Online game marketplace, Itch.io prides itself on being an “open marketplace for independent digital creators with a focus on independent video games.” Here even small developers are able to get their products in front of a sizable audience without going through any gatekeepers or vetting processes. Unfortunately, as Kotaku UK has reported, this lack of platform oversight lets unscrupulous scammers ruin things for everyone.
Itch.io recently released a statement regarding users offering massive discounts on fake indie games through their site. These fraudulent sales were quickly picked-up and forwarded to unsuspecting gamers through discount tracking service, isthereanydeal.com.
From Itch.io’s official statement to Kotaku UK:
“A scammer created a handful of accounts on our system and uploaded pirated games to it. Due to the nature of being an “open marketplace” we don’t have a forced review before allowing people to publish. We were made aware of the scammer by the community and through our own internal review, and we removed the content as soon as we discovered it.
Since we’re an open marketplace, there have been attempts at scamming in the past, but we tend to always catch them before anything happens. This time was a bit different.”
Once Itch.io confirmed the accounts were fraudulent they were suspended and their payment information banned. Since this particular scam also undermined Itch.io’s direct payment method, the statement claimed the platform would be “heavily restricting this feature of the site for the foreseeable future.”
While itch.io continues to deal with these issues as isolated incidents, the core problem remains unaddressed. If anyone can create an account and upload pirated games (sometimes going so far as pretending to be the actual developer) how does the site prevent future fraud? The obvious answer is to begin limiting access to the platform through checks and balances. However, the more red tape itch.io is forced to create the further it moves from a fully open marketplace for indie developers.
Until itch.io comes up with a more effective way to prevent fraudulent activities their open marketplace remains an imperfect solution to a very real problem for small developers.