Shady Market G2A Offers To Pay Journalists To Run Pre-Written Article Defending Them

Image: G2A

G2A, a third-party grey market for game keys, doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation, given the accusations of sub-par security, developer disenfranchisement, and fraud that have surrounded it for years.

This week, someone from the company tried to take control of the narrative surrounding its shady public image—by sending out a “transparent” and “unbiased” pre-written article about stolen game keys and asking sites to publish it “without being marked as sponsored or marked as associated with G2A.” A representative for the marketplace then blamed this move on an “employee without authorisation,” calling it “unacceptable.”

The email in question, which Kotaku has viewed, was sent to multiple members of the media, including one who posted a screenshot of it on Twitter earlier today, sparking widespread discussion and anger. The email asked press to cooperate with G2A in the name of improving “our brand awareness and public image, especially among the indie and smaller game developers.”

In other words, whoever sent the request wanted to con people into thinking that the article had been written by an independent reporter.

“We have written an unbiased article about how ‘Selling stolen keys on gaming marketplaces is pretty much impossible’ and we want to publish it on Your website without being marked as sponsored or marked as associated with G2A,” said the email. “It is a transparent and just review of the problem of the stolen keys reselling.”

This all came in the wake of new controversies swirling around G2A, which initially centered onaround the company’s practice of buying up Google ads for individual games. This prompted some developers to say they’d rather people pirate their games than buy them on G2A, because they wouldn’t see a cent either way, and they don’t want to see that money go to such a dodgy operation.

In turn, G2A said last week that it’ll work with an independent auditor to look at its own store and those of other developers. Depending on the outcome of this process, the company said it’ll “pay developers 10 times the money they lost on chargebacks after their illegally obtained keys were sold on G2A,” but only if they can “prove such a thing actually happened.”

Today’s email also included a sample of the article publications were being asked to publish, which—somewhat counter-productively—says that, “with some luck,” you can probably “sell one or two, even ten keys” on G2A “without triggering any other security measures,” as all you need to provide to make an account is your phone number and a social media account.

The problem, according to this article that only mostly reads like it was written by a G2A employee, is in collecting your money. To do that, you’ve got to provide your bank account info, which will apparently “make you an easy target for the police.”

It then makes an incredible leap to drive the point home: “It’s like walking into a police station and pointing a gun at the officers there. OK, you got in, but will you get out of there alive?” And that, whoever from G2A wrote this article argued, is why selling stolen keys on the marketplace is impossible.

Yet people have claimed that G2A has allowed them to profit off stolen game keys, so this system does not seem ironclad, to say the least.

The email concludes by asking for “pricing and details about Your options for such content publication.”

It almost immediately earned the ire of developers and fans on Twitter, who pointed out that it was the shadiest way possible for G2A to inform people that it’s not shady. In response, G2A said on Twitter that the email was the work of a rogue individual within the company.

“These emails were sent by our employee without authorisation, for which we apologise to [Indie Games Plus] and the 9 (!) other media outlets he sent this proposal to,” said G2A’s official account. “He will face strict consequences, as this is absolutely unacceptable.”

Kotaku reached out to G2A and the employee in question for more information, but neither immediately responded to a request for comment.

What’s ironic for G2A isn’t just how tremendously this move has backfired, it’s that the act of even making a request this shady will forever raise questions about anyone who now defends the company.


Comments

    Both AMA's they did on reddit were disasters. Shady company, continues to be shady, so this doesn't surprise me

    So if the keys turn out to be stolen, won't they just be canceled?

      They have been before, entire waves of them. One of my mates bought a copy of DOOM from them, thinking it was legit. He had it for around a month, before it was suddenly revoked. It's not Steams fault though, G2a I believe buys a whole lot of grey market keys and whatnot.

        Yeah, I had a similar story happen with my X-com 2 dlc. Bought it from G2A through kinguin, had it about a week and a half, then had it revoked for non-payment by the key supplier (card had been backcharged). Filed a complaint to kinguin, and after a few days they finally reimbursed me, then G2A offered me a free key of my choice to change my feedback on them from negative to positive, with kinguin messaging me about it about once a day for a week even after I said no and explained why. Its like... umm... hello... what's to stop the key you give me for this being stolen too? Couldn't believe they thought I was so naive.

          That's the thing. G2A knows full well they're selling stolen keys, they just think they can control the narrative and push the lie as if it were truth, as your own experience as well as this article demonstrates. The whole 'impossible to sell stolen keys' nonsense is approaching big lie territory in its brazenness.

      Part of the problem is that developers can't easily cancel a single key. If an indie dev wants to set up a store to sell their game directly, they ask valve to generate blocks of keys for the game and then sell them individually. Apparently they can only revoke entire blocks of keys as a unit.

      So if 5% of the keys in a block were purchased with stolen credit cards and result in charge backs, they've got a choice between eating the loss or also revoke the keys of the other 95% of innocent customers.

        Here's the doc on Valve's process:

        https://partner.steamgames.com/doc/features/keys

        In particular:

        Similar to querying a key, you may only ban a product key that you have the rights to. In the second step of the process, you can pick whether you wish to ban all keys in the batch, or just keys that have not yet been redeemed. Please be very careful when banning product keys, as you could be removing access from legitimate customers.

