It was only a few days ago that SeeThrough Studios released their first game, Flatland: Fallen Angle. Now their Paymate account -- the service they were using to collect money from buyers -- has been closed and they don't know why.
SeeThrough consists of a group of Sydney-based indies who wanted to come together to create a project within 96-hours. Upon the game's completion, they released it to the public free of charge, but also provided people with an option to pay for the game. They didn't plan on making a lot of money, but they hoped that some people would find their game worthy of payment.
The team said they went with a service called Paymate for two reasons: they'd heard a number of horror stories about developers having problems with Paypal and Google Checkout, and Paymate allowed them to adopt a "pay what you want" model.
They set up their account and were in business... until yesterday.
A member of the SeeThrough Studios team, Saul Alexander, wrote on the development blog:
"All seemed to be going fine, and then about an hour ago, we received the following email from them:
'Thank you for registering up for Paymate! Unfortunately after doing a risk assessment on your account we were unable to approve your Paymate account. All payments made so far will be reversed back to the buyer. We apologies for not being able to assist you on this occasion. If there is anything else i can help you with please let me know.'"
The team received no further explanation. When they called Paymate, they were told that Paymate does not work with online game companies because teenagers use their parents' credit cards to buy games and Paymate ends up having to refund them.
"We are a legitimate company," wrote Saul.
"We are selling a legitimate (albeit digital) product. But because it’s in the 'games' category, that automatically makes it a risk? Teenagers don’t use their parents’ credit cards to buy anything else but games? And you really think they’re going to do that to by the special edition of an indie game no-one’s heard of? You really think they’ll want the commentary track that badly??"
Kotaku AU contacted Paymate and spoke with its California-based CEO, Greg Lewis.
Mr. Lewis said: "They were declined as a result of our evaluation of their basic business -- gaming is one of the areas that the bank card industry has continually looked at and for the most part we have found that it’s not a profitable element and it does have a series of issues associated with it that fall within our security parameters."
Mr. Lewis said he could not go into detail about Paymate's risk mitigation programs and evaluation methods, but all companies that apply for Paymate accounts -- including SeeThrough Studios -- are told when they apply that acceptance is upon evaluation of their entire application.
"You agree and warrant that You will not use the Service or the Paymate Website in connection with any products or services that Paymate reasonably consider are illegal or brand damaging including (but not limited to) gaming, adult content, the illegal sale of prescription drugs or tobacco products, improper use of intellectual property rights or the sale of counterfeit merchandise or included in this list of Unacceptable Business Categories."
In this particular reference, "gaming" is in reference to gambling, and Mr. Lewis acknowledges that, from what he knows, SeeThrough's game does not fall within that category.
"Unfortunately in that particular industry (the digital games industry), they're not the first and they won't be the last to not be approved due to the nature of their business," he said.
"It looks like their business is putting together players for digital gaming, and that is a business we're not able to support through our relationships with our banks."
SeeThrough Studios are currently looking into alternative payment options. Those who have already paid for the game will have had their payments reversed back into their bank accounts. Once a new payment method has been set up, those who have already bought the game will be given the option to "pay again".