Earlier this week, Gearbox announced that the upcoming Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition would be available, in limited numbers, in swanky collector’s editions featuring figurines of characters Grayson Hunt, Trishka Novak, and Ishi Sato. Special editions themselves aren’t unusual, but this one was because it was being released in partnership with G2A, the digital marketplace that’s been at the center of more than one controversy over fraudulent Steam keys.
The CE went largely unnoticed until YouTuber TotalBiscuit took to Twitter to vow that he would not cover it, or any future Gearbox games, because of G2A’s participation. “A message must be sent that greymarket havens for fraud and theft will not be normalized in this industry,” he wrote. “You know what I call ‘work with us and we can help your keys not get stolen and sold on our site’? A protection racket.”
Pulling coverage plans for it and future Gearbox titles. No support for crooks.April 5, 2017
TotalBiscuit is partnered with a G2A competitor, Chrono.gg. His reaction spurred Gearbox to action, as it has now issued a statement demanding that G2A make dramatic changes to its business practices, and threatening to pull out of the Bulletstorm deal if it does not. “Gearbox Publishing heard loud and clear the concerns voiced by John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain,” a spokesperson said. “Gearbox was then provided with a lot of documentation on the subject, after which John was gracious enough to spend time across the last two days with our head of publishing Steve Gibson to put together a proposal and a deadline for G2A to act upon.”
That proposal includes four points:
- Before Bulletstorm Steam launch, G2A makes a public commitment to this: Within 30 days, G2A Shield (aka, customer fraud protection) is made free instead of a separate paid subscription service within terms offered by other major marketplaces. All customers who spend money deserve fraud protection from a storefront. To that end, all existing G2A Shield customers are notified by April 14th that fraud protection services are now free and they will no longer be charged for this.
- Before Bulletstorm Steam launch, G2A makes a public commitment to this: Within 90 days, G2A will open up a web service or API to certified developers and publishers to search for and flag for immediate removal, keys that are fraudulent. This access will be free of charge and will not require payment by the content holders.
- Before Bulletstorm Steam launch, G2A makes a public commitment to this: Within 60 days implement throttling for non-certified developers and publishers at the title, userid, and account payable levels for a fraud flagging process. This is to protect content providers from having large quantities of stolen goods flipped on G2A before they can be flagged.
- Before Bulletstorm Steam launch, G2A makes a public commitment to this: Within 30 days, G2A restructures its payment system so that customers who wish to buy and sell legitimate keys are given a clear, simple fee-structure that is easy to understand and contains no hidden or obfuscated charges. Join the ranks of other major marketplaces.
The rep confirmed that if G2A fails to comply, Gearbox will withdraw from the deal, saying, “Gearbox Publishing won’t support a marketplace that is unwilling to make these commitments and execute on them.”
The whole thing is a bit of a head-scratcher. Gearbox’s suggestions make perfect sense: I, as a consumer, should not have to pay for protection from fraud, nor should developers have to jump through flaming hoops to discover whether or not they’ve been ripped off. But was Gearbox really not aware of G2A’s business practices prior to two days ago? Their issues have been well documented, and there was even a bit of a public blowup last month when TinyBuild boss Alex Nichiporchik ran into G2A’s Marius Mirek at GDC—an event that was also attended by Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford.
Gearbox declined to say whether it’s received any kind of response from G2A, but if one is coming, it’ll have to arrive soon: Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition is scheduled to go live tomorrow. But even if it does pull out of the deal, it’s possible that the collector’s boxes could still be published. As the studio acknowledged earlier this week, developer People Can Fly holds the full rights to the game, and so it could presumably go ahead with the deal (it’s also part of the CE partnership) without Gearbox’s participation.
For a more in-depth look at some of the complaints about G2A, have a look at our comparison of digital storefronts, which also includes Steam, GOG, and others, right here. I’ve reached out to G2A for comment, but haven’t yet received a reply. I’ll update if and when I do.