Update April 21, 2017: Some of the indies who criticised G2A yesterday have discussed how they can fix things.
The Reboot Develop conference has been happening this week, and you may have caught yesterday’s news that a representative from game key market G2A was savaged in a public panel (if not, see our original coverage, below). Today, a group of indie devs got together for another panel, and conversation turned to yesterday’s incident.
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The subject of the panel was the life of Mike Bithell, the creator of Volume and Thomas Was Alone - and the most vocal critic of G2A in yesterday’s talk. He was joined by Dan de Rocha, creator of Q.U.B.E., and Rami Ismail, co-founder of Vlambeer. All had seen what went down, yet all agreed that G2A - who've been battered by waves of bad publicity for months now, despite earnest attempts to improve their reputation - can still recover.
“Oh, they can fix it,” Ismail says. “Just stop being shit.
“Just look at the history of the games industry. Five years or seven years ago Microsoft was the company to work with for independent games. Then they kinda messed that up, and then it was Sony, and now we're at the point where maybe in the near future it's going to not be Sony. Steam was great, then it wasn't, then it was.”
Bithell agreed, adding that, as “figureheads” for people in the industry, they each had a responsibility to manage their reputations.
“The key thing I've learned about shifting reputation over the years is that action matters a lot more than words,” says Bithell. “It's not about paying lip service, saying we're thinking about doing a thing, we're about to do a thing, there is the potential in the future to do a thing; it's about just doing that thing. That's the way we've all helped our reputations over time.”
As an example, Da Rocha recalled a time when he “commented” that some new content would be released for free after the director’s cut of Q.U.B.E. launched. When it cost more than expected to develop, he decided it would be justified to charge for it. “There was a massive uproar,” he says.
In the end, he was forced into a full apology and a total reversal of the decisions he’d made. Not only did this restore much of the relationship with his customers, many responded positively.
“People are generally forgiving,” agrees Ismail. “If you fix the thing that people are yelling about then very frequently 99% of people will appreciate that.
“I guess G2A hasn't done that yet.”
Another complication that occurs to me is that the experience of G2A could well differ from that of independent games developers, who work hard to create stuff, rarely for commensurate rewards. Depending on how G2A respond to this latest crisis, perhaps we'll find out.
Original story April 20, 2017: During a Twitchivised Q&A livestream today, G2A attempted once more to clarify their position as a legitimate business. Their live audience? A room full of indie developers who have probably had keys scammed and resold on the platform. It went as well as you’d expect.
The session happened during the DevelopReboot conference in Croatia, where G2A senior account manager Mario Mirek kicked things off by stating that G2A didn’t operate within the grey market. Even on Twitter, G2A weren’t safe, as Vlambeer founder Rami Ismail and others ripped into their comments without mercy.
G2A "doesn't see itself as a gray market". pic.twitter.com/SmkmnP9bm6— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) April 20, 2017
The conference continued like this, with Mirek dropping clangers like “everyone loses in this game,” despite earlier offering partnered developers a 10% cut of used key sales. Mirek also tried to point out that 750-strong G2A’s workforce is made up of 40% women.
It just didn’t go very well in general, then. The biggest gut punch came when Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell asked a question from the audience.
"You charge the customers who want to avoid fraudulent stuff with the Shield system. You ask us to contribute our time and energy to detect fraud on your system in exchange for 10 per cent,” said Bithell. “I'm interested what the 750 people - 40% of whom are women - are doing to earn the 90 per cent of the transaction?"
Mirek replied that there are people working in marketing. When asked if that was it, he said there was also IT and security. You can watch it all on Twitch.