Today’s Anti-Game Rotters Are Paymate

By Alec Meer on February 28th, 2012 at 3:29 pm.

Teenagers: crazy for triangles

As the poor chaps behind moody triangle-noir game Flatland: Fallen Angle observe, getting dicked over by an online payment firm seems to be something of a rite of passage for indie games these days. Still, perhaps finding yourself mentioned in the same breath as Minecraft, Project Zomboid and Xenonauts makes up for it to some degree. Flatland devs SeeThrough Studios had a day in the sun yesterday due to a fair bit of coverage across the web (including from some miserable Limey buggers who run a PC gaming site), and then a night in the cold darkness when their chosen online purchase service, Paymate, decided to cancel and refund all existing purchases of their $1 ‘Appreciation Edition.’ Which is even worse than the usual story of the goons at Paypal deciding to lockdown indies’ earnings for months.

Why did Paymate do this? Because it’s a game.

You can read the full story over in SeeThrough Studios’ surprisingly unhysterical post about it, but Paymate’s stated answer when pressed for a reason for their sudden cruelty was “We don’t work with online games companies, because teenagers use their parents credit cards to buy games, and then we end up having to refund them. End of story.”

‘End of story’ is about the least appropriate way of summarising an argument fabricated from uninformed, knee-jerk nonsense, but I suspect it’s not worth appealing to an entity capable of such illogical sweeping generalisations. So, everyone who bought the paid version of Flatland has been refunded, and for now there’s no way to buy it. It doesn’t seem to have brought financial disaster upon the devs, but clearly it’s no fun whatsoever for them.

The free ‘Curiosity Version‘ remains available (and does contain the vast majority of the game anyway), and the devs are looking for a new payment provider. What a lousy state of affairs: and, clearly, if you’re an indie, be sure to write Paymate above even Paypal on your list of services to avoid like a particularly virulent plague.

SeeThrough’s Saul Alexander tells me that the Austrlian Game Developer’s Association is looking into ways to help, and the Aussie game dev community is being generally supportive, so hopefully there’ll be a happy ending before too long. And more Flatland, ideally.

, , , , .

64 Comments »

  1. haowan says:

    FFS.

  2. SquidInABox says:

    Use Fastspring. Seriously I have never had any problems with them and their customer service is excellent.

  3. simoroth says:

    So they didn’t want to have to refund people. So they refunded everyone!

    Every provider has its horror stories. From what I’ve seen Fastspring are the way to go for most indies.

    • Scott Kevill says:

      So they didn’t want to have to refund people. So they refunded everyone!

      Paymate didn’t explain it particularly well.

      The problem they have is with chargebacks where they will be charged a $30 fee (and increase the chance of losing their merchant account) for each time someone disputes a credit card charge with their bank. That’s in addition to losing the actual payment.

      Refunding all the payments is a preemptive action to avoid that.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      The appropriate preemptive action would be instituting a policy that 1$ purchases were not allowed.

      Refunding all purchases after they were made is the opposite of preemptive action, especially since it is extremely unlikely that more than a few of those purchases were fraud.

      It comes across as entirely bizarre. Really, how many teenagers do you know that would steal their parent’s credit cards just to use them on obscure indie games. Itunes, or steam sales are a bit more plausible.

    • Skabooga says:

      I suppose the smart move on Paymate’s part would have been to investigate the company they were handling payments for before doing business with them, especially if they are going to insist on having arbitrary restrictions.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      @Scott Kevill: You say that as if you think it’s a legitimate defense.

      If Paymate doesn’t want to do business with certain groups, they have every right to say up front “we will not do business with these groups.” They could even have said “whoops, sorry, we erred when we agree to do business with you and will no longer transfer payments starting now.”

      What they did instead was agree to do business in all apparent good faith, then go “haha, just kidding” and steal earned-and-fulfilled payments out of SeeThrough’s pockets.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      They have a page detailing businesses not accepted. People who make and sell videogames aren’t on there so it’s hardly bizarre-o-world stuff to assume that they’ll accept the business, right?*

      Also, frankly “they didn’t explain it very well” is a massive understatement for anyone who ends a communication with “end of story”. I prefer “were rude fuckers” but YMMV, obv.

      *although I also agree with Rob’s comments a little way down.

    • Scott Kevill says:

      @Scott Kevill: You say that as if you think it’s a legitimate defense.

      Actually, no, I didn’t. Nor do I condone their actions or how they handled this.

      What I did do is explain the apparent misperceived contradiction of not wanting “refunds” versus refunding all payments. ie. Chargebacks = very expensive, refunds = free or little impact.

  4. Kdansky says:

    Congratulations, Paymate. You’ve just seriously damaged your reputation. But hey, it’s not a big deal, because reputation isn’t important to a company whom people trust with their money. Right?

