KEEPING OUR PROMISE – UPDATE – 05/20/2020
Prague-based Wube Software became the only developer to take G2A up on this limited-time offer to the gaming developer community in July 2019, after discovering that illegitimate keys to its construction and management simulation game Factorio had been sold online.
Wube reported to G2A a list of 321 keys that it believed had been sold online illegitimately. After assessing a number of independent auditing companies and finding none that would meet our agreed requirements, Wube and G2A decided that G2A should proceed with an internal investigation. This investigation confirmed that 198 of Wube’s keys had been sold via its Marketplace between March 2016 – June 2016. It is assumed by both parties that the remaining 123 illegitimate keys were sold via other online marketplaces or other online stores.
Per the terms of the pledge made in the blog post here, G2A has agreed to compensate Wube ten times the value of any bank-initiated refund costs that Factorio paid in relation to each of the 198 illegitimate keys sold via its Marketplace.
When we launched this offer, we wanted to send a clear message to the gaming community that fraud hurts all parties. As we spell out in this blog, fraud directly hurts individuals who buy illegitimate keys, it hurts gaming developers and it ultimately hurts G2A because we are forced – as the transaction facilitator – to cover costs related to the sale. We wanted to amplify that message and capture people’s attention, so pledged to compensate developers ten times the value of any chargeback fees they incurred, despite the fact that we had nothing to with the illegal acquisition of these keys.
The gaming developer community has our solidarity and sympathies on this issue, and we want to continue building bridges. With our main point being made, about the seriousness of fraud in the industry, from now on we will compensate developers the full value of any chargeback fees they incurred for any keys sold via G2A Marketplace, if they are able to prove they were illegitimate.
[ORIGINAL POST – 07/05/2019]
Let’s lay all cards on the table. We will pay developers 10 times the money they lost on chargebacks after their illegally obtained keys were sold on G2A. The idea is simple: developers just need to prove such a thing actually happened on their stores.
To assure honesty and transparency, we will ask a reputable and independent auditing company to make an unbiased examination of both sides – the developer’s store and G2A Marketplace. The cost of the first three audits is on us, every next one will be split 50/50.
The auditing company will check if any game keys sold on G2A were obtained using stolen credit cards on a developer’s store compliant with card scheme rules from Visa and Master Card/payment provider rules. If so, G2A guarantees it’ll pay all the money the developer lost on chargebacks… multiplied by 10.
We want this process to be transparent, so we will publicly report every step of the procedure. Meaning, you will get information such as who came forward, and what the verdict was, all of which will be published for everyone to see.
If you’re a developer willing to cooperate, contact the G2A Direct team
And now onto some other Twitter-related issues that have popped up in the last few days.
For the sake of your time, here’s a TL;DR version:
- G2A is a marketplace that’s all about making the prices for gamers as low as possible.
- G2A’s business model is the same as any other big, global marketplaces’ like Amazon or eBay, with all its ups and downs. And just like them, we always try to maximize the ups and minimize the downs. Not only because of the law, but also because the customers require certain standards, and because the competition would beat us if we stayed behind.
- Out of all marketplaces, G2A offers the best benefits for copyright owners – G2A Direct. Nobody else gives developers a percentage cut of all sales on their games sold by someone else.
- G2A, like most online businesses, uses automated marketing, so every product available on the marketplace can be shown based on what the user is interested in.
- If any developer suspects there are keys on the marketplace that shouldn’t be there, there’s a quick and easy way to report it. All it takes is to contact us. If any key was illegally obtained, we’ll remove it, block the seller and provide their personal data to the proper authorities.
- We are and always were open for discussion, but a real one, not empty accusations and catchy slogans.
The Wall of Text Edition™:
Got your coffee? Good, ‘cause this is gonna take a while. Thanks in advance for your time. We could say we’ll try to be brief, but you’ve probably already seen the length of this page, so, well… Let’s get right into it.
G2A is all about competitive prices.
G2A used to sell games on its own in the past, back before 2014, when it was a regular online store. Since then, it has become a platform for buyers and sellers, just like any other big marketplace, but focused on gaming.
G2A is not the only marketplace where people can sell game keys, but we’re proud to say that we’re the biggest one. However, in the scenario where G2A doesn’t exist, selling game keys wouldn’t disappear.
