G2A's woes continued today after the video game key reseller confessed that an employee contacted ten websites with requests to publish pre-written, non-disclosed sponsored posts to reverse the tide on its ongoing PR dumpster fire.
Thomas Faust, a writer for gaming outlet Indie Games Plus, took to Twitter to showcase one such email received from a G2A representative.
— Thomas Faust🔜gamescom (@SomeIndieGames) July 8, 2019
The email reads:
"We have written an unbiased article about how 'Selling stolen keys on gaming marketplaces is pretty much impossible' and we want to publish it on your website without being marked as sponsored or marked as associated with G2A. It is a transparent and just review of the problem of the stolen keys reselling."
Reseller Blames Rogue Employee
Aside from the questionable ethics of paying for a non-disclosed PR piece, the move appears to contravene FTC guidelines regarding endorsements. The email doesn't shy away from stating G2A's motives, reading:
"At the moment, we are trying to improve our brand awareness and public image...Unfortunately, the majority of the public does not understand either our business model or how we try to make sure our customers can safely purchase digital products."
G2A was quick to apologize, although it did pin it on a rogue employee. G2A alleges the representative took it upon themselves to draft and send out the requests without authorization.
Indeed, the act of placing the blame on a single person does little to redress G2A's reputation in the wake of recent events. If anything, it invites questions as to the veracity of its explanation.
These e-mails were sent by our employee without authorization, for which we apologize to @SomeIndieGames and the 9 (!) other media outlets he sent this proposal to. He will face strict consequences, as this is absolutely unacceptable.
— G2A.COM (@G2A_com) July 8, 2019
In the past week, G2A has weathered a deluge of hate from developers for the shady nature of its business, notably the financial toll on indie game developers.
Publishers Suggest Players Pirate Games Rather Than Purchase Through G2A
Mike Rose, director at small publisher No More Robots, went so far as to suggest players pirate games rather than purchase keys via G2A and started a petition to stop the sale of indie titles on the platform. The petition has amassed over 3,500 signatures as of the time of writing.
G2A responded with a flippant statement sidestepping the issue, though it did offer to reimburse any losses tenfold on the condition that publishers provide proof of fraud. It promised to foot the bill for an independent auditing company to give an "unbiased examination of both sides."
Critics say that G2A frequently sells keys obtained through questionable means. According to Rose, sellers using G2A allegedly purchase masses of keys from Valve's Steam storefront via bot-created accounts. Buyers sell these keys to third-party websites separate from the Steam ecosystem before they end up on G2A. Once sold, the buyers refund the keys on Steam, and the developer loses out on revenue.
Otherwise, chargebacks from keys purchased with stolen credit card details leave small publishers out of pocket.
G2A's unethical track record means the excuse for the emails is, at best, fragile and appears more as a reactive damage limitation maneuver initiated after finding itself caught with its hand in the cookie jar.