        So it is only possible to ban an individual key if it hasn't yet been redeemed. If the stolen key has been sold on G2A and redeemed, the only way to revoke it is to revoke the entire batch.

          That sucks. Would be good if Steam was able to give devs the ability to revoke single keys if smaller quantities of sales are affecting them that badly.

            Well, they'd probably point out that they already offer a way to sell games where credit card processing and fraud prevention is all handled for the developer: the Steam store front itself. All they ask is 30% of the revenue.

            It's also worth remembering that the key generation service was initially intended for the production of boxed retail copies of games. In that situation, banning keys in batches is a reasonable option. If a shipment to a retailer goes missing, you want to ban the entire batch. If the retailer returns unsold copies, you want to ban all the unredeemed keys from the batch.

    Lol how stupid do you have to be. I guess these nuts that believe the "games press is in bed with developers" would figure its a sensible option.

      It's not that the games press is in bed with developers, it's that their business model has shifted from the players of games being their core audience to the publishers & developers of games becoming their core audience.

      This is sort of why the gamergate thing still has legs, why journalists like Jason Schreier are distractingly obsessed with "crunch" and other issues many consumers don't really care about. People are seeing that the press is disproportionately covering the issues and interests of the publishers and developers and thinking its evidence of corruption.

      The biggest reason for this is Metacritic – because the success of games and developer bonuses are tied so closely to that aggregated press score, developers and publishers now try to appease the journalists as much if not more than the actual game playing public. The games media publications know this and naturally, that leads to a change in their own behaviour (the specifics of which I can only speculate at).

      What it used to be:

      Business: Journalism
      Audience: "Gamers"
      Product: "Games"

      What it is now:

      Business: Marketing & PR
      Audience: "Gamers & Developers"
      Product: "Gamers"

      "Gamers" are mad because they can tell they aren't being listened to or spoken for anymore. Journalists are being cagey and defensive because admitting their shift in audience would lead to a mass exodus of the audience that they've turned into a product for their new audience. It's why youtube personalities and streamers are becoming more influential in the games ecosystem now because their audience is still the games playing population (and publishers are taking note and often giving them just as much if not more access to upcoming games).

      I'm totally fine with these publications fishing where the fish are. I just wish they'd be honest about it / do it in a way that isn't just successful in the short-term and disastrous in the long term.

        I don't know what your arguments are here? Are the developers appeasing the journalists or are the journalists shilling the developers' products? One implies that developers are changing their games to improve their review scores, while the other implies that publications are corruptly changing their scores to service games publishers.

        I personally think "gamers" are upset because they have different views to journalists. Which I would argue is because "gamers" aren't necessarily homogenous (and many are just less vocal than others who have differing viewpoints), while journalists by and large come from university education or other journalist paths which tend to skew more liberal/left-wing. Youtube influencers aren't necessarily of one group or the other, which might be why their influence is growing amongst "gamers" with differing viewpoints.

          Well by nature of their work, journalists are more likely to develop relationships with developers and so be more sympathetic to their POV and unwittingly or not, push that POV over others.

          Are the developers appeasing the journalists or are the journalists shilling the developers' products?

          Yes.

          I would definitely say there has been a shift in games to shoehorn in politics that developers and publishers know will be received well by critics. There's definitely been a shift away from content that developers and publishers know will be received poorly by critics. More and more, a review can be lower than it should be because the reviewer takes issue with the depiction (or lack thereof) of certain identity groups or political views in a game. Polygon doesn't even try to hide this sort of thing.

          In turn, writers and publications love to champion games that align with their values. One of the most egregious examples of this was Gone Home, more an interactive experience than a game (and not a particularly profound one at that), it scored 86 on Metacritic and charged something like $29 on release. It wasn't worthy of either of these things, it barely had any gameplay mechanics and the characterisation wasn't strong enough to make me feel anything.

          Polygon, in particular, gave it a perfect 10/10 score. For context, a game like The Last Of Us, which had the same focus on trying to tell an excellent story and by pretty much every measure did it better than Gone Home, scored 7.5/10 from Polygon.

          I accept that this is largely my opinion, but when you compare the user scores of these two games you see an overwhelming consensus between games players and games reviewers with The Last of Us, and a 30 point discrepancy when it comes to games like Gone Home. When any game touches on the kinds of themes and issues that Gone Home does, when its creators identify a certain way, when there is a certain narrative to its development, some games journalists will respond in a disproportionately positive way.

          I also agree with your assessment in the second paragraph though. Most games journalists fit that bill, and many of the most hardcore and vocal video game fans don't.

    I bought a key for Elder Scrolls Online from there once before for myself and for my wife, and had the license for those particular keys revoked by Bethesda because it was bought from a stolen credit card. This is before I knew anything about G2A and just thought I'd happened upon a good sale or something.

    Ended up having to go through a bunch of exchanges to get a refund from G2A.

    Never again, just steer clear.

    Havnt had a problem with them yet, and purchased 3 codes from them. $17 for office2019 professional instead of $990 was a good deal.

    Yeah i stopped buying from them a while back.

    Much more reputable CD key companies out there that dont try to nickle and dime you.

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