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G2A heckled by developers at its own panel

International conference a black eye for game key reseller

Outbound sales specialist Marius Mirek at this year’s GDC, where he confronted a developer live on stage.
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.

In a bizarre spectacle at an international game development conference today, a room full of indie devs heckled a G2A representative while the panel’s host looked on, largely helpless to stop it.

Marius Mirek is the outbound sales specialist at game key reseller G2A. He was personally involved in last year’s scandal with independent developer Tiny Build, wherein his organization was accused of selling nearly half a million dollars worth of fraudulently obtained game keys. Mirek was on stage at this year’s Reboot Develop, a developer-focused conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia. His talk, titled “G2A Unplugged,” began as an attempt to explain the key reseller’s business model and clear the air of lingering accusations of fraud and money laundering.

The panel was hosted by European editor Dan Pearson, who appeared alternately incredulous of and embarrassed for Mirek throughout the presentation. One of Pearson’s first questions was quite leading, and asked if G2A was founded as a “grey market reseller” five years ago or if it just came to the business model naturally over time.

“I know we’re called a grey marketplace,” said Mirek, pushing back, “but as our team sees it there’s nothing really grey about it, beyond people not understanding our business model.”

Pearson persisted.

“You must understand that obviously a large portion of the business and a lot of the reason that people choose G2A as a service,” he said, “is because people can get stuff at a lower price than they can from elsewhere, and a lot of the reasoning behind that is because of people buying [games] in cheaper territories and selling them to people where it’s generally more expensive and they still make a saving. That’s the very definition of grey market trading.”

It’s at that point that Mirek turned to the audience, comprised mostly of independent developers, to plead his case directly.

“We’ve noticed really quickly that gamers want to access your games,” he said. “They don’t have $60 or $70 to acquire the game that they want. Codes that are available on G2A, they come from various places. Either from sales or bundles or from people who have acquired keys at some point and they just want to sell it and buy the game they want.”

In the video, it appears that the room was largely silent at that point.

“Obviously customers have the right to sell at any price they want to sell a product, just like on eBay or any other market place. But mind you, we have developers, publishers, the list is available on the marketplace, that are participating in G2A. Now people see [that] and publishers see that this is a market that can be no longer ignored. They want to get that value conscious customer.”

Polygon reached out to many of those developers involved in the G2A Direct program. It’s a partnership that allows developers to, among other things, keep a 10 percent portion of every game sold on the G2A marketplace regardless of its provenance. Most of those who answered our questions were lukewarm about the program, with one stating that the only reason he joined up was because he couldn’t get G2A to take down the keys for his games that were already on sale.

The presentation devolved from there, and the room regularly filled with laughter. Mirek seemed to deflate as several questioners asked about the ongoing conflict between G2A and its first AAA partner, Gearbox Publishing, which recently moved to dissolve their relationship. Several developers piled on via social media.

At one point indie dev Mike Bithell went to the microphone to mock Mirek to his face.

“Obviously you charge customers who want to avoid fraudulent stuff with the G2A Shield system,” Bithell said. “You ask us to contribute our time and energy to detect fraud on your system for 10 percent. I’m interested in what the 750 people [who work at G2A], 40 percent of whom are women, are doing to earn the 90 percent of the transaction.”

“There are people working in marketing,” Mirek said, at which point Bithell loudly laughed into the microphone, “risk and financing.”

“Marketing?” Bithel asked, interrupting Mirek. “Is it really marketing?”

“No, actually, IT and security,” Mirek said.

“Good job,” chided Bithell.

You can watch the entire talk on Twitch, starting at the four-minute mark.

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