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Gearbox severs ties with G2A over fraud backlash

[UPDATE]: Bulletstorm deal falls apart as reseller fails to comply with developer's ultimatum to change how it does business

[UPDATE]: Just one day after issuing its ultimatum to G2A, Gearbox has begun the process of dissolving its relationship with the key reseller, according to Waypoint.

"As there has been no public movement from G2A by the time Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition launched now on PC, Gearbox Publishing will be doing their part to not directly support a marketplace that did not make the new public commitment to protecting customers and developers requested by Gearbox Publishing," Gearbox head of publishing Steve Gibson told the site, adding, "We do not control G2A's marketplace or where they may obtain keys from parties outside of Gearbox Publishing, but we can confirm that today we have begun executing on our extraction process."

The original story follows below:

Gearbox has demanded that the online key reseller G2A take a firmer stance against fraud, following a public backlash against a partnership for the physical release of Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition.

In June last year, the prominent indie publisher Tinybuild accused G2A of facilitating "a black market economy," where game keys purchased with stolen credit cards could be resold, leaving the developer to cover losses incurred from the eventual chargebacks.

G2A disputed Tinybuild's claims, but it still introduced certain measures - developer royalties, improved verification procedures, etc. - to make fraudulent transactions more difficult and give developers a larger cut of revenue. Nevertheless, the damage to G2A's reputation was done, as evidenced by several YouTubers walking away from sponsorship deals with the company, even after those changes had been introduced.

"G2A is providing a 'solution' to a problem that they created and continue to facilitate and profit from both the solution and the fraud"

John "Total Biscuit" Bain

That was just one aspect of G2A's apparent attempts at rehabilitation. In July 2016, a month after its dispute with Tinybuild, the company introduced G2A Direct, a storefront where developers could sell products to consumers. At the start of March 2017, it issued a statement confirming that it had 100 official partners for G2A Direct, which was "created to place developers front and center in G2A's marketplace."

The partnership with Gearbox, which was promoted at the start of this week, falls under the same basic strategy. G2A Direct would have been the home of "54 exclusive collector's editions" of Bulletstorm: Full Clip, that bewildering number largely due to a series of figurines of the game's principal characters.

However, despite the large number of developers already using the new storefront, a backlash started to gather pace on various social media platforms, eventually coming to a head when the popular YouTuber John "Total Biscuit" Bain vowed to cease coverage of Bulletstorm and all future Gearbox titles. "No support for crooks," Bain said on Twitter.

Speaking to Kotaku yesterday, Bain highlighted that G2A profited from its own solution to "credit card fraud and mass-chargebacks, which cost indie developers and retailers huge amounts of money and put them at risk of being blacklisted by the worlds major credit card companies."

"A company can decide to work with G2A directly and use their payment solution and API, from which G2A takes a fee," Bain continued. "G2A is providing a 'solution' to a problem that they created and continue to facilitate and profit from both the solution and the fraud."

This kind of controversy cannot be ignored by a company of Gearbox's size and visibility, and it duly issued a series of demands that would help to combat fraud on the G2A marketplace. Those demands, which were first published by Waypoint, are below:

  • 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, userid, 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.

"Gearbox Publishing won't support a marketplace that is unwilling to make these commitments and execute on them," the company said. It also said that, if G2A does not officially agree to the changes, the partnership on Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition will be dissolved.

We have contacted G2A for comment.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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