We believe that games can be cheaper. It’s the rule of thumb: the more sellers sell a particular product, the more competitive the prices become. People come to G2A because they know they can expect deals better than anywhere else.
Let’s talk numbers.
Around a million games are sold each month on G2A Marketplace. Statistically, only 8% of them are indie titles. More on that later, but let’s focus on Mike Rose’s claims and discuss his latest release, Descenders. The game – a pretty good one, by the way – was developed by RageSquid and published by Mike’s company, No More Robots. They didn’t announce how many units they have sold, but based on the number of Steam reviews (over 1,000) and the statistics saying that one out of 80 people review a game on average, we can assume Descenders is owned by at least 50,000 people. As an alternative, we might use SteamSpy estimation of 32,000 owners.
Mike Rose didn’t ask us about the sales of this game recently (Edit: however indeed, he contacted us over a year ago about his games in general). We checked out of curiosity – how many Descenders keys, since its release in May, came to G2A Marketplace. The number is… 5. Not 5 thousand. Not 5 hundred. Just 5.
Before its official release, 226 keys were available on our marketplace. An increased number of keys in that timeframe may have been related (but didn’t have to be) to several different giveaways. Anyway, even taking all 231 keys into account, they only make up 0,72% (SteamSpy estimation) or 0.46% of owned copies (based on Jake Birkett’s formula), or even less, if more copies were distributed. So, what does that mean? Two things, actually:
- No More Robots is pretty good at handling the keys they don’t want available on the free market.
- G2A has no significant impact on No More Robots’ business.
So, why is Mike Rose publicly encouraging people to pirate his own game? Before we move on to that, let’s answer a very simple question:
Where do the sellers get their keys?
The overwhelming majority of keys on G2A Marketplace are sold by wholesalers, i.e. businesses who get their stock in large quantities, directly from devs/publishers with some good discounts, which is a yet another reason behind such low prices on our marketplace. Here’s a quick explanatory video:
As you can see from the example above, it seems like No More Robots hasn’t sold any Descenders keys to any wholesalers, which is why these games weren’t sold in large numbers on G2A, and that’s fine! Our platform is just another revenue stream for some devs, but if others don’t want to use it in any way, that’s fine too. It’s completely up to them. Lots of publishers know marketplaces are a crucial part of the market, though. Some of them are selling through G2A Direct, but we know of many cases where publishers decide to sell keys as regular sellers (probably to avoid outrage from the game dev community) and it obviously works in their favor, considering G2A has over 20 million users actively browsing for deals. It’s just more profitable for many publishers to sell bigger quantities of games for a lower price.
So, is G2A’s business model different from its competition?
Basically, G2A works just like any other big marketplace. In the last few days we encountered numerous tweets, videos and articles saying more or less that “G2A is terrible, they don’t care where the keys sold on their platform come from!” That’s not a very informed opinion. The role of our platform is to make sure that buyers and sellers have a safe and convenient way of exchanging goods for money. If you go and sell a bike on eBay, they don’t check if you actually have that bike in your home. They can’t check if the bike is working, if the color is right, etc. What the platform checks is who you are, meaning it gathers your personal data and payment information, which, if need be, can be given to proper authorities. It also provides a system that allows people who buy a bike from you to rate the transaction. A good marketplace also guarantees a successful purchase and offers its buyers a refund if something goes wrong – for free, of course. And so does G2A with its Money-Back Guarantee. (We used to offer a special paid service called G2A Shield, but it was a mistake, so we got rid of it – more on that later.)
What G2A cannot do is inspect every single key and check whether it will work or not. Not because we don’t want to, but because it’s technically impossible (once “checked”, the key becomes activated). We would love Steam to implement such a feature, since it would contribute a lot to the greater good.
OK, but someone may ask:
If G2A is so good and fair, why are developers saying it’s better to pirate their games instead of buying them on G2A?
We want to believe in the developers’ clean motives. But we also know that if there was a real problem, the most obvious reaction to that would be trying to fix it. If you had a reason to believe your keys were illegally obtained and ended up on G2A – what would you do to solve the issue?
- Write to G2A and solve the problem together
- Go to Twitter and write “F**K G2A!”
