Gaming Platform War Update: Epic Games Store Suspends Accounts… For Buying Too Many Games

from the you-had-one-job dept

As we’ve talked about before, it seems an era of gaming platform wars is upon us. While Valve’s Steam platform mostly only had to contend with less-used storefronts like GOG and Origin, a recent front was opened up by the Epic Games Store, which has promised better cuts to publishers to get exclusive games and has attempted to wage a PR battle to make people mad at Steam. It’s all quite involved, with opinions varying across the internet as to who the good and bad guys in this story are.

Less complicated is the point of having an Epic Games Store at all. The idea would be — wait for it — to sell games. This is something that might not be fully understood by Epic itself, it seems, given that the platform has been busily suspending accounts for the crime of buying too many games.

There’s a big sale on right now at the Epic Games Store, a time when many users—conditioned by Steam’s frequently generous discounts on a huge range of titles—go nuts and buy a ton of stuff real quickly. On Valve’s store that’s enough to get you a pile of shame, but on Epic’s it’ll just get your account blocked from making further purchases.

Those Epic customers going through this right now are not taking it, ah, well.

Enough users were affected by this that Epic’s PR team is aware of it. Apparently the culprit is an overly aggressive fraud-detection system, with Epic’s store deciding that nobody would buy that many games that quickly unless they were doing it with stolen payment credentials. Frankly, given that the store is running Steam-style sales, it really should have known better. Steam is famous for these types of sales and its customers are known to gobble up tons of titles when they happen. Five games is, frankly, child’s play.

And Epic’s response isn’t great.

Nick Chester from Epic PR confirmed with Game Revolution that “This was a result of our aggressive fraud rules,” and that “If players run into this issue, they should contact player support so we can investigate.”

Well, yeah, or you could just fix your game store. After all, Steam’s works.

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Companies: epic, valve

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Comments on “Gaming Platform War Update: Epic Games Store Suspends Accounts… For Buying Too Many Games”

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46 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: It gets better

Not only do they not have a shopping cart, the ‘roadmap’ they had for features that should have been in from the start had they intended to honestly compete with Steam put the shopping cart in the 6+ month range.

They’re throwing money around left and right to bribe developers and coerce customers, but they can’t be bothered with something as simple as ‘the ability to buy multiple things at a time’ for half a year after opening the store.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“If players run into this issue, they should contact player support so we can investigate.”

Notice the wording.
We still need to investigate, because you are a criminal until we decide otherwise.
We ran a sale & OMG people buy things on sale.
Rather than get a chargeback & then nuke your account from orbit, we’ve decided to be as hostile as possible to you.
You do not matter, the almighty dollar matters, and if you give us to many dollars WE WILL PUNISH YOU!

Perhaps the proper response is to contact player support & ask what their policy is about refunding entire accounts.
Suspending accounts on imaginary possible violations triggered b/c you were to to good of a customer says everything you need to know about this platform.
They might have exclusives, but if you can’t buy it how useful is it?
They’ve managed to fail at the most basic thing for a gaming platform, selling you stuff.

Agammamon says:

Re: Re:

Clown shoes man. Clown. Shoes.

You’d think with all the money they’re throwing around buying ‘exclusives’ they’d have some to hire a right-sized design and programming team and lure away some of the people who’ve built and run any of the existing, functional, online stores. Shit, it doesn’t even have to be another game store – People who’ve worked the backend for Cafe Press or Papa Johns.

This very much has the hallmarks of a very junior executive coming up with a bright idea, it being greenlit – but the senior executives slapping an unrealistic deadline on it being up and running so this guy’s got to get a product shipped, and kudos collected, before one of his rivals knifes him in the back with it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"We ran a sale & OMG people buy things on sale."

It’s worth noting that one of the major things that attracted people to use Steam on a regular basis (and GoG, for that matter) are the regular sales. So to compete with them, they’re offering a site with less features than most sites did in the days of dialup, and are surprised when people try utilising the things that made their competitors popular. Genius.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Notice the wording.
We still need to investigate, because you are a criminal until we decide otherwise.

That’s bad, but really, just the fact that people need to contact support at all to fix this is absurd. They know that their system just produced a ton of false positives because it’s detection was too sensitive. They should be automatically reversing all the suspensions. Then once users are no longer affected, if they’re genuinely concerned about fraud they can make a new pass with less aggressive detection rules.

To put it another way, they fucked up and they know they fucked up. They should be fixing their fuck up without the users having to do anything. They should not be requiring users to spend the effort contacting them to get one particular instance of their fuck up fixed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Shopping Cart??

Its a pretty standard product roll-out nowadays in the gaming and related markets.

Release an MVP (it actually reaching ‘minimally viable’ state optional).

Release a ‘roadmap’ – don’t release that too early though. It has to come out a couple weeks after product release or otherwise people might figure out that we don’t actually have anything here and they won’t buy it. Following the roadmap is optional.

