After years of controversy, the gray-market game key marketplace, G2A, has admitted what it has long been accused of disgruntled game developers: at least in one case, profiting from the sale of illegal download keys.
in the a blog post yesterdayG2A confirmed that 198 copies of Factorio Sold on G2A in early 2016 were in fact illegally preserved. G2A says it will pay off Factorio Developer Wube 10 times the “bank-initiated reimbursement costs” he incurred for these fraudulent purchases, or about $ 40,000.
However, the discovery and confirmation of the fraudulent keys in this one special case takes place after years of controversy and disputes about the role of the market.
A long history of suspected fraud
With G2A, users can resell game keys from external sources such as bundles or third-party online shops at a price they choose. However, developers have long said that many of the keys to these games come from purchases made on other platforms with stolen credit cards.
These users are said to use G2A to sell these keys for cash (usually well below the usual price) and to effectively wash their purchases before the illegal fees are discovered. While G2A picks up some of these illegitimate sales, the original developer has to pay the credit card chargeback associated with it.
The topic of reselling stolen keys gained importance in the industry in 2016 as the indie game developer TinyBuild said it had lost $ 450,000 in sales Fraud supported by G2A. “Websites like G2A are enabling a fraudulent economy where key resellers are hit by tons of stolen credit card transactions and these websites are now growing rapidly due to low game key prices,” wrote Alex Nichiporchik, CEO of TinyBuild.
G2A reacted stronglyand asked Tiny Build to “provide the list of keys that they considered stolen without verification.” But TinyBuild said it would take “a lot of time to manage this” to separate all illegal keys from legitimate keys purchased through bundles and freebies. And Nichiporchik said he didn’t trust G2A enough to work with them on the case anyway.
“Everyone knows their reputation,” he said said Polygon in 2016. “Why would anyone even consider giving them a list of keys to review? I think they would just resell those keys and make more money from them.” This reputation was a key reason for Gearbox ended his partnership with G2A in 2017.
If you can’t or don’t want to buy our games at full price, please pirate them instead of buying them from a key dealer. These websites cost us so much potential customer service development time, investigating fake key queries, finding credit card chargebacks, and more. https://t.co/25NWxrj8f8
– Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) June 30, 2019
Vlambeer founder Rami Ismail summarized the general industry consensus around G2A a 2019 tweet: “If you can’t or don’t want to buy our games at full price, please pirate them instead of buying them from a key retailer,” he wrote. “These sites cost us so much potential customer service development time, investigating fake key queries, finding credit card chargebacks, and more.”
Wube “satisfied with the results”
In the years since the TinyBuild allegation, G2A has offered developers several possible solutions to solve suspected fraud problems. These include G2A Direct – a program that provides developers with additional monitoring features and a 10% reduction on every sale – and G2A Pay – a retail processor-controlled payment processor that provides “chargeback protection”. But these solutions were not very well received by developers still don’t trust the site and are cautious to work more closely with it (and to give it credibility) just to be protected from fraud.
So we come to last year as G2A made a limited time offer It said “(put all cards on the table”). We pay developers 10 times the money they lost through chargebacks after their illegally obtained keys were sold on G2A. The idea is simple: developers only have to prove something like this happened in their stores. ”
Factorio Developer Wube was the only company to accept this offer from G2A, the retailer said. And although G2A originally offered to pay the full cost of a “reputable and independent accounting firm” to conduct this investigation, it ultimately decided to conduct the investigation itself after none of the auditors it addressed “would meet our agreed requirements” .
“Principal auditors are unwilling to publicly communicate the results of their private audits for political reasons,” said G2A in a statement to Kotaku. “It was imperative for both G2A and Wube to publish the results of this investigation. In order to achieve the fastest possible solution, we offered to conduct the investigation ourselves.”
Wube in turn said GamesIndustry.biz that it was happy with the process. “They have produced a fairly detailed report on the keys, who sold them, what dates, and when they were sold,” Scott Klonan, PR, community, and support manager at Wube, told the website. “I thought you probably wouldn’t fake it, especially since it is still more than half of the keys we sent. We are happy with the results.”
Still, Klonan said that it was only because of the temporary ten-fold multiplier G2A that was offered for such confirmed fraud last year that it was worth going through such an awkward verification process. “The time and administrative procedures to get this refund are unlikely to be worth the financial compensation unless it is 10x,” he said.
Wube was also involved in his own role in fraudulent sales to GI.biz. Direct sales through his website in 2016 were less secure than on other platforms. Since Wube started using the Humble Store direct sales widget and began restricting its once-important freebies, Klonan said fraudulent sales on G2A have been “completely stopped.”
“In the end, contacting G2A treats a symptom of people stealing keys,” he says. “The best way to combat this is to cut it at the source.”