Obviously: point A, right? Well, not exactly – the developers who posted tweets over this past week haven’t tried to solve the problem together with G2A. That’s why we can assume the reason they wrote those posts was to gain media attention. Unfortunately for G2A, they were incredibly successful: their tweets caused an avalanche of articles.
As a side note: some time ago, Microsoft had a problem when thousands of their keys were leaked. They were afraid some of them will end up on G2A, so what did Microsoft do? They contacted us, we quickly checked our database and blocked these keys (as we found out, even less than 20 out of thousands of leaked keys appeared on our marketplace). We also gladly cooperate with law enforcement, providing all the information they need if they believe there was any suspicious activity in our seller’s actions.
Now, someone may ask:
But I’ve heard lots of stories about stolen credit cards and keys bought with them! What about that?
The most commonly discussed way of abusing the marketplace is trying to sell game keys, which were earlier purchased with stolen credit cards. If such a thing happens, eventually the developer is left with a net loss and a chargeback penalty fee. As a result, the gamer also loses their copy of the game. In the eyes of many people, this is the main way of making money on G2A. If that was true, we would say “F**K G2A” ourselves.
So, let’s analyze it step-by-step:
- In order to do this, you first need a stolen credit card. But it’s not easy to get one, on the contrary, it’s quite impossible to do for an average Joe.
- Then, you need to find a place that sells game keys, which hardly any dev does anymore. Remember – you don’t buy keys on Steam or Origin. You pay for games that are instantly connected to your account, there’s no actual key involved in the transaction. You cannot disconnect the game and get a key (which would be awesome, by the way, as it would allow people to sell used games, just like on consoles).
- Bestselling games on G2A are exactly the same games that are popular everywhere, so basically AAA titles. These games sell in thousands. Try to find any store in the world that will allow you to buy tons of keys at once with a credit card. You won’t find any. Let’s try indie games then. As a thief, your goal is to cash out the money on stolen credit cards as soon as possible, before they get blocked. If you got, say, $5,000 to cash out, you’d have to buy 250 copies of said indie game for $20 each. Considering average indie sale statistics, it’d take you about 2-3 months to sell them on G2A. Doesn’t seem like ASAP at all!
So, does this mean the described situation is impossible? Unfortunately, no. There’s always a small risk that this may happen. The developer is not the only victim here. G2A also is, since it means our users would lose games, which we’d then have to refund. Secondly, G2A’s role is to do everything possible to prevent and punish such activities. That’s why we have an extensive rating system on our site, as well as strict AML/KYC procedures for our sellers, so that we know exactly who they are. If someone wants to do something illegal, they know they will have to face the consequences.
It’s good to put this all into perspective. Again, let’s go back to the numbers: statistically, only 1% of transactions are problematic in any way, all of which end up as a conversation with our support team or directly with the seller. In 60% of these cases (0.6% total) the problems concern payment issues (buyer’s card was declined, there wasn’t enough funds, etc.). In 30% (0.3% total) there’s a problem unrelated to the marketplace itself (someone doesn’t like the game they purchased or bought a key by mistake, etc.). In 8% (0.08% total) the key didn’t work – it was used or there was a typo in it, but these cases are usually solved promptly by sellers themselves, without G2A’s involvement. And, finally, in a mere 2% of cases (0.02% total) users come to us because the game they purchased through our platform disappeared from their Steam account, which may happen for many different reasons, one of which is chargeback.
All the above are just statistics that our support team has been collecting every month for years now. We understand that not everyone may want to believe us and that’s why we will pay all the developers who can prove they lost money on chargebacks. We’re offering ten times more than what they lost.
We’re not doing this because we’re the ones to blame, but because we want to finally stop the accusations we’ve been getting from some devs. The alleged frauds didn’t happen in our ecosystem, but on their own stores. Thieves could’ve sold these keys anywhere. But if they chose G2A, we’re ready to make up for it. That is, if they agree on an independent audit conducted by one of the most respected auditing companies in the world.
By the way: if you want to learn more about fraud prevention, and just how complex this issue is, check out a highly acclaimed keynote speech by G2A’s CEO, held at MPE 2019, one of the payment industry’s most important conferences
Alright, such credit card fraud might be nearly impossible, but there are so many more other ways to steal keys. What about fake influencers, for example?
