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Gearbox drops partnership with key reseller G2A

The key to unhappiness

Bulletstormers Gearbox have dropped out of a deal to sell their remastered shooter on G2A.com, following a spat over the key reseller’s business practices. They were selling Bulletstorm: Full Clip [official site] and its expensive, statue-sporting collector’s editions through the site but following complaints and a backlash focusing on the reseller’s less-than-wholesome history of complaints, that has fallen apart.

Last week we saw that Gearbox seemed to listen to those complaints and had openly given G2A a list of demands, including better protection against fraud for both developers and customers. Gearbox have since decided those demands were not met and have now cut ties with the reseller completely, taking their game off the shelf. Obviously, it’s more complex than all this. If you really want to dive into this slurry pit of videogame distribution, come with me and I’ll try my best to explain.

The complaints made to Gearbox, which were spearheaded by videomonger John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain, pointed out that the key reseller has historically been lackadaisical about combating “stolen keys”. These come about when, for example, someone uses a stolen credit card number to buy large quantities of game keys direct from a developer’s website. The card will later be flagged as stolen and no money will go to the developer, who’ll also receive a hefty chargeback. Meanwhile, the key is out in the wild and can be quickly re-sold for much cheaper than face value. Fraudsters can use a service like G2A to do that. Publisher tinyBuild last year complained that they had lost $450,000 worth of game sales due to this practice. It has also affected larger publishers, like Ubisoft.

But Gearbox seemed oddly unfazed by any such reputation and went ahead with a deal to sell two special editions of Bulletstorm: Full Clip on the site, costing £99 and £226 respectively, featuring 3D printed statues, t-shirts, dog tags and all the other guff usually found in those things. The deal launched on April 4. But within two days the developer was back-pedalling quite fast, releasing a list of demands to G2A, which you can read in full here. Basically, they wanted G2A to reform much of their website. “Gearbox Publishing won't support a marketplace that is unwilling to make these commitments and execute on them,” they said. Now that the game has launched on Steam, and G2A hasn't changed anything about their business, the publisher broke off the deal and Full Clip is no longer for sale on G2A.

Meanwhile, G2A have sent us a statement defending their business practices and insist that they have all measures to stop fraud already in place. They also claim that they have “one of the lowest fraud rates in the industry” but offer no accompanying statistics or figures to back this claim. Essentially, it is their view that they have done nothing wrong. Here’s three separate paragraphs from their lengthy statement which more or less sums up their position (or you can read the full statement here).

The reality is that the keys on G2A.COM come from legitimate sources. Our marketplace is a leader in security and boasts one of the lowest fraud rates in the industry. G2A.COM employs over 100 people whose job is to ensure the legality of keys, transaction security, and compliance with the most stringent anti-fraud regulations.

The problem is that some developers do not want to accept that people resell their games. The developers would like to control the market and all the sales channels within it, imposing higher prices and prohibiting the resale of unused games. G2A.COM does not agree with this – we respect the buyers’ rights, buyers who often unfortunately believe that the rules set forth by developers follow the law.

We respect our critics and believe that they have the good of the industry at heart. Unfortunately, sometimes they do not understand how G2A.COM works and as such this misunderstanding causes them to mislead the public about our company. The best proof of this are the four ultimatums formulated in part by John Bain, which, it turns out that were completely unnecessary as all of the issues raised have long been a part of the G2A.COM marketplace. Most of the allegations levied against us are based on both a lack of knowledge, and a lack of desire to learn the other side of the story.

So that’s where we stand now in the ongoing shitshow that is key reselling. What a cast of colourful characters: A publisher who is trying to save face on an abortive business decision they probably thought they could easily carry out. A YouTuber who called them out. And an eBay for game keys with an unsavoury reputation holding its hands up and pulling an 'I-didn’t-touch-him' face to the referee. VIDEOGAMES. Our advice? It's possible to get cheap games without going through icky channels. Sales pop up like weeds, while more wholesome key sellers such as Humble have their own steps for combating fraud.

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About the Author
Brendan Caldwell avatar

Brendan Caldwell


Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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