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.

Filed Under: platforms, sales, steam, video games
Companies: epic, valve


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 22 May 2019 @ 6:15pm

    Cart away the savings...

    Doesn't help that Epic Store doesn't have a shopping cart. You have to purchase each game separately, one... at... a... time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 May 2019 @ 6:45pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2019 @ 9:19pm

      Re: Cart away the savings...

      Wasn't there some IP related story which involved an online shopping cart?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 22 May 2019 @ 9:54pm

        Re: Re: Cart away the savings...

        The name escapes me, but I do seem to remember at least one troll trying to shake companies down for having shopping carts in their online stores, yes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 12:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: Cart away the savings...

          The patent holder was Soverain Software, and Newegg managed to get all three of the patents invalidated.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 May 2019 @ 7:47pm

    “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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agammamon, 23 May 2019 @ 12:26am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 5:16am

        Re: Re:

        So they treated it like a AAA game that they rushed to market that was bug riddled crap but the DLC was already on the disc waiting for another payment?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 2:11am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 8:44am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 May 2019 @ 7:51pm

    I guess you could say this shitshow is…epic.

    …I’ll see myself out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2019 @ 8:05pm

    Yep. While Epic Games the system, customers get Steamed up.

    Or maybe "contact player support" is an attempt to gather a mailing list for our favourite TD commenter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard M (profile), 22 May 2019 @ 8:07pm

    No Shopping Cart??

    I went to the site and was planning on buying a few games but there is no shopping cart function.

    You have to check out separately with each game purchase. Seriously?? Did we loop back to 1995 without me noticing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 12:20am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 8:11am

      Re: No Shopping Cart??

      Did we loop back to 1995 without me noticing?

      Well, I sure hope they're not using SSL v2.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 8:20am

        Re: Re: No Shopping Cart??

        I actually thought I'd get that a check - they're not, but I'd venture that's as much because they're hosted on AWS as it is anything to do with their own design.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2019 @ 9:45pm

    5 games? I think I have done like 20 games in a single steam sale. Biggest issue is I haven’t played them all yet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 23 May 2019 @ 4:47am

      Re:

      Does Epic Store even have 20 games? I took a look a few days ago and it's... worse than I though when I saw the list of "missing features". Extremely bare-bones.

      It's more "Epic Half a Shelf of Games" than "Epic Game Store".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2019 @ 10:23pm

    Remember when the usual Techdirt trolls claimed we were silly to say that sometimes it seems that game developers literally don't want you to buy their games?

    Well...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2019 @ 10:28pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 8:01am

      Re:

      I mean, to be fair, like with Steam Epic is a developer, Publisher, and now retailer. This move comes under the retailer umbrella, not Epic as a developer

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 23 May 2019 @ 12:13am

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      They made a miss-step here: instead of creating an online store, they should have rolled that into Fortnite, where it becomes the interface for buying other games. Get the deals before the game map gobbles them up!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Agammamon, 23 May 2019 @ 11:01am

        Re: Re:

        You might be joking but FO76 players have actually been asking for
        'The Atomic Shop' (FO76's microtransaction storefront) to be an in-game location they can browse through.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 2:09am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 8:04am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 8:14am

        Re: Re:

        Last month I paid my taxes and then bought a bunch of weird shit from foreign sellers on eBay.

        It was fun discovering my bank had disabled my credit card right as I was trying to pay an $800 bill for a car battery and new tires.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 1:20pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yeah. I went in on a kickstarter for a Sega Genesis game (got it earlier this year), but seeing as it was in Europe, Wells Fargo put a hold on it and my card. Spent the day on the phone straightening that out.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 8:24am

        Re: Re:

        Ah yes, I was thinking about purchases rather than payment side of things, it was very early in the morning for me when I first commented!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 4:24am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 4:29am

    Fail

    Epic fail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 6:32am

    The epic game store sucks

    The issue is that you can only buy one game at a time because there is no shopping cart. It's not an over aggressive fraud system, is epic's limit on purchases.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 6:38am

    At least this means quite a few people are buying games on their store.. I must admit it's better than I expected they would do. You don't see Origin complaining about people buying too many games.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 8:25am

      Re:

      You don't see Origin complaining about people buying too many games.

      That's likely because Origin at least has a properly implemented store that doesn't mistake people buying half a dozen things at once during a sale as fraud.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 23 May 2019 @ 10:44am

      Re:

      Wait! People use Origin?

      ;p

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 8:34am

    The real news is that some people are still using the Epic game store and launcher.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, 23 May 2019 @ 8:42am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 9:46am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Cowherd, 23 May 2019 @ 10:34am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 12:00pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 9:00am

    Buying games from the Epic store.

    We have identified the root cause of the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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