Grey-market reseller G2A has had a rough time lately. After teaming up with Gearbox to publish a special edition of Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, it drew criticism from the internet and some of gaming’s biggest critics.
TotalBiscuit threatened to pull future coverage of Gearbox games if it went through with the deal, our good friend Jim Sterling dedicated a whole episode of his show The Jimquisition to it, just to name a few. Gearbox took notice, and after G2A failed to meet the developer’s demands to improve its service, the process to pull out of the publishing deal began.
Except… none of this will actually hurt G2A. A month down the line, the community will have forgotten all about the Bulletstorm fiasco, and G2A will carry on being the shady, key-reselling pricks they are.
For those who are unaware, G2A is a third-party key-reselling site. The idea is simple: person A has a key to a game they want to sell, they sell it to person B for cheaper than retail price through G2A, and G2A take a cut of the money. In theory that’s fine, but the site’s become a haven for those illegitimately gaining keys – be it through credit card fraud or scamming naïve developers out of review codes – selling them on for profit and causing major damage to the developers in the process.
G2A offers a paid-for service called G2A Shield, which is, according to them, access to a live-chat support service if the key is revoked or invalid. Read: it’s protection if you buy stolen goods. There is more to the site, such as G2A Direct where keys come directly from the developer or publisher, but they’re not all that relevant.
The reason G2A won’t be damaged by the current outcry is pretty simple: shady sites attract two groups of customers: those who don’t care, and those who don’t know.
A common misconception the gaming community has about itself is that it is representative. That people who play games must also be following games news, discussion, the latest trends and the hottest of takes. That just ain’t true, some people play games and take no extra interest in them, and that’s totally fine. However, it also means outrages like the one surrounding G2A will go completely unnoticed by those people.
There will be a small subsection of people who don’t know, but also keep up with gaming news and criticism enough to be enlightened by the controversy and might change their way, but that’s a small group of a smaller group. Ironically, Gearbox head Randy Pitchford falls into this group somehow, despite owning a large development studio and publishing company. Turns out being plugged into games 24/7 doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bothered to check up on what’s going on in games.
The second group are those who don’t care. Those who look past all of G2A’s shadiness, all of the damage caused to developers, and all of the fraud going on to get those tasty, tasty keys, and just see cheap games.
There are reasonable (albeit not entirely valid) reasons for this mindset: someone is young, poor, in a country where games are heavily taxed and exorbitantly expensive, or in a country where more legitimate means are screwing them over through wonky exchange rates. Games don’t cost the same all over the world, and people have different amounts of disposable income they can dedicate to an already expensive hobby. The answer to this for most people is just “save up like an adult”, but when games can cost 95% of your monthly income, it’s never that simple.
Heck, when I was younger and more obnoxious I bought a handful of games through G2A just because I really wanted the game, but couldn’t afford it. G2A provided a way to get what I wanted, everyone else be damned, and that appeals to a lot of people, unfortunately. No amount of YouTube videos or news reports can stand up to “cheap games” when you’re broke.
So, going after Gearbox (who is, let’s be clear, also a shady developer, so their partnership with G2A was a perfect match) won’t work to push G2A back into the pit it crawled out from. Instead of leaning on G2A directly, there are a couple of areas where a bit of pressure might make a bigger impact.
First off, streamers. G2A has extensive sponsorship and affiliate programs (called G2A Goldmine), and a big part of this is getting streamers and youtubers on-side to peddle their wares. G2A will give these ‘influencers’ a cut of the money when a viewer buys a game, which, especially in countries where G2A is an appealing proposition, can mean big money for the streamer.
At the time of writing, I am watching a streamer pulling in 21,000 viewers, and right below the stream is a big ol’ button that includes their name as a cashback code on G2A, and a way to join the affiliate program through him (think pyramid scheme). That’s a lot of eyeballs for a dodgy reseller.
The second place is price comparison sites. The biggest one (unnamed to avoid assisting their search rankings) lists prices from both legitimate (Origin, DL Gamer, GamesPlanet, Amazon etc.) and illegitimate sources, giving them all equal standing on the listing. Surprisingly, this site also offers coupon codes and uses referral links to give them a cut of the profits. Only use sites that give legitimate sources, such as IsThereAnyDeal.com and the /r/gamedeals subreddit.
Beating back sites like G2A isn’t about going straight to the face. G2A knows it’s going to be supported by either the naïve or the uncaring no matter who slags them off. It’s a site that profits off of the unfair, uneven pricing practices of legitimate sellers and a sprawling referral scheme to keep the influencers in check. Not supporting, or even speaking out against (in a non-harassing way), streamers and sites that push G2A and present it as ‘totally fine, brah’ is the only way G2A, and sites like it, are going to wither away and die.