TinyBuild CEO Says They Lost $450,000 Worth Of Games To G2A
(Last Updated On: June 22, 2016)

Indie developers and indie publishers have it tough in today’s market. Oversaturation is just as big a problem as financing, and even if you can overcome both of those obstacles you have to deal with scalpers, piracy and post-launch product support. And then there’s the other issue you may have to deal with: gray market resellers.

Alex Nichiporchik, the CEO of tinyBuild – publisher of games like Punch Club, Party Hard and Speed Runners – took to Gamasutra to do a blog post about how much the company apparently lost out on after Nichiporchik claimed a number of their game keys were acquired in nefarious ways through stolen credit cards. These key purchases were eventually hit with chargebacks, costing the publisher both revenue and a stockpile of keys.

Nichiporchik doesn’t have proof, but he believes a number of the ill-acquired keys were sold through the gray market portal, G2A.

In the Gamasutra piece, Nichiporchik explains…

“I really wanted to find out what kind of financial impact this marketplace can have, and after asking for sales stats in 3 separate discussions [from G2A], I finally have them.

 

“[…] With this information in hand, my obvious question was where did the keys come from, and can we get compensation for that?”

You can see what the stats look like below and how Nichiporchik came up with the $450,000 figure in lost revenue.

Now this kind of jumps to the conclusion that every copy G2A sold would have sold for the same price through Steam or tinyBuild’s own online shop. One would have to realistically and reasonably try to deduct potential sales from people who only would have bought tinyBuild’s games at G2A’s prices. However, it’s not really possible to come up with figure without more data regarding purchasing habits.

Nevertheless, when asked about being compensated for the sales, G2A snidely responded, denying them compensation…

“I can tell you that no compensation will be given. If you suspect that these codes where all chargebacks aka fraud/stolen credit card purchases I would be happy to look into that however I will say this requires TinyBuild to want to work with G2A. Both in that you need to revoke the keys you will be claiming as stolen from the players who now own them and supply myself with the codes you suspect being a part of this. We will check to see if that is the case but I doubt that codes with such large numbers would be that way.”

Game Informer managed to get in touch with both tinyBuild and a representative from G2A. Nichiporchik mostly repeats what was mentioned in the Gamasutra piece, but goes further in asking why anyone would want to work with G2A when they would just get undercut by the reseller?

G2A offered an extremely lengthy reply, explaining that they wanted to work with tinyBuild but the publisher and developer was not being cooperative.

According to G2A, they told Game Informer….

“All G2A asked, was to cooperate with tinyBuild to rectify the issue, which is the list of the keys they deemed without any verification that they are stolen. Only then G2A can compare these keys against the G2A marketplace database and report those findings back to tinyBuild. Unfortunately tinyBuild never came back with the answers to resolve the issue.

 

“[…] TinyBuild should connect back with us and provide us with the list of suspicious keys for further investigation. Thereafter, G2A will be happy to publicly release the results of the investigation of this tinyBuild case.”

Objectively speaking, while I personally have no dog in the fight, G2A’s responses come across as borderline extortion. Other developers aren’t fond of them, but gamers and YouTubers adore them.

For now it looks like it’s a stalemate, with G2A getting an upperhand out of the skirmish.


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Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • Michael P

    Not really a fan of sidescrollers/platformers/walking sims so it’s rare for me to buy an indie but I always check G2A for AAA’s and if it’s significantly cheaper, I’ll get it from there. Steam charges in US which basically hovers around the $80 AU mark and that’s if the dev isn’t asking more than $60 US.

    If they get greedy, I get cheap but if it’s no higher than $10 more than I’d pay in a store here, I generally go through Steam.

  • ColaFlavourChewits

    I’ve used a few of these key-selling sites in the past, and to be honest they’ve always come across as a little bit shady, selling ‘insurance’ along with the key. However, many of the sellers are trustworthy, and it seems rather silly to speak to one merchant from there and take his model as the standard for all sellers.

    I would actually prefer to buy all my stuff through Steam/GOG and whatnot, but most digital stores don’t price match their stuff for Poland; with Fallout 4, for example, I could buy a boxed copy for 180 zl (about €41), but buying through Steam would mean paying the Euro price of 265 zl (€59.99). So, if I’m struck with the urge to buy and play a game during a long weekend when there are no deliveries, my options are to pay through the nose for a digital copy from Steam, or buy the key from G2A et al and pay the same price as I would in a store.

    In fact, most of the time if a new release comes out and it’s offered cheaper through G2A than through Steam, then chances are it’s available as a boxed copy at the same price in Poland, which may be where they bulk-buy the keys (or at least, in another central-European country with the same pricing structure).

  • LMGamer.

    The dev’s should have had a safety net that tied credit cards to keys so they could revoke them and show G2A so they could deal with it as well. But alas asking another store to just remove them all or ask for compensation for no proof on how many were fraudulent (sold there) or not is just plain stupid.

    I think G2A’s response was just your typical business wanting evidence before doing something.

    The comments about this on Eurogamer have me questioning a lot about it. Espacily when you have dev’s giving away tons of there keys to charity events like Humble Bundle that stick them on a low price. Nothing to stop someone from just buying loads of them from Humble Bundle then selling them on G2A at a later date for a profit.

    • LurkerJK

      They could avoid this if they used a less schizophrenic discount model, once you offered the game at 8bucks you might as well permanently reduce the price, even if you end up putting it a little over the discounted price

      Seems like a lot of games these days remain at full price for years because the publishers rather do 70-90% discounts on sales rather than do permanent discounts and move units all the time

      • ColaFlavourChewits

        That’s a great point; I certainly think twice about buying a game if I know that it’s been heavily-discounted in the past or in bundle, as they tend to come around again at some point.

        It’s strange because Valve’s experiments with Left 4 Dead showed that they made significantly more sales once they reduced the price heavily; so much more that the 75% off sale made them more money than they had made through all the previous discount periods. Makes much more sense to start higher, discount during a sale, then lower the core price so that when the next sale comes around it’ll be even cheaper, and so on.

        As it stands, I recall Speedrunners being free, discounted, in a bundle and full price all within a short period after its release, which just confuses the potential market.

  • LurkerJK

    While i understand TinyBuild’s claim, they are barking at the wrong tree, G2A manages to sell those units with advertisement and lower prices, they target a slice of the market that is usually left untapped

    They reach this customers using streamers which publishers usually ignore for advertisement (or in some cases even despise and constantly harass with take down notices) just at the moment when they think “oh, this game streamer X is playing is pretty cool, how much does it cost? maybe i should give it a go” and they seal the deal with low prices

    Some of those customers might have bought the game on retail price should G2A not being available? maybe, definitely not all of them, they are usually impulse bargain hunters, they do not want to pay retail price, the most likely response to not finding a price low enough is waiting for a sale or just not buying it

    They might be able to pursue a legal route against G2A but that is not going to win them these customers, in fact they might end up pissing them off, they will also piss off the streamers that influence them that get a cut out of the sales, in the best case this path would only end taking the cake away from G2A and smashing it on the ground

    It would be wiser to either work out a deal with G2A or try sidestep them and reach the customers directly, i very much doubt either streamers or customers would have any problems siding with the developers if they offered a similar deal