An employee of G2A, which runs the controversial G2A Marketplace that sells game key codes, attempted to secretly pay 10 different journalists for favorable coverage of their company, according to emails published on Monday.
G2A’s head of communications, Maciej Kuc, confirmed the scheme to Polygon via telephone this afternoon. He said attempt to solicit positive paid coverage without disclosure is against company policy, and the employee will be reprimanded. Kuc declined to identify the employee, deferring to disclosure and employment law within the European Union.
As it approaches its tenth anniversary, G2A is having difficulties proving to consumers and game developers that its Marketplace, a source for discounted game codes, is a legitimate line of business. Accusations of fraud have dogged the platform nearly since its inception more than five years ago. Public perception has gotten so bad that last week it offered to open its catalog to independent auditors to help clear the air. No word on if any game developers have taken them up on their offer.
Meanwhile, on Monday morning, parts of an unusual email began to circulate on Twitter. Titled “Cooperation with G2A.COM,” it appears to offer a pre-written story that casts the G2A Marketplace in a favorable light. It also asks for discretion:
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.
Since then, Polygon has been able to locate the entire email. G2A’s head of communications personally verified its legitimacy, and confirmed it was sent out to 10 different media outlets.
It’s a remarkable document for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the request to that journalists keep silent on the fact that they were being paid to publish it. The G2A employee says that low-level scammers might be able to “sell one or two, even ten [fraudulently obtained game] keys” without triggering its internal security measures. The difficult part is pulling money out of the G2A ecosystem and converting it to cash in the real world. The employee compares that step to “walking into a police station and pointing a gun at the officers there.”
On Twitter, the Polish-owned, Hong Kong-based company was quick to denounce the email once it was made public.
“These e-mails were sent by our employee without authorization,” said the official G2A Twitter account, “for which we apologize […] He will face strict consequences, as this is absolutely unacceptable.”
Kuc declined to elaborate on what those consequences will be. He told Polygon that, while it is standard operating procedure for G2A to pay promotional fees for its content to be included on various websites, it must always be disclosed. He also emphasized that he is the only person at G2A authorized to speak with the press.
We also asked Kuc about the open call for game developers to participate in an independent audit of its game key catalog on the G2A Marketplace. He said that it is his company’s hope to have one of the “big four” accounting firms — Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, or KPMG — perform the audit. None of those accounting firms has been contacted. Kuc said he expected more information to be released publicly regarding the audits later this week.
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