The lights are on
Update #4: Kinguin has issued a more extensive statement on the matter, citing statistics about its response to the ongoing matter. The company says it has refunded €146,377 ($165,312).
Kinguin says that over the past three days, it has fielded 4,600 customer service tickets, including over 1,000 copies of Far Cry 4, 450 Assassin's Creed codes, and under 100 copies combined of Watch Dogs and The Crew.
The company says it has 3,400 community merchants, of which 35 were affected, and all of those that have been in touch with the company will be issuing refunds. Additionally, Kinguin has explained what it thinks happened.
Briefly, in official information released by Ubisoft and Origin both sides claim that fraudulent credit cards were used to acquire Ubisoft keys through Origin platform. Neither we nor other companies in the market have possibility to verify these claims.
Here is what Merchants have been telling: An unidentified individual from Russia acquired these keys. How exactly - we do not know. Those keys have been offered to many merchants in the market. From what we know now price offered for these keys was so low that most merchants refused to buy the goods. 35, mostly minor, merchants from Kinguin accepted the offer. These merchants now claim that their “source” disappeared and that they were left hanging. All Merchants with no exception declared full will to cooperate and refund all affected customers. We as Kinguin would like to thank them for that.
Kinguin says this has happened before, but not at this scale. The company also questions policies in place at EA and Ubisoft, especially related to large quantity purchases.
"However it seems odd to us that with such big quantities involved 'somebody' bought these via credit card or cards from Origin without any suspicion raised during the purchase process," the company says. "We at Kinguin do not claim ourselves technologically more advanced than Ubisoft or Origin however we do verify big or unusual purchases. We believe these platforms must have access to anti-fraud ecommerce tools that should raise alarm flags in such cases. "
Kinguin also took the opportunity to take aim at large publishers and their ability to choose distribution channels for their titles (something common in many industries). "State of the market is still in collision with big publishers’ goals and strategies," the company says. "It is natural in every economy that companies aim for supremacy and try to achieve monopoly position. Big publishers try to focus all their video games sales in very limited number of channels. Ideally they would like to sell only through their own platforms."
The storefront says that it is answering a call from gamers who simply don't want to pay publisher suggested prices. "There is a big issue in all if that: gamers still don’t accept it," Kinguin writes. "And for good reasons."
Update #3: A representative from G2A, another 7 Entertainment site (Update: We incorrectly identified G2A as a 7 Entertainment subsidiary. We apologize for the error.) another site that has had customers affected by this situation reached out to us. The company is taking steps to investigate and refund consumers who had their codes locked.
"In the moment we are in the process of thoroughly checking all codes and merchants on our marketplace affected by this procedure," the representative tells us. "Please note that as to our knowledge to date, not all codes from this publisher are affected. All customers affected by this action will receive a refund from G2A, even if G2A is neither responsible for this procedere nor can influence it. I think it is important to note that G2A is a marketplace, in comparison to a shop or an outlet."
G2A also sent us additional information about how it secures purchases made on its user marketplace. "Regarding security with transactions on our marketplace in general, we have already taken several steps to make transactions as secure as possible," we were told. The company uses an automated process to verify that codes work, the company offers chat support, and it says that it uses unspecified "innovative social and behavioral systems" to help secure the site.
The representative also says that the site also has a "Shield" program that users can opt into for a fee. We were unable to discern the cost from the website (it requires that you enter a credit card before you can even take advantage of the first 30 days free). G2A tells us that it costs €1 per product purchased or, alternatively, €1 per month on a subscription basis.
In the course of researching this story, the author registered for an account on G2A in hopes of getting more information about the Shield program. After doing so, the site sent the chosen password in plain text via email. Users should be aware that this may create a security hazard.
Update #2: Kinguin has responded to our follow-up request for comment on this situation. The company is working with customers on a case-by-case basis.
"Every customer whose game has been revoked from Uplay games' library can contact Kinguin Customer Support for help,' says chief marketing officer Bartłomiej Skarbiński. "Our Customer Service representatives are resolving each case individually in order to help everyone affected by this unpleasant situation."
Update #1: EA has confirmed Ubisoft's assertion that the fraudulent keys in question were purchased from Origin. The company provided us with additional detail.
"A number of activation keys for Ubisoft products were purchased from Origin using fraudulent credit cards, and then resold online," an EA representative told us via email. "We identified the unauthorized keys and notified Ubisoft. If you are having trouble with an activation key, we recommend you contact the vendor who sold it to you for a refund. We strongly advise players only purchase keys from Origin or trusted resellers. For more information on our policy is available here: http://help.ea.com/en/article/should-i-purchase-my-ea-downloadable-games-from-cd-key-sellers/."
EA has since removed Ubisoft games from Origin. The publisher says this was to "protect against further fraudulent purchases."
We removed Ubisoft games from Origin to protect against further fraudulent purchases. We've followed up with EA with a request for more information, including why Ubisoft games were targeted and how removing that publisher's catalog improves security.
EA has declined to provide further detail at this time.
In an update to yesterday’s story about deactivated Far Cry 4 keys, Ubisoft has provided additional information about the situation. The company says that players affected are, essentially, in receipt of stolen property.
"We strongly recommend that players purchase keys and downloadable games only from the Uplay Store or their trusted retailers," the company said in a prepared statement. "We regularly work with our authorized resellers to identify and deactivate fraudulently obtained and resold keys. In this case, we confirmed activation keys were recently purchased from EA’s Origin store using fraudulent credit card information and then resold online. These keys may have been deactivated. Customers who may have been impacted should contact the vendor where they purchased the key for a refund."
We approached Kinguin, one of the retailers in question yesterday about the matter. At that time, the company told us something quite different.
"The banned game copies in question were acquired through licensed wholesale distributors and as such the origin of the ‘keys’ is the publisher himself,” said Kinguin chief marketing officer Bartłomiej Skarbiński.
We've reached out to Kinguin again for comment on this revelation. We'll update should we receive a response.
Our TakeConsumers still lose out here, but Ubisoft is operating appropriately. Given fraudulent and illegal activity, the company must protect itself. This is a hard and painful lesson for affected users and, quite frankly, it isn't fair. The best course of action is to contact your retailer and hold them accountable. Please let us know what happens.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.