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Repeatedly accused of fraud, G2A offering independent audits of its catalog

Meanwhile, one developer is petitioning the company to stop selling some game keys altogether

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a man in a blue blazer and yellow pants holds up a shield logo
G2A CEO Bartosz Skwarczek pitching the G2A Shield program on stage. The subscription service has since been discontinued.
Bartosz Skwarczek
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.

G2A, the company behind the controversial G2A Marketplace, is making what it claims to be a bold offer. Following a fresh wave of outrage over its business practices, the Polish-owned, Hong Kong-based company is offering to open its catalog of game keys to an independent auditor in an attempt to keep stolen keys from being sold through its marketplace.

“We will pay developers 10 times the money they lost on chargebacks after their illegally obtained keys were sold on G2A,” the company said in a statement. “The idea is simple: developers just need to prove such a thing actually happened.”

Previously, G2A has offered audits privately. It worked with developers to verify the legitimacy of game keys that went up for sale, and to prevent stolen codes from being sold. The catch is that first developers must reveal to the company all the keys that it believes have been stolen; only then will G2A check its database and ferret them out.

Today’s offer is substantially different, and includes an independent entity that will look into the keys directly.

“To assure honesty and transparency,” G2A said, “we will ask a reputable and independent auditing company to make an unbiased examination of both sides — the developer’s store and G2A Marketplace. [...] The auditing company will check if any game keys sold on G2A were obtained using stolen credit cards on a developer’s store compliant with card scheme rules from Visa and MasterCard/payment provider rules.”

A controversial business model

G2A has been in business for nearly 10 years. Five years ago it opened the G2A Marketplace, a place for individuals to sell digital game keys. And, while its offerings have expanded to include some physical goods, selling codes for video games remains at the core of its business model. G2A has itself sold keys on its own marketplace.

The trouble is that only G2A has access to the full list of game keys up for sale on its marketplace, and only game developers have access to the full list of game keys that have been fraudulently obtained. G2A claims it has no ability to police those codes without help from developers, and game developers have shown varying levels of interest in participating in the process. G2A does what it can (or what it is forced to do) to verify the identity of third-party resellers, and then deals with customer service issues as they arise. All the while it has claimed it’s a legitimate business, a competitor to organizations like Amazon and eBay.

But G2A has sometimes been accused of actions that are both anti-developer, and anti-consumer. Game developer Tiny Build says G2A cost it close to $500,000 when a batch of stolen game codes were sold on the G2A Marketplace in 2015.

Later, in an interview with Polygon, G2A’s CEO doubled down, saying that his organization is “just delivering the platform and [resellers] are doing the transactions.” The tussle then spilled out into the physical world, with a G2A employee angrily confronting a game developer during the Game Developers Conference, and vice versa.

G2A has long put up barriers between itself and its customers. The most infamous was its G2A Shield program, which charged users a subscription fee for the ability to have customer service issues dealt with directly. G2A Shield was notoriously difficult to cancel, and Harry Brignull, a user experience specialist, noted how difficult the process could be for customers to understand.

G2A continued its yearslong and vociferous defense of its business practices in the most recent statement.

“We’re not doing this because we’re the ones to blame,” G2A says, “but because we want to finally stop the accusations we’ve been getting from some devs. The alleged frauds didn’t happen in our ecosystem, but on their own stores. Thieves could’ve sold these keys anywhere. But if they chose G2A, we’re ready to make up for it. That is, if [developers] agree on an independent audit conducted by one of the most respected auditing companies in the world.”

G2A offered to pay for the first three audits in their entirety. Every audit thereafter will be split between it and the developer.

For at least one game developer, it’s too little too late. Mike Rose, who publishes his games under the No More Robots label, launched a petition Friday, the same day G2A made its statement. Citing G2A’s own figures, he reasons that if independent games are such a small part of its business, the company should just refuse to sell codes for those games altogether.

At the time of publication, the petition has nearly 900 signatures.