It made its bed
G2A is one of the most toxic brands in the video game industry right now. In recent years, G2A has been outed as a key reseller that conveniently does little to combat fraud. Many developers have accused G2A of buying games that were originally purchased with stolen credit cards. When those charges are inevitably reversed, the developer ends up the victim as two other parties take all of the profit through nefarious means.
That’s why it struck people as odd when Gearbox announced a partnership with G2A for the collector’s edition of the upcoming Bulletstorm remaster. [Disclosure: Years ago, Destructoid had a brief advertising agreement with G2A.] How can a fellow developer support someone who enables theft from other creators? There was immediate backlash. The most notable example was probably YouTuber TotalBiscuit swearing off any future coverage of Gearbox titles.
G2A’s business model isn’t a recent development. Mike wrote a fantastic investigative piece in January 2016 about how the graymarket site retains just enough plausible deniability to stay off the hook for any legal infringement. Still, everyone in the business of video games knows exactly what G2A is. Its reputation precedes it.
Gearbox is acting like it’s the last to find out. According to a report from Waypoint, Gearbox has given G2A a hardline ultimatum: Either change your ways or we’re done with you. Here is Gearbox’s list of demands, verbatim as published on Waypoint:
- Within 30 days, G2A Shield (aka, customer fraud protection) is made free instead of a separate paid subscription service within terms offered by other major marketplaces. All customers who spend money deserve fraud protection from a storefront. To that end, all existing G2A Shield customers are notified by April 14th that fraud protection services are now free and they will no longer be charged for this.
- Within 90 days, G2A will open up a web service or API to certified developers and publishers to search for and flag for immediate removal, keys that are fraudulent. This access will be free of charge and will not require payment by the content holders.
- G2A makes a public commitment to this: Within 60 days implement throttling for non-certified developers and publishers at the title, user ID, and account payable levels for a fraud flagging process. This is to protect content providers from having large quantities of stolen goods flipped on G2A before they can be flagged.
- G2A makes a public commitment to this: Within 30 days, G2A restructures its payment system so that customers who wish to buy and sell legitimate keys are given a clear, simple fee-structure that is easy to understand and contains no hidden or obfuscated charges. Join the ranks of other major marketplaces.
If G2A were to make these changes, it could make strides toward changing its public perception and well on its way to legitimizing its business. If. Gearbox is asking for major infrastructure changes, ones that will almost certainly negatively affect G2A’s bottom line. G2A thrives because it’s willing to position itself in that moral middleground; its success isn’t in spite of that fact.
But it’s Gearbox’s feeble attempt at saving face that’s most laughable. Major course corrections can’t be made on the spot, but 30 to 90 days might as well be a lifetime as far as video games are concerned. No one will care about Bulletstorm in two weeks, as is the case for almost every game nowadays. Puffing your chest out and threatening to cancel a partnership 10 weeks after everyone forgot it existed is the most impotent tough guy act imaginable.
Look, G2A needs to change but let’s not strain ourselves patting Gearbox on the back for putting it in writing. It put itself in this position by sidling up to a company with a less-than-sterling reputation. Both a cynic and a rational thinker would assume that Gearbox had a lapse in judgment and that even the most junior of PR reps could have predicted swift blowback. Anyone willing to give Gearbox the benefit of the doubt would have to admit the publisher broke a basic rule of commerce: Always know who you’re going into business with. It’s not a great look either way.