Last year Cheerful Ghost published Starship Rubicon and I am really proud of that. Working alongside Wick to get the game launched, promoted and sold has been one of the more enjoyable things I've been part of. When I approached him about publishing his game, I had a fledgling idea of how to approach and in the end I believe we did well by the game and its fans. Together we've learned a lot: firstly, making an Indie game doesn't mean you make big money (because as of now we haven't made very much), and secondly, you need to be aware of what is out there that can potentially harm your game. One such thing that can chip away at the money you can make in the industry is the CD Key grey market.

Tiny Build Games is a relatively new publisher from Seattle I admire quite a bit. They started modestly and had a hit with Speedrunners that catapulted them into a really great spot in the Indie community. Since then, they've published Party Hard and Punch Club which are really great games that are well worth your time. They also recently wrote a blog post about the CD key grey market called "G2A sold $450k worth of our game keys" and after it was posted on their blog it lit a fire in certain parts of the game scene. The blog post is fairly detailed but the long and short of it is that over time G2A, a CD key reselling site, has made over $450k in resold keys from their published games. These keys were __NOT__ given to G2A by Tiny Build but resold through the CD key grey market where keys are acquired through bots scamming storefronts, purchased through low cost bundles or sold directly from crooked partners. Very frequently, CD Key resellers like this end up with a massive dump of keys from stolen credit cards, and there are no checks in place to ensure that keys are legitimate.

Again, it's an interesting read and I recommend you check it out.

Why Do You Care That I Sell Or Giveaway A Game Key I’ll Never Play?

To be honest, I don't. I don’t have a problem with a normal gamer getting a copy of Starship Rubicon and selling it or giving it away. I think there is a huge difference between a normal person reselling a key to make a couple bucks and having a CD key grey market middleman scam hundreds to thousands of keys to resell. Again, just to be super clear here I have zero problem if you giveaway or sell a Starship Rubicon key to your friend or internet stranger, as normal people are not the problem. Grey mass-market CD key resellers that use G2A and sites like them are the problem.

It’s also not wrong that people want to buy a game at a reduced price; sales are the lifeblood of the game industry! But there is a huge difference between buying a game in a Steam or Humble sale than on sites like G2A because the developer gets nothing from G2A.

By the way, Starship Rubicon is now 60% off in this current Steam Sale so if you love massive discounts and awesome Indie rogue-lites you need to check that out! CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!

We are also handing out free 10 copies in a Giveaway but that will only last for the next couple days so enter now! FREE? WHAT? ARE WE CRAZY? DON’T ANSWER THAT!

Cheerful Ghost Won’t Make Money From Developer Misery

G2A and other reselling sites can be a big problem for developers and as such I want to make it known that until they and other sites make drastic changes we won't be supporting them. Websites like ours can make big money recommending you purchase games through CD key resellers but we aren’t going to do that and to-date we've declined each request. Let's be clear here in that if we partnered with these sites we’d make quite a bit of money it’s just not right for us to do that. In one such deal we have been offered 6% commission for displaying a banner ad and re-directing gamers to make purchases on a reseller site. We’d also get 5% for direct purchases and it sort of breaks down a bit in terms of percentages based on use-case. Needless to say, if we made some hard recommendations and altered Cheerful Ghost to recommend these sites, we’d do really well.

Many Twitch streamers are financially supported by G2A because the money is pretty darn good. That’s because the CD key grey market is a gold mine, it's just banked on developer misery. We’ve decided to not partner with these sites and give up that revenue because we feel this position is better for developers making great games and the gamers that play them. I was also heartened to see the Reddit Hearthstone community take a stand on this issue and reach out to Twitch streamers to re-think their partnership with G2A.

It’s good for gamers to care about this and make their thoughts on this issue known. The kinds of partnerships we make as video game sites and streamers matter and we need to think what kind of world we are creating by making them.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Ultimately CD Key Reselling sites will either change their rules to disallow massive CD Key sales from unofficial sources or continue with their morally bankrupt model. I have my doubts we will see much more than platitudes here but I remain hopeful to change. Ultimately these discussions are good to have because they raise awareness to gamers and developers on the health of the industry we all love. Curious what you think about this issue and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Here is another article well worth your time.

A developer is recommending piracy over buying a game on G2A, can’t say I disagree with that thinking. I’d rather lose a sale than see G2A get money.

Looks like G2A is attempting to address some of these issues if at least, very slowly. I think this is an interesting attempt but as the article states…

“Unless they actually solve the main issue — fraud on their platform — this initiative invites developers to become accomplices.”

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/29/2016 at 02:17am

Their model is, as you've said, very morally gray at best. However, they definitely get most of their money from money laundering from stolen credit cards. If this was any other kind of medium that dealt with something other than electronic goods, these services would have been shut down a long time ago, I imagine. Lawmakers still just don't know what to do with electronic goods.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/29/2016 at 11:21pm

I'm trying to wrap my head around this one, but I wanted to point out a quick misrepresentation. G2A didn't make $450K in sales of tinyBuilds game keys. The estimation that tinyBuild came up with was that just under $200K in revenue was created, with a percentage of that (somewhere between 10.8 and 30, I can't tell) going to G2A, which they claim would have equated to over $450K if those sales had gone through their site. I think these kinds of factoring are generally flawed, but the fact remains that they had product stolen and resold without seeing fruits of that.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/29/2016 at 11:46pm

Added to that, grey markets aren't illegal or immoral. Associating the problems in G2A's system with grey market activity is confusing the issue.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/30/2016 at 03:32am

> I think these kinds of factoring are generally flawed, but the fact remains that they had product stolen and resold without seeing fruits of that.

Yeah, that's a good point.

> Added to that, grey markets aren't illegal or immoral. Associating the problems in G2A's system with grey market activity is confusing the issue.

Yeah, that makes sense. This article has been through a couple revisions and what it landed on maybe is a bit odd in that way. I do think that G2A and sites like it can potentially serve a legitimate use, for instance a developer could sell the game there if they wanted. That said, that's a far reach from what I am talking about in this article and I used the term Grey market to sort of cover a legit usecase for these sites even though the main use of them isn't.

In the end I think G2A and sites like it should operate more like a pawn shop and require ID up front and maybe do a bit more to make sure things are on the up and up if you are selling more than a handful of keys.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/30/2016 at 04:43am

I find it interesting that you both use the British "grey" instead of the American "gray"

That's off-topic :D

Gray markets definitely aren't illegal by definition, but there's a certain connotation with the term. And G2A's practices certainly support that connotation. It's possible that "gray market" isn't the right term to use here, but I don't know what the right term is. At its best it isn't money laundering with stolen credit cards, but it supports that. At its usual best, it provides ways for people to sell keys that they probably aren't authorized to sell.

And there's a certain point about ownership here as well. It's worth noting that just because you have a key to redeem a game on Steam, that doesn't mean you are allowed to sell it in all cases. Ultimately, with digital goods, you don't own the content, you are licensed the content, and the content owners can make choices that affect your ability to re-sell or do other non-standard things. G2A and its competitors facilitate fudging that concept of ownership.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 07/02/2016 at 03:09am

> I find it interesting that you both use the British "grey" instead of the American "gray"


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