The hidden costs of cheap games

As the demand for digital games goes up, resellers and marketplaces have started to pop up offering games for far less than the standard price. Games typically will be sold at around half their usual price, though certain games are being sold for $10 instead of their usually $60 price. These markets claim that the games have been bought on sale and that it’s simply people selling games they don’t want for a bit of extra cash. The majority of people will take the discount and not think much of it, but looking into the marketplaces themselves can reveal the shady activities and potential money laundering happening under the cover of an open game marketplace.

A game developer and publisher known as Tinybuild had lost around $450,000 to  customers that had bought cd keys using stolen credit cards. Tinybuild claims that upon investigation, they discovered the majority of these keys had been sold on G2A. Along with losing almost half a million dollars, Tinybuild was faced with a dilemma which is becoming more and more common with game developers.The company could either revoke access to the cd keys, causing a large amount of people who bought the stolen keys to lose access, or they could leave them open, which essentially allows thousands of people to play their games while the company itself receives no money. Though Tinybuild was able to survive the losses, companies have lost millions to refunds on game purchases, and companies like G2A make it far too easy for scammers and crooks to make profit off these stolen keys.

When Tinybuild was struggling to find where $450,000 worth of games had gone to, they ended up talking to a merchant on G2A who outlined the process for them. According to the seller, he would get ahold of a database of stolen credit cards, go to a third party key reseller to buy keys, and then put them up on G2A for half of retail price. Seeing as the cards are stolen, the owner would get their bank to refund the charges whenever they get their card back, resulting in major losses for whatever company the keys had been bought from. Not only would the company lose money, but the seller now has completely clean and untraceable money that they got from people buying those keys off G2A. Though it may not be the intended purpose of the site, these sellers can easily launder stolen money of off credit cards, and in the end, G2A turns a profit.

G2A constantly denies their involvement in the shady practises of sellers, and claims they do the best they can to eliminate fraud from the site, but G2A is one of the few companies actually making money off these practices. If you want quicker access to support in case a key is invalid, you have to pay around $6 for a service called G2A shield, which is essentially paying the company money just to make sure you don’t scammed by their site. On top of the price for G2A shield, they always get a percentage of the price paid for the account. So as cybercriminals and scammers are making thousands of dollars a month selling accounts, G2A is getting a major cut out of the profit. Though you could argue G2A is helping to support money laundering, they have themselves well covered legally, and at this point in time, there isn’t much anyone can do to stop this kind of practice.

Marketplaces tend to be quite enticing when you’re looking for a new game to play. It’s an easy way to save some money and they claim that they benefit the developer. The real issue is that the developer is losing money equivalent to the original price of the game, and that your money is more likely to go to criminals and a monopoly rather than to the developer of the games and honest players who received an extra game or two. As long as the demand for games keeps getting larger, companies like G2A can benefit off of stolen money while shoving small companies into the ground. If you’re looking to save money on games, many platforms have annual sales which can cut prices by as much as 80%, and the money from sales still benefits the developers of the games you enjoy. In the case that you can’t wait for a sale or if you would rather buy it off a marketplace for cheap, just remember that the people who worked years on a game for you to enjoy are paying the full price for every key you buy.

One comment

  1. Cool article. I think it’s important to remember that not all companies who sell game keys are illegitimate. There are plenty of safe ones like Humble Bundle or GreenManGaming, who go directly through the game developer to get legitimate keys. But yes, ones like G2A are not legitimate.

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