    • :ghiacciato says:

      The sad thing is, they actually didn’t. No one except for people who follow indie game news will care or even know about this incident. I think it would be marvellous if we could get this some wider coverage.

      Work your magic, internet.

    • mbourgon says:

      Hey, I’d never heard of Paymate before this article. So yes, they poisoned the well. (I’d never heard of this particular indie game before either)

    • Geen says:

      Silly paymate, teenage credit card theft is for pr0n, not indie games.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    The problem is that credit cards are not nearly as common in Europe as they are in the USA (I don’t know about the rest of the world) and that often leaves Paypal as the only way of paying. Steam, Gamersgate and other, bigger companies thankfully offer alternative payment methods.

    • lordcooper says:

      It amazes me when people say this. Direct Debit/bank cards can be used online too. Pretty much EVERYONE has one of these, right?

    • simoroth says:

      @lordcooper: In some European countries, for some banks, cards do not work on line and you have to have a credit card.

    • Neurotic says:

      Yah, I agree with Anthile, but I think it’s not so much that credit cards are *un*common so much as that bank/debit cards are issuable to anyone with a bank account, which means that pretty much the whole 18-30+ demographic then has spending power. Whereas credit cards are comparatively speaking, a bit of a hassle to get, and require such an alien beast as a ‘credit history’, which then has to be ‘good’.

      Funnily enough, I had a PayPal payment frozen today too. Must be something in the air.

    • kikito says:

      This is totally true. Most Europeans don’t know what a credit card is.

      Education is a luxury reserved ony to the very wealthy.

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      I doubt it has anything to do with how widespread CCs are, although I assume there are significant variations across Europe (but I suspect such variations will be less significant among the adult demographic that buys PC games). Where are you, Anthile? And how widespread is CC usage there?

      In the UK CC usage is about as widespread as in the USA but there are many more web stores here that don’t directly accept CCs, because the risk factor and associated costs are much higher due to differences in anti-fraud regulations between the EU and USA. If you’re small it’s much easier and safer to go the Paypal/Amazon/Google route, despite the sometimes arbitrary nature of all three of those.

    • faelnor says:

      I wouldn’t think western europe would have a problem with smartcard presence, since the french invented it.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      “Whereas credit cards are comparatively speaking, a bit of a hassle to get, and require such an alien beast as a ‘credit history’, which then has to be ‘good’.”

      You can get a VISA card without credit attached which works just like a debit card. My bank practically threw one at me the moment I turned 18 and opened a new account for my student loan, so unless it’s very different in other parts of Europe it’s no more of a hassle to get a VISA card than something like a Maestro debit card, at least if you’re over 18.

    • Mistabashi says:

      “You can get a VISA card without credit attached which works just like a debit card”

      Yeah, that’s called a Debit Card.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      @Mistabashi: Which works in any circumstance you’d normally need a credit card which is what’s relevant here. You cannot attach credit to a pure debit card (Switch/Maestro, for example).

    • Mistabashi says:

      Yeah, that’s still just a regular debit card. Debit cards use the same companies (eg VISA / Masstro etc) to process transactions, if they didn’t there’s be no way to actually use them as debit cards (eg it would just be a cash card).

      The only difference between a debit card and a credit card is that with a credit card you’re borrowing money from your bank, whereas with a debit card it comes straight from your bank account. The payment processors are exactly the same, and barring a few circumstances (eg security deposit on a rental car) you can use either interchangeably.

    • Weevil says:

      You would be amazed how difficult it is to get a visa card here in Belgium for example. When I moved from the UK last year I now have an account with a maestro card that cannot be used on-line at all. Maestro UK and Maestro EU are totally different things. I usually end up doing bank transfers to paypal, then making a purchase which can take a few days.

    • Dorque says:

      Outside of the United States, debit cards generally cannot be used online.

  6. oldkc says:

    Doesn’t want to have to refund money…..

    REFUND ALL THE PURCHASES!!!!1!11!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      on the one hand, as a service dealing with money, we do have procedures to refund people money,

      on the other hand, it is a very large red button that refunds everything all at once because we are completely lazy and incompetent.

    • Scott Kevill says:

      Doesn’t want to have to refund money…..

      REFUND ALL THE PURCHASES!!!!1!11!

      Posted this above, but again here for good measure.

      Paymate didn’t explain it particularly well.

      The problem they have is with chargebacks where they will be charged a $30 fee (and increase the chance of losing their merchant account) for each time someone disputes a credit card charge with their bank. That’s in addition to losing the actual payment.

      Refunding all the payments is a preemptive action to avoid that.

    • Shuck says:

      @Scott Kevill: To be fair, whatever bullshit explanation they use is somewhat beside the point* – that they accepted their business and then retro-actively denied it, screwing over the developers.

      *Though still bullshit.

    • Scott Kevill says:

      Again, I was addressing exactly the message I quoted. Not the whole situation.

