Keys scammed by email are legit "because they come from the developers", say G2A

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Update April 11, 2017: G2A have responded to comments made to us by Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail last week, saying keys that are scammed by email are classed as legitimate because they come from developers.

"As you can see on the example of Rami Ismail, keys are legitimate, because they come from the developers," Maciej Kuc, head of PR at G2A, tells me via email. "No one else is able to generate game keys."

There are plenty of free PC games to get stuck into if money is tight. 

That's not to say they're excusing the behaviour, however. They just don't see it as their responsibility. 

"We are sorry that there are people who are swindling keys and pretend to be YouTubers, but this is totally different situation than someone who buys keys with stolen credit cards," Kuc explains.

"And in this situation most marketplaces  would do nothing, but G2A offers G2A Direct - a developer support program from which Rami Ismail can get up to a 10% fee from the sale of his products by any third-party sellers, not to mention a great number of other interesting features."

Original Story April 7, 2017: Gearbox have just rather publicly split from G2A after a public outcry over their Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition retail partnership. This breakup has prompted the conversation surrounding game key marketplaces to spring up once again. Last year, one developer told us he’d rather people pirated his game than buy it from G2A. Almost a year later - despite G2A declaring they’re taking steps to become legitimate - it seems not much has changed for game developers. 

Vlambeer cofounder Rami Ismail sent out a couple of tweets tonight about why he’d rather people pirated his games than use key marketplaces to buy them. Essentially, he’d rather he made no money from a game than someone else profited from his labour just for illegitimately getting hold of a key. It’s not all just down to stolen card purchases, you see. 

“Key reselling is our work making money for a third party we have no connection with, and we don't have a distribution deal with. None -or very little- of the income goes to us,” explains Rami.  “The bigger issue is some of the costs go to us. A lot of the keys up for resale come from key scammers, people pretending to be famous content creators, YouTubers, streamers, or press. Filtering real requests from scammers takes a ton of time, and it is extremely demoralising getting an email from someone that could mean a breakthrough for your game, only to find out the email address is [email protected]

Rami says he gets “dozens” of requests a day, so trying to proofread all of them for telltale errors is taxing work. “Sometimes they're hard to distinguish from real requests unless you pay close attention,” he says. “Making games is hard work, and having money to spend time on your passion is a huge part of it. Key resellers can hurt both that income and that passion, all for a cynical way of making money for someone else.”

As for pirating, obviously Vlambeer would rather everyone bought their games legitimately, but there’s a clear difference between pirates who want to play a game they can’t afford and con artists looking to make some fast cash. 

“Pirating isn't ideal, but I understand that there are people that would like to enjoy Vlambeer's work in situations or countries where they cannot buy or afford those games,” Rami explains. “Obviously, I'd still love for them to be able to enjoy the games, spread the word, and maybe be inspired to make their own work. We've received many encouraging or apologetic emails from people pirating our game, and they raise our spirits.

“The emails from scammers, they just remind us that someone, somewhere, is looking to earn a quick buck at the expense of our work, time, and motivation.”

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Shriven avatarrkain avatarhfm avatarDarkhog avatarThatThereTim avatarKinth! avatar+2
Kinth! Avatar
188
1 Month ago

While I disagree with most things G2A say, I think they are right on this one.

It is not their responsibility to catch keys that devs have doled out to people they incorrectly thought were youtubers/streamers. It is the devs responsibility to vet the people they give keys to. Just because it's a process that takes a long time or that they don't like doing, does not mean they get to shift the responsibility off to others like G2A.

It would be nice if G2A could help them with the process but trying to make it purely G2A's responsibility is just shifting blame for their own mistakes. It also shows a misunderstanding of the problem. Even if G2A did offer a blacklist code feature that devs could enter keys into before they hand them out to supposed reviewers, they would just get sold elsewhere. G2A is far from the only grey market seller, it is just the most well known.

The first line of defence on this issue is the devs themselves. They are the ones who need to solve this issue, ideally with a process they could automate. Hell, they could even work together to create a joint website attached to a database, that can validate (set of arbitrary requirements, certain amount of subs or followers etc, with some account e-mail verification) and store trusted reviewers/previewers. Devs jump on to site search a name and get told if it's a trust worthy person to share keys to.

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Shriven Avatar
3401
1 Month ago

Just need a platform where you can get the games for free instead of pirating them now...Pay what you want model might work, actually.

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hfm Avatar
143
1 Month ago

Or something like Spotify for games. EA is doing it, but I mean there's only so many EA games you can play. Yeah I know all the artists are like "we make peanuts off Spotify". But that's the only way it'll work if you ask me. Maybe pay devs by playtime minutes or something. Shrug.

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Darkhog Avatar
52
1 Month ago

Maybe not Spotify, but Netflix for games. Name's Utomik. One flat subscription, access to many games.

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Jezcentral Avatar
500
1 Month ago

But bands can make money in other ways (mostly live concerts nowadays), but how else can game devs name money?

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rkain Avatar
1
1 Month ago

Authenticating the identities of people that make key requests is taxing. Indie publishers in particular don't have the time or resources to vet the requests. We've built a service called Woovit (www.woovit.com) that requires video creators to sign in with their YouTube and Twitch credentials to qualify to automatically get keys, based on filters (right now, the number of followers on the platforms, e.g., "1000 Twitch Followers") the publishers can set. For creators that qualify you get the keys you want instantly (up to 5, until you make a video) and we automatically report your videos back to the publishers.

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Darkhog Avatar
52
1 Month ago

Interesting. How does it look like from dev's/publisher's side?

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ThatThereTim Avatar
22
1 Month ago

I mean, ok, technically, the key itself is a legitimate key... but it's method of acquisition is shady/fraudulent AF.

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Aever Avatar
588
1 Month ago

What G2A needs to do is implement some sort of mechanism to allow developers to vet keys that are sold on the market. That is all.

Still on this, I can't understand something. G2A is an open-ish market, people can sell keys obtained from various sources. So:

- I can buy a key when it is on discount and resell it on G2A at a higher price, but still under it's full price.

- I can buy a key in a region where prices are lower due to the local purchasing power being far lower and sell it on G2A for "western" prices.

- I can sell a key that I no longer want. Reasons vary, from being gifted to me, buying a game I already had though a bundle, etc.

Some of these are shady practices no doubt, but I don't see how they directly hurt the developer. In all cases the developer received the pay they originally requested. Yes, you can argue that someone in UK should pay UK prices, but honestly this is a weak argument. We live in a time were information is global, all sorts of region locks are impossible to enforce and in most cases are detrimental to customers. Also, I would like to see someone prove that the UK customer that bought a key from a different region would have bought an UK key if the cheaper key was not available.

- keys "scammed" from developers by pretending to be an youtuber, reviewer, press, etc.

Yeah, these should be stopped from being resold, as the developer hasn't received any payment. The developer hasn't asked for a payment though, but the fact that the they were given based on faking an identity makes them illegal.

A worrying argument I keep hearing, and that I can't understand, is about key being bought with stolen credit cards. How I see this is:

- someone gains access to a credit card number and uses it to buy keys. At this point the developer is probably paid a fraction of the purchase, the rest being send to the retailer, publisher, etc.

- the true owner of the credit card notices the transactions. He or she contacts the bank and the bank attempts to recover the money by issuing chargebacks. Now it gets fuzzy for me. Who is chargedback? Probably, the retailer, so lets say Steam. Steam keeps the cut they received from the original transaction and dumps the chargeback on the developer?

Is someone can explain, please do.

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