Despite promises it was out of the business of reselling game activation keys, G2A is back in it, and it is also competing directly with key resellers in their own marketplace, on terms that penalize their business.
Since at least February 2017, G2A has been buying up game codes, building an inventory of them, and selling those games off in bundles. That competes directly with the resellers on its own marketplace. G2A has also announced tighter controls on those resellers. Beginning July 1, its more than 200,000 registered resellers can no longer sell their keys anonymously. Similarly, G2A’s customers cannot conceal their location in order to get around European sales tax, called value added tax or VAT.
The return to reselling game keys comes almost one year after G2A CEO Bartosz Skwarczek told Polygon in no uncertain terms that his company was out of the key reselling business.
But in February, the company launched a service which it calls G2A Deal. It's a bundle of games offered at a deep discount as a one-time purchase or as a recurring subscription. G2A confirmed to Polygon that those keys activating the games are purchased directly from developers and publishers.
The first bundle included Lords of the Fallen, Superhot, Dirt 3, Siberia and Siberia 2 for the equivalent of less than $2. The current G2A Deal offers up Tropico 4, Dungeons 2, Case: Animatronics, 12 is Better than 6 and Car Mechanic Simulator 2015 — a bundle that G2A itself values at more than $90 when bought on Steam — for about $3.40. An auto-renewing subscription is slightly less.
"G2A Deal is created by and is part of G2A Direct, our developer and publisher program," Gabriela Lefanowicz, G2A's public relations specialist, tells Polygon. "The way it works is that we purchase games directly from developers and publishers and place them into our G2A Deal pack. Unlike other such offers, we pay developers and publishers up front for the keys. All the developers who have already worked with us on G2A Deal have been satisfied with the program and the way in which it works."
Still, at least one developer who was solicited for inclusion in G2A Deal isn't happy about the program. Nick Popovich, the maker of Slime Rancher, posted an email from G2A. He used it as a symbol of his solidarity with other indie developers, some of which accuse G2A of undercutting them and cheating them out of sales. G2A vehemently denies the allegations.
"Unfortunately, some developers choose to respond aggressively to a polite email from one of our employees and then use it for self-promotion," Lefanowicz said. "Although such responses and instances are rare, it still isn't something we like to see. Thankfully, we cooperate with the majority of developers without any problems."
Polygon spoke with some of the more than 100 developers in the G2A Direct program in March which, in addition to other benefits, allows developers to collect a fee from anyone on the G2A marketplace that sells their games second-hand. Everyone who agreed to speak with us on the record said that while G2A was a good partner, the sales they realized under this program were marginal at best.
When reached for comment on its Deal program, G2A sent along an additional note about upcoming changes to its security policies. Since its inception, G2A has offered its resellers anonymity. While their identities are known to G2A, they were allowed to publicly hide behind a pseudonym. Additionally, buyers were allowed to self-report their country of residency, allowing for the possibility of value added tax fraud. Neither will be allowed after July 1.
“Starting July 1st, 2017, buyers will have access to detailed information about the sellers on G2A.COM, including their names and addresses,” the note said. “This information will be included, among other places, on the bills provided to buyers, allowing them to know exactly who they are purchasing products from.
“Additionally, G2A.COM will add automatic geolocation to streamline its marketplace. Buyers will no longer have to select their location from a drop-down menu when purchasing an item on G2A.COM. Instead, their location will be determined automatically using data taken from independent and reliable sources.”
Polygon will follow up with the marketplace to explore how those changes are implemented.
No word yet on when G2A will be making the promised changes to its controversial Shield program, which critics call manipulative and anti-consumer.
Update: After our article was published G2A reached out to add that they have improved the cancellation process for G2A Shield, and have also created a video tutorial.