      I explained the apparent misperceived contradiction of not wanting “refunds” versus refunding all payments. ie. Chargebacks = very expensive, refunds = free or little impact.

      There’s no contradiction there.

  7. JackShandy says:

    Is there a solution here for Indie devs, then? Is there some kind of 100% amazing service that you can entrust your financial stability to, or is it just a matter of choosing how you want to be destroyed?

    • sneetch says:

      I thought that such a service existed and I thought that it was Desura.

      Why isn’t it Desura? Are they too expensive?

    • SquidInABox says:

      It’s really easy and I am still amazed that these stories happen because even a quick google for “Indie game dev payment processors” will send you to this http://www.pixelprospector.com/the-big-list-of-payment-processors/ which will tell you that you want to use Fastspring, BMT Micro or Plimus who have long been the payment processors of choice for Indie devs who sell direct.

      The only reason I can think of to use Paymate is because it’s an Australian company showing solidarity. Which is a terrible reason to pick a payment processor. Seriously you lose sod all from currency exchange compared to how much you lose when they refund all your money to customers.

    • Strange_guy says:

      Checking that link the minimum fees presents means BT Micro and fast spring aren’t practical for $1- so can people stop making comments recommending fast spring. Still Plimus should work.

  8. wccrawford says:

    Sounds to me like they’ve had issues in the past and instead of having a repeat, they’ve decided not to deal with certain customers. That’s their choice.

    See, parents probably don’t call up Paymate and ask for their money back. They probably call up Visa, and get the charges reversed. That’s really painful for Paymate, and too much of that means they can’t accept payments via Visa in the future. (Visa isn’t alone here, though. This goes for everyone else, too.)

    This is a perfect opportunity for a payment processor to stand up and gain a lot of IndieGame business. But I’m guessing they won’t because it’s not really a money-maker for them, due to all the charge-backs and other nonsense.

  9. Apples says:

    I’d quite like to see this fabled unreliable teenager who steals a credit card to buy a $1 obscure indie game about triangles…

  10. Nim says:

    Could someone explain to me why standard banks, bank transactions and bank accounts does not suffice for this kind of thing?

    • Optimaximal says:

      Likely obscene payment processing charges & the requirement to prove regular turnover before being given business accounts, more than anything else…

  11. cato_uticensis says:

    Try as I might, I can’t seem to find anything in Paymate’s TOS (or, indeed, anywhere on their site) that suggests that they don’t work with game developers. An arbitrary refusal or revocation of a paid-for financial service seems ripe for litigation, not that it’s worth the devs’ time.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Durkonkell says:

    Mental. They may as well have replied with “lolol games are for kids!” as their reason.

    Alternatively, “We don’t work with online games companies because we hate money, and we’re determined not to take advantage of a growing and highly profitable market. Nope, we wouldn’t want to be involved in a runaway success like Minecraft under any circumstance. End of story.”

  13. waha says:

    i’m a 26yo man, play videogames and want to give the developers my own money goddamnit

    • JackShandy says:

      Nice try, scamp. Why don’t you give back your mom’s RPS account before she figures out what you’re up to?

  14. aircool says:

    I am The Lord Emperor Of The Known And Unknown Universe. Bend to my will and do as I command. End of Story ¬_¬

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Piss off i’m the Emperor and I say everyone do the exact OPPOSITE of what I say. Violaters will be put to death.

      Now watch in amusement as no one knows quite what to do…

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      You want me to urinate on an emperor?

  15. The V Man says:

    As an indie game dev and consumer, I’m continually horrified by these online payment companies. I also have no bloody idea who I could sell any of my stuff with, which is a pretty serious issue in and of itself.

  16. TsunamiWombat says:

    For all the Indie Devs who havn’t read it in the comments yet:

    Use fastspring
    Use fastspring
    use Fastspring
    use fastspring
    use Fast Spring

  17. lordfrikk says:

    Yeah I see the crowd of raging parents doing a charge-back to get their precious 1 buck back… Holy shit, they’re unbelievable.

  18. Ruffian says:

    stupidest justification I’ve ever heard.

  19. vrittis says:

    I’d be interested in RPS doing a “State of the Bullion” article explaining:
    - the who’s who of payment processors regarding games
    - why is Paypal something to avoid (i heard about the Mojang Debacle, but apart from that i haven’t been too attentive)
    - what is recommended

  20. Shiny says:

    I’m about 93% sure that this is a result of chargebacks they’ve gotten on microtransaction-based games, and they are simply not bright or concerned enough to realize that this is something else.

  21. BobsLawnService says:

    If their “No games” policy was clearly documented during signup I actually have no issues with this. Can anyone confirm whether this was the case?

  22. Premium User Badge

    Saul says:

    Just in case anyone is still looking at this thread: We are back up and running! You can come and appreciate us over here: http://seethroughstudios.com/2012/03/05/were-alive-and-accepting-payments-again/

    Thanks for all the suggestions and moral support!