to remove indie games from its platform, and a lengthy back-and-forth between the company and game makers about its effect on indies altogether.

This latest discussion follows in the footsteps of several before it about G2A and the ease of which key resellers are able to flip illegitimately obtained game keys for a profit, despite G2A’s previous efforts to clean up its image.

At the kickoff of this chapter, Rose tweeted about sponsored ads for the No More Robots-published game Descenders displaying a resold key on G2A ahead of any store listings where the game’s publisher and developer Rage Squid would see a portion of that purchase. He offered the suggestion that people should pirate a game rather than make purchase it from G2A, something several developers have said about their own games in years past.

“Devs don’t see a penny either way, so we’d much rather G2A didn’t see money either,” tweeted Rose.

The replies to that original set of tweets are in the hundreds by this point, and include both developers echoing Rose’s concerns and G2A users speaking in support of the storefront and its typically lower prices. After some initial back-and-forth on Twitter, G2A published its own lengthy blog post to address both Rose’s concerns directly, and the common belief that the storefront benefits from illegitimately obtained keys, often at the detriment of game developers’ bottom line.

In short, G2A asserts that it works with developers to remove keys that devs believe shouldn’t be on its marketplace, and says that it offers a program called G2A Direct that allows devs to get a cut of third-party sales made on its platform. Beyond that, it says that only 8 percent of the games sold on G2A are indie titles to begin with.

A portion of the post covers the common belief that G2A facilitates the resale of keys obtained through credit card fraud. That method sees individual key resellers using stolen credit card information to purchase games, reselling the keys, and then leaving developers on the hook for refunds once the fraud is discovered and a chargeback is ordered.

As an example of that, a 2016 interview with an allegedly prolific game fraudster called out G2A as one of the “great sites to sell fraudulent keys,” though G2A notes in its more recent blog post that it has reported individuals to the authorities for describing how keys were fraudulently purchased and resold on the platform in the past.

According to data from G2A’s support department, only 1 percent of all transactions made on its storefront are “problematic in any way,” and only 2 percent of those (.02 percent overall) are potentially chargeback situations.

G2A's post also offers "developer[s] willing to cooperate" with an audit 10 times the money they've lost on chargebacks due to games sold on G2A.

As a rebuttal to that post, Rose tweeted a small thread about the post’s specific claims and kicked off the aforementioned position since, in G2A’s own words, only 8 percent of its sales are reliant on indie games to begin with.

“They say I have a 'pretty good at handling the keys they don’t want available on the free market'. Yes I do! And that's because G2A exists. I've had to stop giving out keys so freely to potential press [and] influencers because G2A doesn't care about policing their site,” tweeted Rose. “Because of this 'pretty good handling', it means that we're far less inclined to get involved with things like, for example, a Humble Bundle, as we know all the keys will appear on G2A afterwards, and tank our Steam sales from that point onwards. *This* is the issue with G2A."

That full G2A blog post can be read here, while more from Rose's thread addressing it can be in full here, in addition to the snippet just below.

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