Slowly roll out features. Fuck every one of them up because you don’t understand what your users want and you absolutely will not ever, under any circumstances, look at what your already existing, long-established competitors in that space have done, what mistakes they’ve made, and what they’ve learned from it. FFS – its like these people are teenagers. ‘Mom and Dad can’t possibly understand me11!11!’ When caught, claim that the ‘game is too large’, that you ‘released too much, and that you should have done a ‘soft-launch, like in Korea’.

Finally get your act together 3 years down the road, release a sequel the next year that ignores all the work you’ve done, all the lessons you’ve learned, kill the current product, and start the whole process over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You forgot all the times when they screamed about how DRM was important, and then when successful games that didn’t make use of DRM were pointed out to them, offered the counterargument that "games didn’t count as culture", while insisting that they still deserved the harshest IP enforcement possible.

Copyright is brain damage.

Agammamon says:

Well, yeah, or you could just fix your game store. After all, Steam’s works.

Why fix it when, with all that Fortnite money, they can just pay to close off other distribution channels.

I can only imagine – with the near zero capital investment made – that the Epic store must be looking amazingly profitable.

"Fortnite’s cost-to-profit ratio is dropping though Mark – you need to look into what other sort of monetization and marketing you can cram into it to get that ratio back up."

PaulT (profile) says:

"Nick Chester from Epic PR confirmed with Game Revolution that “This was a result of our aggressive fraud rules,”"

So… same as the DRM crap? Legitimate customers getting screwed over is fine, because we’re scared of what other people might be "stealing"? That figures given the mindset of these people.

Of course, if the sale was a flop, they’d then be whining about piracy rather than noting the fact that they aren’t offering the features anyone would expect in this day and age and are simply trying to coast on not giving people an option of where to buy games legally. Win-win – zero work, and if the customers they’re blocking decide to pirate instead, blame the pirates rather than poor management.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actaully, because they don’t have a shopping cart, banks will flag a bunch of rapid smaller transactions at a single location as fraud (as one way to avoid early fraud detection is to make small purchases rather than one big one), and so it seems Epic was attempting to perform their own fraud protection. A shopping cart would have fixed this issue, which of course is one of the reasons the Epic store and exclusivity is considered a negative move for consumers, when competition would normally be considered positive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Boycott is the only fix

Yet another reason (although way at the bottom) of why I am boycotting and advocating the all gamers boycott Epic. To fragment the community this way is not what gaming is about. I am speaking with my wallet and if enough people did the same, Epic will have to change or GTFO of the storefront business.

Anonymous Cowherd says:

I have to wonder why a video games platform even needs "aggressive fraud rules." Unlike a real store where customers would get to actually own the things they buy, these account-bound virtual "stores" can just make the "purchased" product vanish after the fact if the credit card is reported stolen.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have to wonder why a video games platform even needs "aggressive fraud rules."

Credit card transactions cost money. Reversing charges costs money (even if you catch the fraud before it posts, it still takes your staff time to cancel the transaction, and that time costs money). And consumers don’t generally like it when their credit cards get drained. (Or worse, their debit cards — but you really shouldn’t shop online with your debit card.)

There’s nothing wrong with fraud detection in principle. The problem is in Epic’s implementation.

Anonymous Cowherd says:

Re: Re: Re:

You did notice I quoted specifically "aggressive" fraud detection? Exactly Epic’s kind of implementation in which all transactions are treated as suspicious by default.

Driving away paying customers with paranoid rules over "purchases" that can be undone at any time if fraud actually occurs makes no sense.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You did notice I quoted specifically "aggressive" fraud detection?

I did. "Aggressive" has a broad range of possible interpretations, of which Epic’s implementation is only one.

Exactly Epic’s kind of implementation in which all transactions are treated as suspicious by default.

No, not all transactions; multiple transactions in a short period of time.

Which is still a problem, especially given the lack of a shopping cart.

Driving away paying customers with paranoid rules over "purchases" that can be undone at any time if fraud actually occurs makes no sense.

You seem to be stuck on this idea that the digital nature of the transaction means it shouldn’t be subject to fraud protections (or at least not "aggressive" ones, however you choose to define that). That’s kind of an odd take.

There are many cases in which digital purchases can be suspicious or fraudulent. If someone made a bunch of purchases on a seldom-used account, in a different country and language than the account’s previous purchases, that would be suspicious. If someone were to use a credit card to sign up for cable service at an address in a nearby city, without canceling service on the account’s existing home address, that could potentially be suspicious. Whether the purchase involves physical goods or not is not the key variable in determining whether a transaction is suspicious.

Epic’s rules for flagging suspicious transactions are wrongheaded, particularly when they’ve got a big sale going and no method of purchasing multiple games simultaneously. But these rules wouldn’t be any less dumb if they concerned physical goods. You’re isolating the wrong variable.

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