G2A Fires Back At Gearbox, TotalBiscuit Over Bulletstorm Drama

G2A Fires Back At Gearbox, TotalBiscuit Over Bulletstorm Drama

In a response sent out to all media this morning, the key reselling website G2A has added its two cents to the debacle surrounding Gearbox and Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, alleging that Gearbox publicly issued a list of demands about the secondary marketplace as a knee-jerk response to public criticism.

In the media blast, the site argued that Gearbox “unfortunately decided to publicly publish a letter” of ultimatums following “a few negative reactions from some YouTubers, and in particular from John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain” without consulting them first. “This is an excellent example that rash actions, without full knowledge of the facts, can be harmful to both the developer and the marketplace,” they added.

The statement goes on to say that while G2A believes its critics are doing so from a position of good faith, it feels that it has already met the terms and conditions demanded by TotalBiscuit and Gearbox. “The best proof of this are the four ultimatums formulated in part by John Bain, which, it turns out that were completely unnecessary as all of the issues raised have long been a part of the G2A.COM marketplace,” G2A wrote.

“Most of the allegations levied against us are based on both a lack of knowledge, and a lack of desire to learn the other side of the story. The best example of this is quoting false and defamatory statements while ignoring the facts.”

But while G2A argued that “all of the issues raised have long been a part” of the site, the statement also set out a series of points in which it refused to concede to developers, or anyone else:

  • G2A’s fraud protection service will not be free: Part of Gearbox’s demands was that G2A Shield, a subscription or per-purchase deal that offers buyers access to 24/7 support, be made free to all users. G2A argued that “G2A Shield is very well-priced given the benefits it offers”, but the main difference between buyers with G2A Shield and those without are instant access to live chat with G2A’s customer support team. Without that, buyers are required to write a message to an arbitration-like service within G2A. A support ticket is raised, and customer staff then investigate the issue which G2A’s statement says is “typically” resolved “in a matter of hours”.

    The sales pitch is that every buyer on G2A is protected, but buying G2A Shield is for a matter of “immense convenience and comfort”, as well as other ancillary offers.

  • G2A won’t give developers more access to their database without signing an agreement: One of the longest standing complaints against G2A is that it acts as a brokerage of sorts for stolen game keys, and that those keys are often sold at a profit to legitimate parties while developers and publishers are forced to deal with the financial consequences of being hit by credit card chargebacks.

    G2A’s statement didn’t touch on this element of the fraud, but they argued that despite TotalBiscuit and Gearbox’s claims, they “currently [cooperate] with all interested developers to ensure only legally acquired keys are sold – without any contracts and, more importantly, without any fees”. The trick is that developers have to is “provide evidence that the keys that they want to block have been illegally acquired (this evidence can be, for example, a report from a financial institution)”.

    Developers that want to independently verify things against G2A’s database will have to sign an agreement with G2A directly. The statement doesn’t outline what obligations developers are required to meet, and the official landing page doesn’t outline and terms and conditions bar some of the benefits (like a 10.8% commission, product positioning, and other basics).

As far as G2A sees it, the latest round of criticism against it is a war on consumers. “The problem is that some developers do not want to accept that people resell their games. The developers would like to control the market and all the sales channels within it, imposing higher prices and prohibiting the resale of unused games,” the marketplace argues.

And that’s a sticking point that seems unlikely to be resolved, or at least one that will allow G2A to continue operating. Governments around the world have defended consumers’ rights to resell games before, despite attempts from publishers and platform holders to lock the practice down.

The problem is that leaves the door wide open for fraudulent trading as well. G2A complained that it is being pitched as an “intermediary in selling illegally acquired keys”, but the reality is that developers and publishers, particularly smaller ones like tinyBuild, can still take a financial hit no matter how fast G2A acts.

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Unknown Worlds Entertainment, the creators of Natural Selection 2, outlined on their blog an example of how this happens. “Recently we asked Valve to deactivate 1,341 Steam keys that were purchased through our website,” they wrote, noting the keys were “purchased with credit cards where the card-holder initiated a ‘chargeback'”.

Chargebacks are a mechanism designed to allow people to stop fraudulent transactions on their credit cards, in case they get lost or stolen. The owner of the credit card has the charge rescinded, at no cost to them. The merchant who was party to the transaction, however, receives a fee from the bank who issued the credit card.

In the case of Natural Selection 2, that fee was around $US30,000. But while the developer not only a) gets no profit and b) takes a hit by paying back the fee to the card issuer, that doesn’t stop the game key from being fenced on secondary marketplaces.

