Paymate Closes SeeThrough Studios' Account: Digital Gaming 'Too Risky'

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.

There is no mention of digital gaming within Paymate's Terms Of Use. Gaming is only mentioned in this section:

"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".


Comments

    Would Google Checkout or Amazon Payments be a better avenue? Christ, people can't catch a break with receiving payments online nowadays.

      Amazon Checkout is only available for sellers in the US at the moment. So they wouldn't be an option at this point in time.

    With at least 1 grammatical or spelling error per sentence in that email quote, are they sure they're not just being trolled?

    Pretty disgusting really. And i bet with a little research you would find a number of much "higher risk" enterprises that have been approved.

    So, I respect the rights of the privately held organisation, Playmate, to approve or decline accounts and products based on whatever criteria they like. What's frustrating (and unethical in my opinion, because it causes undue hardship) is that they appear to have approved SeeThrough Studios' account, then revoked it on grounds that are not explained in their terms of use.

    While I'm sure Playmate's actions are legal, hopefully news gets around about this and their company is less popular as a result of their outwardly inconsistent, potentially damaging actions.

    Uh huh.
    How does paymate make revenue, may I ask?

    Do you think that they shut the account down because the thought THEY wouldn't make enough income from it, rather then the developer?

    It's a pity. I wonder how much revenue the developers will have lost. I'm guessing that a number of people who gave money won't bother to wait for a new option to become available to give money a second time.

    What surprises me is that this company allowed them to set up an account and start receiving payments and THEN shut them down. Shouldn't they have done the risk assessment prior to granting them an account in the first place?

    Yikes, that's really dodgey practice to allow an account to start trading before the accounts actual approval is given.

    What's bothering me is the potential implications this has for the future of indie games distribution. It is difficult enough to establish a foothold in the games industry as a small dev group as it is, hopefully this doesn't set a precedent for other net payment companies to cut off other developers.

    What's bothering me is the potential negative impact this could have on future indie games distribution efforts. From what I can tell it's difficult enough to establish some kind of foothold in the industry as it is without retailers blocking the sales of the product itself. Hopefully what's happened with Paymate doesn't set precedent for other net pay companies to cut off other devs.

    I tried the copyright boycott... Then MGS HD came out. Damn you Konami.

    They... probably should have checked this before they started selling the game lol.

    "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."

    So what? Paymate's not a distribution platform, it's just a payment service. Should banks stop making credit cards because some their customers might return a product, or get a refund due to stolen cards? No they won't because the VAST MAJORITY of purchases will be fine and will clearly outweigh the losses due to refunds; it will also be the case here.

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