A couple of weeks ago we ran an article about the terms of service and end user license agreements for GamersFirst products. Users had reported that their support tickets were acknowledged by GamersFirst staff but ultimately they were told that their items, gear and goods could not be roll-backed or restored.
Well, CEO of GamersFirst has spoken out on the claims that the company is anti-consumerist, and explicitly states that even though they are small they never intentionally enact anti-consumer measures and spend a good deal of time trying to build a sound relationship with their user base.
CEO Bjorn Book-Larsson was very forthcoming about the state of the company, candidly saying...
One of the issues we have battled historically have been people who trade off purchased items, and then claim to have been hacked (often using a friend to log in to their account) to get a duplicate set of items restored (and trade away or sell the same items again, and so on) which is why there are some limits to item-restores (though these limits are highly game-dependent).
Several examples were used in the original article from the legal terms of service policies to indicate that items and cash shop purchases are non-refundable. Many GamersFirst users lamented on the forums about the lack of being able to have lost or hacked goods restored. A common practice amongst hackers has been to hack into a user's account, expunge all the money from the account via nefarious means and strip the character of any goods worth selling, basically leaving players with a husk of an account. There are some items in some games that cannot be transferred, and account-thieves will sometimes go the extra mile to completely delete the character to cover their tracks, such was the case with BlackJackieChan and his "friend".
VentureBeat recently reported on how an APB: Reloaded user going by the name of BlackJackieChan had all his items and goods removed from his account from his "best friend" named beef43302. A forum war broke out over some sort of resolution being required for the situation, and eventually a GamersFirst administrator came to the rescue, restoring BlackJackieChan's deleted content and even allowing BlackJackieChan to choose the punishment for beef43302, in addition to having his account plastered on the "Wall of Shame".
According to GamersFirst's CEO Book-Larsson, while these sort of things aren't usually done publicly they do try hard with their staff to resolve matters efficiently. Bjorn states that...
It IS true that we don’t do item restores in ALL cases, some due to technical reasons, and sometimes due to suspected abuse by the end-users. But claiming we never do them, and that somehow we are not proactive – is completely wrong.
Bjorn also pointed me to another case where a player had their account infiltrated and their items stolen, typical to what was mentioned in our original article. However, after some back and forth with technical support, the player had all their items restored, in which the success story was shared on the forum.
The real issue, however, is what was brought up in the original article: security. Gamers who spend money on products need to know that they are secure. While newcomer publisher Kalends responded to the GamersFirst incident, assuring gamers that their upcoming game Mercenary Ops will take every measure possible to protect consumers, there's no way of knowing that until it's put into practice.
GamersFirst, alternatively, is already using this situation to announce further security measures that they estimate to roll out later this year. Book-Larsson states that...
"From the client side an optional SMS-based two factor system for anyone who has ever made a cash payment will be rolled out."... "...we are continuing to innovate to protect users’ accounts. We are currently hard at work on a future system that will let players who have EVER paid (even if they are not currently paying) optionally add two-factor authentication to their account which will use SMS to send you an authentication code just like Gmail."
This is actually very good news for GamersFirst users. This means that just like with Steam, Aeria Games, Blizzard's Battle.net or Gmail, it will be that much more difficult for intruders to simply "guess" a password and get into someone else's account.
As for character/item/content restoration for consumers who were hacked, Bjorn wants to make it clear that they will do all that they can to restore services to those who were actually wronged by hackers and that the support staff will look closer at individual cases regarding account breaching. In other words, if you really did lose items, characters or other premium content, be sure to sign a support ticket or two to ensure that your situation is properly addressed.