Developers can flag the issue with those marketplaces, but they incur a financial penalty for doing so. And as Ubisoft discovered when they tried to crack down on key resellers, they will also cop a massive backlash from customers who believed they were buying a legitimate product (albeit cheaper). It’s less complicated to let the matter slide, but that also lends rise to scammers who can often sell the keys sent to their email much faster than the time it takes for a chargeback investigation to complete.

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    • This highlights exactly what the article is all about, making claims without even caring to check the facts. Shield gives you immediate access to support should anything go wrong with your purchase (invalid key or key already activated are two prime examples). Without Shield you have the exact same support only your request goes into a queue and gets processed with a less priority than Shield subscribers. G2A have no way to validate keys for sale or if they’ve been purchased with stolen cards, no different to people selling keys on eBay. G2A have repeatedly stated that if proof that the keys have been fraudulently purchased, they will remove them from sale, but nobody seems to provide this – or at least nobody makes a big media article about how they told G2A about the 10,000 stolen keys.

      • The fact they offer a service that provides immediate fraud processing means they’re capable of doing it quickly, so why should a consumer have to pay extra for timely processing of something that is G2A’s problem in the first place?

        Nobody provides information on which keys on G2A are stolen because developers can’t tell which keys are being sold until they’re purchased. G2A refuses to develop a system to allow developers to verify the authenticity of keys being sold on the marketplace. Instead they expect the developers to purchase suspicious keys so they can identify them as stolen. That’s ridiculous.

        • How would a developer buying a suspicious key be able to determine it was fraudulently purchased? Chargebacks are done when a victim contacts their bank and reports the stolen card, not when a key is activated. What needs to happen is when this process is triggered, the key(s) purchased in this transaction need to be immediately deactivated. If all of a sudden G2A and other such sites are left with a whole bunch of deactivated keys, then their anti-fraud protection racket would certainly take a hit, but as it stands there is no way for G2A or a developer to determine if a key was fraudulently obtained. The company responsible for selling the key in the first place needs to put methods in place to deactivate any that are charged back.

          • I don’t think you understand what the process is. Here’s how this fraud works:

            1. A thief uses a stolen card to buy keys from somewhere (eg. the developer’s website).
            2. Once they receive the keys, they issue a chargeback. They get their money back and the developer is hit with a fine.
            3. They take the stolen keys and list them for sale on G2A.

            At this stage the developer knows the keys that were stolen, and they suspect they’re being sold on G2A. But G2A won’t let them see which keys are up for sale and they can’t see the actual keys being sold on G2A unless they buy them themselves, so the developer would be forced to:

            4. The developer buys a key for their game on G2A they suspect is stolen. The thief is paid immediately.
            5. The developer receives the key and identifies it as stolen.
            6. They try to get G2A to pull all the other keys from that seller.
            7. G2A drags its feet, eventually bans the thief.
            8. The thief doesn’t care because he’s already been paid for some of the stolen keys, so he just creates a new account and repeats the process.

            What developers need is a system where they can log in and see the keys that are currently being sold on G2A before they’re actually sold. From that list they can identify which keys are stolen before someone mistakenly buys them thinking they’re legitimate keys.

          • I know exactly what the process is. Its the step between 3 and 4 thats the issue. If the developer is aware which keys are stolen, there needs to be a method by which they can flag the fraudulent key as inactive with whichever provider processes the activation (Valve, Microsoft, Sony). That way it doesn’t matter if its being sold on G2A, eBay or carrier pigeon. While it doesn’t stop the developer receiving the chargeback, it does stop the key from being resold and would have a detrimental effect on any site claiming their keys are 100% legit.

          • There is a deactivation process, but keys can only be deactivated in set batches. Within any given batch there might be 10 stolen keys and 90 legitimately sold ones, so deactivating the batch fucks over normal buyers to get to the stolen keys.

            Deactivating keys doesn’t solve the problem though. A deactivated key will still be sold through G2A because there’s no way for the key’s status to be verified beforehand. The developer will still lose money from the fraud, the thief will still make money, the only difference is the poor bastard who bought the key will get fucked over.

            Giving developers access to the list of keys currently available on G2A is a pre-emptive solution that solves both problems – not having to deactivate a whole batch, and removing stolen keys from the marketplace before they’re sold. I’m not sure why you’re arguing against this.

