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Indie dev says gray market key seller cost them $450K in sales (update)

“Websites like G2A are facilitating a fraud-fueled economy”

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Tiny Build, the developer behind games like Punch Club, Party Hard and SpeedRunners, say that game code marketplace G2A sold $450,000 worth of their products, many of them fraudulently acquired. The ensuing chargebacks put them in hot water with their payment provider and ultimately cost them thousands in lost revenue. Making things even more uncomfortable for them, this all occurred during a window of time that Tiny Build was attempting to formalize a relationship with G2A in order to allow them to sell authentic game keys.

"Websites like G2A are facilitating a fraud-fueled economy where key resellers are being hit with tons of stolen credit card transactions," Alex Nichiporchik wrote on the official Tiny Build blog. "These websites are now growing rapidly due to low pricing of game keys."

G2A, which has in the past sponsored such high-profile streamers as Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg, is a marketplace that allows for the resale of game codes. Essentially anyone that passes their brief vetting process is allowed to put items up for sale anonymously, a process that in 2015 took Polygon seconds to accomplish. Should something go wrong with a game code, G2A promises to make things right for customers. They also charge an additional fee for expedited customer service, called the G2A Shield program.

But the cost of dealing with third-party game code resellers can be significant for game developers and publishers. In today’s post Nichiporchik explains how Tiny Build established a small online store to sell their game codes directly to fans. He claims that fraudsters purchased thousands of codes through the portal, and began selling them on G2A.

"The shop collapsed when we started to get hit by chargebacks," Nichiporchik said, referring to the process by which credit card processors wipe away fraudulent transactions made with stolen credit cards. "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."

Polygon was able to reach Nichiporchik by phone, and learned that he was able to purchase his own games from G2A and reference key codes sold through his storefront back to individual fraudulent credit card transactions. Oddly enough, he says, this was all around the same time that G2A was courting Tiny Build to become an official reseller. Part of their pitch to him was the sheer volume of his games being sold through G2A.

Using G2A’s own numbers, Nichiporchik was able to get a quick look at the volume of apparent fraud taking place.

Nichiporchik asked where all these keys on the G2A marketplace were coming from, and how exactly G2A would compensate him for the fraud. He says this was their response:

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 Tiny Build 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.

Tiny Build’s story comes after many months of G2A attempting to build up their image in the U.S. after multiple outlets, including Polygon, related unflattering first-hand accounts of using their services and others like them. They recently sponsored the IGDA booth at the Game Developers Conference and also made an appearance at SXSW.

"G2A.COM and US President Barack Obama Were Present During South By South West," reads a recent G2A press release sent to Polygon.

We’ve reached out to G2A for more information.

Update: Polygon received a statement from G2A and additional commentary from both Tiny Build and the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). You can find more here.

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