For many PC gamers, getting good deals on games is a life-long effort. Many have grown used to paying a minimum for games as the industry standard $59.99 MSRP has become increasingly less attractive.
In response to market demand, cd-key market websites such as G2A and Kinguin have popped up. These websites have quickly become responsible for millions of dollars in cd-key transactions per year, spurred by low price points that major platforms like Steam and GOG haven’t been able to compete with.
In the case of G2A, its core competency is affordability. This has been achieved through deregulation of transactions and sellers. A significant portion of its revenue stream comes from taxation of what many call “black market sales”. These sales typically include transactions of cd-keys acquired through various means of theft, most commonly credit card theft. It’s made millions off providing a platform for these transactions, earning bad press in the process. Unsurprisingly, this week it yet again finds itself thrust into the spotlight.
G2A’s storefront is full of low-priced games.
Two days ago indie developer tinyBuild published a large blog post on its site titled “G2A sold $450k worth of our game keys”. Within the post tinyBuild explained that merchants on G2A have been able to make upward of $4,000 per month using the following method:
- Get ahold of a database of stolen credit cards on the darkweb
- Go to a bundle/3rd party key reseller and buy a ton of game keys
- Put them up onto G2A and sell them at half the retail price
Eventually a credit card chargeback is filed. The credit card company will cancel the transaction, and the reseller will lose the money and the cd-key. Meanwhile, the thief will have already sold the cd-key through G2A to a buyer who was oblivious to where the cd-key came from.
It’s a cycle that has become increasingly prevalent and is killing small developers and resellers alike. While the obvious response is to open a lawsuit, such proceedings have immense costs and unsatisfactory success rates. Instead of addressing the issue, G2A has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships involving Twitch streamers and professional eSport events.
G2A is an official sponsor of many professional gaming teams and events.
It’s no wonder why tinyBuild argues that G2A profits off the misfortune of publishers and developers. In its case, tens of thousands of cd-keys for Punch Club, Party Hard, and SpeedRunners were stolen and immediately published on G2A, leading to quick sales and valuable transaction funds for G2A. Buyers usually walk away satisfied having spent bottom dollar on a game they were interested in.
These accusations are nothing new, and have been brought up several times in the past. Most recently, Ubisoft suffered at the hands of G2A with tens of thousands of black market Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed cd-keys having found their way onto the site. The losses were so significant that Ubisoft invested a sizable portion of its resources to track down suspicious keys and deactivate them. It would receive pushback, however, and later reactivated the keys allowing G2A’s cycle to once again emerge victorious.
Following the publication of tinyBuild’s post and resulting press, G2A has attempted to deflect blame in typical fashion. Today, it released an official statement criticizing tinyBuild in multiple ways, including its use of MSRP to come up with its “$450k loss” figure, and for not providing a “list of suspicious cd-keys” for G2A to investigate. Despite widespread scrutiny, G2A has not and will not invest any resources to preventing sale of black market keys.
tinyBuild published this chart to calculate its estimated losses.
This is precisely why PC gamers are rallying together and urging one-another to not support G2A and similar sales channels. G2A isn’t interested in, nor does it necessarily benefit from, being virtuous. It has a history of not taking the well-being of developers or the industry into account, and has benefited immensely because of it.
In conclusion, next time you’re about to head to G2A to buy a game and save a couple dollars, think twice about what you’re supporting. If you’re in a tough spot financially and want to pay the least amount possible for games, Steam’s Summer Sale is said to be starting tomorrow and will last more than a week.
By purchasing through Steam, GoG, Origin, UPlay, BattleNet, and other similar platforms your purchase is guaranteed to support the developer and publisher that made the game experience possible, in addition to ensuring that you have a legitimate cd-key that won’t be banned. After all, where your money goes is what directs the trends of this industry (i.e. DLC). Black market practices are something that will only become more prevalent with time unless consumers do something about it.