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(UPDATE: GamersFirst's CEO speaks out and vindicates the company of anti-consumerism by saying that they do in fact practice consumer-first policies.)
You have to be cautious of gaming companies these days. You can never really tell who is for you and who is against you. Recently we've seen a surge of anti-consumerist practices from a number of different gaming publishers, but one place where you probably wouldn't expect it is from a free-to-play publisher.
While Capcom, EA and now Deep Silver join the ranks of trying to nickel and dime, you can also chalk up GamersFirst as being part of that guild as well. Recently a few gamers have been murmuring on the forums about an issue regarding hacked accounts. Well, it turns out that unlike some other F2P publishers, G1 does not reimburse you for lost items.
It may not seem like much of a big deal, but imagine buying some premium items, gear or credits, spending it in a game and then leaving for a while. Imagine coming back to find all those items gone, sold, etc., and your in-game account has been drained of its resources. Even if you don't share your password, accounts can be hacked...it happens.
G1 outlines that they're not keen on reimbursements and if the Terms of Service doesn't spell it out enough for you, here...
K2 Network cannot give a refund for any unused G1 Credits. You will not be entitled to any refund if your account is suspended or terminated due to your violation of the terms of this Agreement.
While that may seem like it clearly focuses on the suspension or deactivation of an account, this carries over into the End User License Agreement. I'm sure after the Origin spyware debacle people are a lot more keen on EULAs. Well, as stated by the official support staff from G1, if you have been on the receiving end of legitimate misappropriated account abuse, G1 will go through the measures to determine if your account has been wrongly accessed but they will not reimburse or restore what you lost, as stated in their official staff response...
Thank you for contacting the APB Reloaded Customer Support Team! We appreciate you taking the time to contact us.
While a lot of people may not think much of it since G1 provides free-to-play gaming services, maybe even siding with G1 saying "You get what you don't pay for!" However, that's not really the case here. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Some free-to-play freeloader can just as easily hack a premium account and usurp the contents with little or no recourse. What's worse is that the paying consumer, in this case, is the one who loses out. It's quite sad given that GamersFirst really did do the gaming community a huge service of resurrecting Realtime World's All Points Bulletin.
Nevertheless, as an alternative, Aeria Games is also known for having accounts breached. The difference? They're not averse to account restoration. In fact, they have preemptive measures in place to protect premium accounts before they are stripped. Here's an excerpt from Aeria's support regarding a similar account breach...
After reviewing your account, we have determined that the reason it was banned was because your account was hacked and used for fraud in your absence. For your accounts safety, we banned the frauder so they could not access your items or AP. Now that we know you are back to claim your account we have removed the ban on your account. Please log into the website and reset your password. Please change the password to something that you have never used before to lower the risk of having your account compromised.
This kind of falls back to "If one company can do it, why can't the other?" More importantly, for user protection there should be account authentication codes in place whenever monetary compensation is involved. For instance, Valve sends out account authentication codes to the registered e-mail if a Steam account is accessed from a computer with a different IP Address. Aeria, as shown above, blocks access to the account if they "suspect" fraudulent use. Heck, even Blizzard has the Battle.net authenticator.
If GamersFirst is keen on taking your money for purely "optional" services, they should at least ensure that those services are protected or better yet, that consumers who spend money on these items are protected.
If you've run into similar problems from other companies don't hesitate to let us know. Free-to-play obviously isn't going anywhere, but if cash shops are going to continue to grow so does the means in which consumers are protected against fraud, thievery or corporate anti-consumerism practices. So before laying money down on a cash shop item, be sure to read over the Terms of Service and End User License Agreement, because you just might have to Hold The Wallet.