One of the most important things for developers is marketing. They can’t survive if gamers don’t know about their games. What’s the best (and cheapest) way to spread the word? Of course: send promotional copies to influencers and news outlets, so that they can publicly review them. And this is where things can get sketchy: there’s a number of people who claim to be famous YouTubers just to get free review keys from devs. If the developer doesn’t check them thoroughly, the keys sometimes end up in scammers’ hands, and those scammers may want to cash such keys on G2A. There was even an AMA on Reddit made by someone who did such things (and we informed local police enforcement of these actions back when they took place. From what we know from them, they have already visited said person).
These situations are not common, but we fully understand the annoyance of developers and we are willing to help put an end to such practices, at least on our marketplace. That’s why all the developers who participate in G2A Direct have access to our database and can check on their own whether a review key ended up on G2A or not. If it was put on sale, all it takes is to inform their account manager to block the key – it’s as simple as that. And we promise to run a check for such keys not only for G2A Direct members, but for everyone.
However, there’s one important exception: giveaways. Many developers give out thousands of free keys on social media. And since these keys were acquired completely legally, they can be sold on G2A. This is how it works – if I get something in a competition or in a giveaway, this product is mine, and I can do anything I want with it. I can use it, I can gift it to a friend, I can sell it – anything goes. This is the very core principle of the free market.
Last, but not least:
G2A Direct offers the BEST BENEFITS IN THE WORLD for copyrights owners. Seriously.
G2A has been operating in the industry for years (we’re currently celebrating the 5th anniversary of the marketplace, next year the company will celebrate its 10th birthday) and we know how it works. We know how tough it can be for indie developers to get by on the market, and just how challenging game development is. With a large audience, we always try to promote great indie games on our social media platforms, like on our Facebook profile, or Instagram. We do that completely for free, no strings attached. But that’s only a tip of the iceberg.
In 2016, we’ve started our own program for developers – G2A Direct. Its main goal is to give developers as many benefits from the open market as possible without compromising our business model.
Over 200 developers who participate in G2A Direct make 89.2% out of each game sold. Their offer is always on the top on our listings. It’s all for free.
But the most interesting thing that nobody else in the world does: developers can also make profit on each third-party sale of their game on G2A. Imagine you buy an iPhone for $300 on eBay, and after a successful transaction, Apple gets $30. For nothing. Just because someone else sold a phone manufactured by them. No other marketplace does that.
Also, when a developer joins G2A Direct, they gain easy and automatic access to our database. That means they can check whether ANY key appeared on the marketplace and inform us if there’s something wrong. As said above: we don’t want any jerks pretending to be influencers to sell their keys on our marketplace, so we will block those kinds of attempts.
It all sounds too good. If it’s true, why are there so many negative emotions around G2A?
We never said we don’t deserve criticism. On the contrary, we have made huge mistakes in the past, and we have owned up to them and changed for the better. Just to mention the infamous G2A Shield, our biggest screw up. We got rid of it a few months ago and introduced the Money-Back Guarantee in its place, completely for free. But we know the backlash Shield has caused will stay with us for many months to come. We totally deserved it.
Is this the end? We don’t think so.
Although this is already a huge wall of text, we know we didn’t address everything, and we can expect comments such as “yeah, but they didn’t say anything about…they’re surely hiding something!” That’s why we’ll keep answering any questions by expanding this article.
PS: The first tweet was about an allegedly un-skippable automated G2A ad on Google. This was obviously an error on the client’s side, but we have already informed our friends at Google about it. There is no way that it was caused by G2A simply because that is impossible. Nobody can impact the way that Google Ads work on default and there is no setting to make ads un-skippable.
We received lots of feedback – both positive and negative. Developers themselves have offered some ideas and suggestions regarding the ways we can solve the issues they have with our platform. We need some time to put it all together. We’ll get back to you in the next couple of days with a solution.
Of all the negative comments, the following sentence was the most common: “G2A admits they’re the problem because if not them, someone else would do it anyways”
Some developers cannot accept the fact that people have full rights to re-sell the things they own. It’s a problem for those developers, but not for us or anyone else. And certainly not for gamers who have access to cheaper products, games included, thanks to marketplaces such as G2A.
What we are saying is: “It’s a good thing that people can re-sell keys and, with or without G2A, they will continue to do so.”