In the world of the ‘Indie Dev’ money can be at times very difficult to secure let alone making any level of profit, so when you are faced with limited outreach and limited avenues to turn where do you go? what do you do?
historically devs will reach out to people like me hoping they will be able to tap into our reach and maybe get those fans of indie games to spend their money.
The problems start to amount when these outlets have more games available to show off then money or time to offer, I myself had to stop accepting mobile games due to this propose.
Then comes along an indie publishing / developer house such as tinyBuild who to some could be the light at the end of an all most endless tunnel.
But even tinyBuild answer to profit margins in the end of the day, they are a business after all and protecting the indie games they have taken under their wing are of utmost importance to them.
Then comes along a seemingly harmless site G2A which have recently been reaching out to houses like tinyBuild with promises of grandeur, Alex Nichiporchik states;
For a while now our devs have been getting e-mails from G2A with proposals to work together. We no longer actively jump on additional distribution opportunities (there’s a new bundle every day…), but the whole G2A subject needs to be talked about a bit more.
Before we dive deeper, it’s important to understand what G2A is and how it works. You may have seen the occasional reddit thread with their G2A Shield Deactivation experience, and probably saw tons of streamers and youtubers endorsing the company due to their affiliate program (which I am not wanting or willing to do).
In short, G2A is like Ebay for game keys.
The basic idea is a novel one – with the abundance of game keys spread through bundles, odds are you’d might want to sell off keys for games you don’t really want, and make a few pound when doing so, though, I personally would just give these away any extra codes for free, even maybe do a giveaway / competition if I had to.
The service it’s pretty simple for sellers:
- Get a game key from a bundle
- Sell it on G2A
- Make a couple of pounds
Meanwhile the consumers get a really good price on games.
The problem is that this business model is fundamentally flawed and facilitates a black market economy. tinyBuild have spoken to a merchant on G2A about how he’s making $3-4k a month, and he outlined the core business model:
- Get ahold of a database of stolen credit cards on the darkweb
- Go to a bundle/3rd party key reseller and buy a ton of game keys
- Put them up onto G2A and sell them at half the retail price
tinyBuild have also reached out to distribution partners inquiring about the amounts of chargebacks happening, and it’s killing some of them. There are variations on this business model, as some “merchants” live off bots who actively scavenge keys from Twitter/Twitch/Facebook, and then use Steam’s gifting feature to “sell” the key on G2A.
tl;dr websites like G2A are facilitating a fraud-fueled economy where key resellers are being hit with tons of stolen credit card transactions and these websites are now growing rapidly due to low pricing of game keys
The financial impact is actually huge
Alex of tinyBuild comments saying “I’ve been dismissing the issue for a long time. Sure, a few game keys leak here and there – nothing major. For a few months we supported our own little store on tinyBuild.com – just so we can give some discounts to our fans, and do creative giveaways that’d include scavenging for codes.”
“The shop collapsed when we started to get hit by chargebacks. I’d start seeing thousands of transactions, and our payment provider would shut us down within days. Moments later you’d see G2A being populated by cheap keys of games we had just sold on our shop.”
“Coincidentally, this is when we were having discussions about partnering up with G2A and how that’d work. I really wanted to find out what kind of financial impact this marketplace can have, and after asking for sales stats in 3 separate discussions, I finally have them.”
Here are those e-mails;
SpeedRunners Early Access Global: 24,517 units sold with an average price of €6.26 per unit.
Punch Club Global: 1,251 units sold with an average price of €8.72 per unit.
Party Hard Global: 890 units sold with an average price of €7.95 per unit.
If we do some simple calculations, it comes down to this:
- The total value of these transactions on G2A was ~$200k
- Meanwhile, if these transactions happened at Retail price, it’s closer to $450k.
With this information in hand, the obvious question was where did the keys come from, and can tinyBuild get compensation for that?
Here’s the reply tinyBuild received;
“So the issue you have pointed to is related to keys you have already sold. They are your partners that have sold the keys on G2A, which they purchased directly from you. If anything this should give you an idea on the reach that G2A has, instead of your partners selling here you could do that directly.
I can tell you that no compensation will be given. If you suspect that these codes where all chargebacks aka fraud/stolen credit card purchases I would be happy to look into that however I will say this requires TinyBuild to want to work with G2A. Both in that you need to revoke the keys you will be claiming as stolen from the players who now own them and supply myself with the codes you suspect being a part of this. We will check to see if that is the case but I doubt that codes with such large numbers would be that way.
Honestly I think you will be surprised in that it is not fraud, but your resale partners doing what they do best, selling keys. They just happen to be selling them on G2A. It is also worth pointing out that we do not take a share of these prices, our part comes from the kickback our payment providers.”
In short, G2A claims that thier distribution partners are scamming them and simply selling keys on G2A. They won’t help them unless they are willing to work with them.
It’s clear by this account that they are not going to get compensated, and G2A expect tinyBuild to undercut their own retail partners (and Steam!) to compete with these unauthorized resellers.
There’s no real way to know which keys are leaked or not, and deactivating full batches of game keys would make a ton of fans angry, be it keys bought from official sellers or not.
In short the only way to make sure this is stopped is to make as many indie dev, publishers and game houses as aware as possible.
Have you been affected by this? Do you know someone who has a similar story?
Lets hope our community will work together to fight this!