Gearbox Hit With Backlash For Partnering With Controversial Game Key Seller G2A

Recently, Gearbox announced that it's partnering with game key re-seller G2A for a collector's edition of Bulletstorm. Problem: Over the years, G2A has been subject to widespread criticism for lax security, enabling fraud, and making money at developers' expense. Predictably, Gearbox has taken serious flack for the partnership.

G2A's reputation has fallen so far down the mine shaft that, in recent times, multiple high-profile YouTube and streaming personalities have dropped out of lucrative ad deals with the site. People, then, were taken aback when Gearbox decided to hop in bed and get snuggly with G2A to create a baffling assortment of limited edition physical collector's editions. Setting aside the oddity of partnering with a digital storefront to produce physical goods, the cloud of controversy surrounding G2A is thick and noxious, and people on sites like Reddit, NeoGAF and Twitter promptly blew up at them.

Most prominently, popular YouTuber John "TotalBiscuit" Bain took to Twitter to say that he'll be avoiding Gearbox's games entirely until something changes:

"G2A has offered its own payment system as a 'solution' to credit card fraud and mass-chargebacks which cost indie developers and retailers huge amounts of money and put them at risk of being blacklisted by the worlds major credit card companies," Bain explained to me in an email after I reached out for clarification on his comments. "A company can decide to work with G2A directly and use their payment solution and API, from which G2A takes a fee. This has been offered to companies such as TinyBuild who claimed to have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue due to G2A as well as smaller startup retailers such as our partner, who also suffered significant credit card fraud and chargebacks early in its life. When they approached G2A regarding this, they offered to give them insight into who was selling stolen keys from but only if they switched to using their payment system and API."

"G2A is providing a 'solution' to a problem that they created and continue to facilitate and profit from both the solution and the fraud," he added. "G2A is essentially saying, 'That's a nice game you have there, it would be a shame if something were to happen to it.' That sounds an awful lot like a protection racket to me."

I reached out to G2A for a response to Bain's comments, but have not received a reply. I also reached out to Gearbox, who was unable to provide a response as of writing.

For its part, G2A has spent recent months resolutely insisting that it has cleaned up its act and strives to guard its service against fraud, stolen or otherwise illegitimate keys, and other potential pitfalls that come part and parcel with running a largely unregulated grey market. It says, for instance, that it has a department of over 100 people monitoring the site for shady keys, and the main reason it wants to work directly with developers is because it has no reliable way of tracking stolen keys otherwise.

However, people have found G2A's claims of increased security hard to believe. During a Reddit AMA conducted in February, a user demonstrated that after becoming a "verified" seller they could theoretically switch to selling non-legit keys with little scrutiny. They even tossed up a fake listing and got it verified during the back-and-forth discussion on Reddit, just to prove their point. G2A went on to ban that user, in a move that was about as well-received as you'd expect.

G2A later told me that the user was banned because he violated terms of service and suffered the consequences. It also claimed that what the user did wouldn't have worked with more than just a key or two. It added, however, that if it had been a fraudulent key (taken from a developer's website due to lax security, obtained with a stolen credit card, and so on), there isn't a ton G2A could do without a developer's direct involvement. "If we were not informed and not given the list mentioned above, it's purely impossible to distinguish legally acquired keys from those acquired illegally," a G2A rep said to me in an email shortly after the AMA. "All we can do is to react when a customer faces a problem with a purchase, help him or her, and then make sure the thief meets the consequences."

That doesn't really inspire confidence!

And despite that, shortly after the AMA, I received an email from an indie developer claiming that they'd tried to get keys removed from G2A, to no avail.

These days, G2A talks a big game, but have yet to provide compelling evidence that it can reliably back it up. The only thing abundantly clear about the site is that it desperately wants to clean up its image, and certainly, working with Gearbox seems like another step on the road to perceived legitimacy. Now, though, Gearbox is getting their reputation dinged for that decision. Instead of Gearbox pulling G2A up, it appears that G2A yanked Gearbox down into the mud with them.


    This is hypocrisy in the extreme.

    Bain's out there pushing his usual agenda at the slightest provocation.

    Youtubers already make money at the expense of developers. They are literally profiting off the creativity of others.

    Youtubers already bang on about the wonders of emulation, hacking of games old and new, and sometimes outright piracy. That's normalising theft.

    It's a "racket" as he calls it when he and others lambast Gearbox or Atlus or Nintendo or whoever the villain of the week is, and then has the gall to "offer sage advice" as if they're paid consultants.

    Well ok, if you're Valve, then I suppose they are now...

      I really don't understand your hypocrisy argument here. While you can look at G2A as a second hand market, it isn't bound by the regulatory frameworks for shops like Cash Converters.

      And there are very good reasons why we have those sorts of regulations: while the store might not be directly involved in crime, it's business allows criminals to convert stolen merchandise into clean cash. And it seems that G2A is unwilling to institute the kinds of checks that would prevent this from happening.

      This seems like a problem independent of what some YouTuber says.

    People, then, were taken aback when Gearbox decided to hop in bed and get snuggly with G2A Have these people been living under a rock for the past few years? Gearbox are notorious for being shitty.

    I've sold quite a few unwanted game keys on G2A, and bought some on there too. Every time I've listed a key, they needed proof of purchase before they allowed it to be listed. Additionally, every key I've purchased has worked without hiccups.

    It sucks that some of the keys sold on there were stolen, but hey, doesn't that happen on every single second hand marketplace?

    I don't get it why people say G2A should be shut down and that they encourage thieves. What, so because some people resell stolen goods that means nobody is allowed to buy/sell second hand any more?

    The only thing G2A should be condemned for is their shitty Shield service that takes way too many clicks to actually disable. It has improved a bit though.

    Let's be honest though, how many more games does Gearbox have in its future?
    Borderlands 3 is going to have to be pretty good...

    Thieves partnering with thieves? I am unsurprised.

    Gearbox better get cracking on a new Borderlands, they're circling the bowl. It's a shame they don't have money to steal from Sega this time.

    Randy? I really like you man. Your as geeky as I am, if not more so. You do magic. You were prepared to be late to a Gearbox event so everyone in the queue at PAX 2013 could get an autograph with you and Anthony and the rest of the Borderlands 2 team. Please cut this stuff out, you're really making it hard for me to keep liking you. That's going to affect how willingly I'm prepared to part with my money for your products.

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