Last year, SpeedRunners studio tinyBuild prompted scrutiny of the site when its CEO discovered that more than 26,000 download codes for its games were available on digital marketplace G2A. The insinuation was that the sellers of these keys on G2A had not acquired them legally. After some back-and-forth, G2A announced the trial of a royalty system, where a portion of sales on any key – no matter their provenance – went back to studios or publishers.
However, if any of these keys were purchased with stolen credit card information, then publishers may end up being forced to refund this money, as well as face charges and fines on top this, meaning that not only do indie developers lose out on a sale, but they’re also losing money because of third parties. As PC Gamer reported last year:
“G2A does not prevent the selling of keys purchased with stolen credit cards, with the chargebacks from those CC purchases harming developers.”
This doesn’t exactly leave the digital marketplace in an ideal position, so they hosted a Reddit AMA and it went about as badly as you’d expect. The biggest topic of conversation in the AMA was basically ‘Why are you letting this happen?’. One of the most popular questions was how the company deals with accusations it trades in stolen and grey market keys. A company spokesperson responded by saying:
“Okay, two things here. We want and do anything possible to make our marketplace as secure as possible. We deal with all authorities and follow all protocols out there. There are two sides to this though. If a developer comes to us, and tells us upfront ‘hey listen these keys were stolen from us, here is the proof, here is the list of keys stolen from us, please don’t allow anyone to sell them/please make sure they don’t appear on your marketplace’. Awesome, this is great (well not great, someone stole keys but you know what we mean). In case our own protection systems and seller verification somehow omits a seller with one of these keys, we have the list and we will not allow anyone to sell any of those keys.”
The same spokesperson also said that there are over 100 employees at the company who monitor shady practices in the marketplace, and that the company does everything it can to ensure that nothing illegal happens, although sometimes keys do slip through the cracks. Comparing G2A to Ebay, the spokesperson went on to say that they can’t do anything unless they have proof that keys were stolen, and that a lot of the burden falls on indie developers. In the spokesperson’s words:
“In those situations, if the developer is not willing to work with us it gets a little complicated. In some situations, if a key was not reported to us as stolen and we weren’t told it was blacklisted or shown any proof, then there is little we can do. Think of any marketplace – if you want to buy a TV on eBay, and oh no! it’s stolen, but no one ever reported it as stolen, how would eBay know to take the auction down if the seller checks out? G2A is a marketplace for digital codes, and we are not the only one out there.”
You can check out the full Reddit AMA here.