AltChar has spoken to Scott Millard and Mario Mirek of G2A after the somewhat disastrous Q&A session flowing G2A's panel at this years Reboot Develop conference. Is the recent controversy surrounding the online marketplace a red herring and why is it erupting now?
As far as online marketplaces for games go, G2A.com has a troubled reputation. Accusations of facilitating the reselling of fraudulently obtained game codes to which the company responded with G2A Shield as a paid service, and a clumsily executed attempt to reach out to developers via a service called G2A Direct have culminated this past weekend in a shower of uncomfortable questions during the Reboot Develop industry conference.
After talking to some of the developers on this year's Reboot Develop, it's clear that emotions are running rampant. A lot of the attendees just said that they wouldn't want to be G2A's PR guy, others managed to make it clear that much of this should not be understood as a personal assault but rather a matter of business, while very few were ready to admit that they don't see the complexity of the bigger picture, but are fighting their own battles in the limited fields where they feel that they are affected.
Developers claiming that they would rather have their games pirated than resold on G2A on principle and tinyBuild implying that G2A should be no platformed on conferences in a recent statement make it clear that there is a lot of ground to cover before the situation can be resolved to, hopefully, universal satisfaction. Changes on a scale involving millions of users frequenting the platform won't be happening over night.
We talked to Mario Mirek and Scott Millard about why the controversy surrounding the company has been getting so much spotlight in the last year, and why they think indie developers are being so vocal with their position on the matter.
"When I started in this business the customer used to go to high street to buy their games. They used to go to a shop and find out what was coming from that shop, and find out what was coming [to shops] from magazines and web-sites, but now they are watching Twitch, they are watching YouTube, they are not consuming information in the same way that they were and I think that is one of the reasons why G2A has been so incredibly successful by design. We have spent a lot of effort cultivating and building YouTube communities that pushed our product and marketplace. At the time, no one else was doing that. Obviously, now everyone has jumped in. EA and all those guys are all in that space, but again, G2A was among the first and that is where we found our traction", Scot Millard in charge of G2A Direct explained how the company and marketplace became as big as they are today.
While traditional publishers focus extensively on day-one figures, G2A is oriented towards providing a marketplace for the sale of unactivated game codes. Games are often priced differently in different regions or can be acquired in bundles at a discount. These are then resold at a lower price by users who have no interest in some of the titles they received in a bundle or got them from a region where games are priced differently. This creates a grey market for games.
Millard proceeded to clarify why G2A is in the middle of so much turbulence recently, in comparison to a few years back. "Publishers and developers realised how big we are, before that [realisation] we were kind of under the radar. I've sat in a meeting with Activision over a year and a half ago, explaining to them how many copies of Call of Duty are sold thorough G2A. They would look at me and say [How have] I never heard of you before. And I would reply that That's because you are not in our target audience. You are an executive, the same age as I am, you've been in the industry a long time and you still go to EB Games and GameStop. You are not in our target market and that is why you completely missed this. And this is complicated for publishers, because to embrace us, they would have to embrace the idea the they have priced their games incorrectly. But the ones that are most vocal about us are obviously the indie developers."
Aside from the recent break with Gearbox, and some controversy from a few years back in connection with Riot Games, most of the criticism aimed at G2A is coming from indie developers and smaller publishers. Indie developers feel that the burden of responsibility for verifying purchases is placed on studios, with too little gain for them and a lot of money going to G2A.
"Indie developers are very young, energetic people with great ideas, but they haven't been in this business in the past 20 or 30 years. A lot of them don't know how the business works. They don't know who the movers and the shakers of the industry are. They have a hard time perceiving the idea of game codes having a long lifecycle. When you look at forums many years ago, people would give away codes or arrange sales of unactivated codes over private messages. G2A has come in and allowed people to buy and sell globally. Now, indie developers are realising that they are part of that chain. As with every new thing there is always going to be some misapprehension and misunderstanding, but we are constantly talking to indie developers and trying to make them aware of the reality of the situation but reactions vary" said Mario Mirek, partnership and development manager at G2A.
Millard compared the situation to an instance where a person might walk into a supermarket, only to realise that alcohol is on sale there, and then proceed to taking it as a personal offence when faced with a business practise that was in place for as long as supermarkets existed. It might not be a perfect system, both G2A members said, but there are ways to gradually improve things in a dialogue with customers, publishers and developers, and such a change can't happen over night.
Most of G2A's sales numbers are pretty much in proportion to those in retail or on Steam. They say that the best selling games on their marketplace are titles like Grand Theft Auto and various military shooters, same as anywhere else. Both Millard and Mirek agree that G2A has become a convenient place for a lot of people to vent some frustration regarding the general state of affairs in the industry.
"We are working very hard to use our platform to introduce some independent games. Independent developers have been around for the last five or six years, (...) but there is a whole machine that has been around for a long time, and a lot of stuff that has been happening for a long time that they sort of just walked in on, and it applies to them as well. They look at a globe and think, I will make my game cheaper over there, and over here we are going to put our game in a little bundle and surprise-surprise the game ends up everywhere. That is the way it has always worked, and will work until things completely change", Millard said.
The whirlwind surrounding G2A, its policies, developer relationships, and business practises doesn't look like it will calm anytime soon. AltChar feels that the most important thing that has to happen, if a mutually beneficial solution is to be found, is a healthy dialogue. With a lot of emotion and opinion flying left and right it is important to remain as level headed as possible, and approach things in a calm and reasonable manner.
Let us know what your thoughts and experiences with G2A were, as a developer or customer. It is a lot easier to find someone who will listen, if you know where to look, and from what we could gather from the conversation, G2A is willing to talk. The responsibility for the nature of that future conversation, lies equally on both sides of the argument. You can find the comment section below.