          • The funny thing is, we’re in agreement. Batch deactivations is a problem and developers won’t do it to avoid screwing over the legitimate 90%, so individual deactivations are a requirement. Once this becomes possible and individual keys can be deactivated, any site selling fraudulent keys is going to get an immediate and public bad reputation. Being able to see what keys G2A has up for sale is only a very minor solution and will only stop one site from such actions only to have another 5 sites spring up overnight. Pointing the finger at G2A isn’t going to solve anything, there needs to be more power over control of their keys given to developers.

            As I said, I’m not arguing your point, its just not enough to solve the problem.

          • I completely agree with Musha, whats required here is the ability to deactivate specific keys. That ways when the company knows that a key has been purchased fraudulently that can cancel that key. If that means g2a and sites like it fill up with deactivated keys or people who buy their games and support sites like this all of a sudden have there games deactivated on steam or whatever service then sites like g2a wont be getting used for long.

          • @mushaconvoy Yes, individual key deactivation would help, but that fact doesn’t excuse G2A from its own dodgy behaviour. This stolen stuff is being sold in their market and it’s their responsibility to take action to make sure it isn’t. They don’t because they don’t want to, because they’re making money off stolen keys. They could help very easily by giving developers access to key information but they’d rather claim they’re selling “legit” keys and then charge customers extra to do their jobs with processing fraud.

            Key deactivations are outside their control, but you bet your arse G2A should be judged on what is in their control. Making it difficult for developers to check key validity is shitty behaviour. Charging customers extra to process fraud claims properly is shitty behaviour. Nobody should be defending G2A here.

      • customer service should never have levels of support. you are either a customer or you are not. Offer a loyalty plan is one thing, offering better customer service, especially a queue jump is another thing entirely.

  • Maybe Gearbox should just open up their own key-reselling website.

    With blackjack… and hookers…

  • This is an excellent example that rash actions, without full knowledge of the facts, can be harmful to both the developer and the marketplace

    Funny, that exactly describes Gearbox getting into this stupid relationship in the first place.

    There’s nothing at all surprising in G2A’s response. It basically reads as “Trust us when we tell you we’re totally above board, but you’re not allowed to look behind the curtain”. Trying to frame criticism of their specific dodgy business practices as an attack on consumer rights is absurd, and hypocritical considering they’re rorting consumers by selling stolen keys as-new.

    • … but they’re not selling keys (stolen or otherwise) as “new”. Its pretty clear they’re selling keys from other parties and only acting as an intermediary, no different to eBay.

      Certainly makes more sense if you apply your comment to the likes of EBGames though – selling preowned titles at new game prices, or selling new games that have been opened and played by someone else, then returned in the 2 week grace period. That sounds like a pretty dodgy business practice to me.

      • (moderation bug reposted) There’s no such thing as a second hand product key. They’re either sold as-new or they’re stolen. Given they claim “You get a fully legitimate, digital activation code to your email” as a description of their service, it’s clear that they’re making an explicit claim about the authenticity of the products they’re selling, a claim they’re unable to support.

        EBGames reselling used goods as new is also bullshit.

    • Another person who didn’t read the article and has an bias against G2A because they read it somewhere on the internet. Bravo.

      They will grant you access to what you want to see. You just have to abide by their conditions. Hardly anything new. Do you think every company just gives Joe Bloggs from Company XYZ access to sensitive information without signing some kind of disclosure agreement?

      • I read the article, I also do my own homework. G2A does not provide access to a list of keys currently for sale to developers for verification, the developer is expected to identify the stolen keys first.

        Yes, I do expect G2A to give the developer/publisher access to the list of keys on the market for their own products. There’s nothing to protect with a non-disclosure agreement, the keys were created by the developer in the first place.

      • “has an bias against G2A because they read it somewhere on the internet” no they have an opinion because they are an adult and are capable of thinking of complex issues without breaking things down simply or have done heaps of varied research. While their keys are not necessarily stolen, they come from third parties supporters who only got themselves for an entirely different purposely. so they are basically under selling something at below cost price. in order for themselves and G2A to make a profit from some one else’s intellectual property. As such stealing their profit. So yeah not stealing, just redistributing someone elses profit.

  • Nothing will change while entitled gamers decide that their ability to get someone else’s Intellectual Properties for well below the market value, out weighs the game developers to protect their livelihood, nothing will change. It is no different that Coles selling milk and eggs below a price so they beat their competition and give their customers savings, all the while the people who make the milk etc are being forced to loose their livelihoods and savings.

    Thats why I hate services like this. they are all about ME, ME, ME, what can I get? Not about supporting the industry and the livelihood of others. Never asking why these guys are selling things so cheaply, and how.

    These are games, not life deciding necessities, no one is owed them.

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