For the crowd at Reboot Develop this week, the industry's ire at the working practices of G2A has been impossible to miss.
The company's senior account manager, Mario Mirek, took the decidedly bold step of being interviewed in public, by our European Editor, Dan Pearson. It backfired, the audience - of a mix of developers, but largely indies - clearly unimpressed with G2A's rhetoric, which ran the gamut from measured remorse to barely disguised evasion. While the talk was in progress, Reboot Develop was a trending topic on Twitter, and little of the discussion was in G2A's favour.
Three people from that crowd gathered the following day, to participate in a panel on the life of the indie developer: Mike Bithell, the creator of Volume and Thomas Was Alone; Dan de Rocha, the creator of Q.U.B.E; and Rami Ismail, co-founder of Vlambeer and one of the industry's more recognisable faces. All had seen the G2A interview, and participated in that discussion. Bithell did so in the room, in fact, questioning Mirek directly on the company's fraud prevention processes, and the money it earns as a result.
"The key thing I've learned about shifting reputation over the years is that action matters a lot more than words"
Despite the weight of negative sentiment surrounding G2A, though, all three developers were very clear about one thing. Whatever their issues with G2A now, its marketplace is not scorched earth. "Oh, they can fix it," Ismail said, in response to a question from GamesIndustry.biz. "Just stop being shit.
"Just look at the history of the games industry. Five years or seven years ago Microsoft was the company to work with for independent games. Then they kinda messed that up, and then it was Sony, and now we're at the point where maybe in the near future it's going to not be Sony. Steam was great, then it wasn't, then it was.
"Reputations shift all the time, and really all that you need to shift your reputation is to work for it. We all have a reputation, whether positive or negative, and we all work hard to make sure that it's considered positive."
Bithell agreed, describing both himself and his fellow panelists as "figureheads" for a certain group of people. In that sense, they all have to take responsibility for and manage their reputations, and G2A has a great deal more control over what happens now than it might seem.
"The key thing I've learned about shifting reputation over the years is that action matters a lot more than words," Bithell said. "It's not about paying lip service, saying we're thinking about doing a thing, we're about to do a thing, there is the potential in the future to do a thing; it's about just doing that thing. That's the way we've all helped our reputations over time."
Dan Da Rocha offered an example from his own career. When the Director's Cut of Q.U.B.E. was released, he "commented" that some additional content would be released for free. Some time later, with the investment in that new content larger than initially expected, it was decided that selling it could be justified in terms of value. "There was a massive uproar," he said. "Lots of complaints."
"People might yell at you, but if you fix the thing that people are yelling about then very frequently 99% of people will appreciate that"
He attempted a half-measure, promising to give the content away to anyone who sent an email. "Too many emails came through," Da Rocha continued, prompting spontaneous laughter from Bithell and Ismail. Ultimately, the strategy that worked was a full and frank apology, and a complete walkback of the decisions that had led to the problem. Not only were the game's fans back onside, Da Rocha said, they actually expressed responded positively.
"If you make those changes, you can sometimes get a stronger reputation than if you'd just done those things in the first place," Bithell added. "Doing something wrong and then doing what's necessary to solve that often leaves you in a positive position."
Throughout his interview at Reboot Develop, Mario Mirek returned to the steps G2A had already taken to protect developers whose games are sold on its marketplace. That the development community regards these measures as inadequate is, at this point, glaringly obvious. From here, G2A's ability to shift its reputation to positive will be down to its willingness to accept, and not dictate, the terms of that process.
"People are generally forgiving," Ismail agreed. "Sure, people might yell at you, but if you fix the thing that people are yelling about then very frequently 99% of people will appreciate that.
"I guess G2A hasn't done that yet."
GamesIndustry.biz was a media partner for Reboot Develop. Our travel and hotel costs were provided by the organiser.