Interview with G2A.COM founder on partnering with the Drift Masters European Championship in Ireland, the future of the marketplace and the shifting games industry

G2A.COM partnership of Drift Masters European Championship


Digital marketplace G2A.COM has had some 30 million users who use it to get video games, gift cards, subscriptions and software.
With the company partnering with the Drift Masters European Championship taking place in Ireland from June 15th to 16th 2024, Dom Sacco sits down with Bartosz Skwarczek, the Founder and President of the Supervisory Board G2A Capital Group, to which belongs G2A.COM, to ask about the marketplace’s drive for competitive sports.

Please tell us about G2A.COM – what led you to set it up and how has it grown to be the largest marketplace for digital entertainment?

Let’s start with a short overview of what G2A.COM is. We are the world’s largest and fastest growing marketplace for digital entertainment, where users can buy vouchers for digital products such as games, gift cards, subscriptions, or software. We have created the most secure two-sided ecosystem connecting sellers and buyers, trusted by over 30 million users from 180 countries who have purchased over 100 million items.

G2A.COM gathers in one place 75,000 digital deals offered by sellers from around the world. In 2023 the platform recorded 250 million users’ visits. We are also very active in online security, and are a member of Merchant Risk Council, we were also awarded with the prestigious American Card Not Present award in the Merchant Team of the Year category, alongside companies such as Microsoft, Barclay’s Bank and First Data.

If we rewind to the beginning of G2A.COM in 2009, it all began with an unexpected email. The message came from an ambitious 18-year-old entrepreneur named Dawid, reaching out with a simple yet compelling request: “Hi Bartosz, can you please become my business mentor?”

At first, I ignored it, but Dawid’s persistence was evident as he followed up the next day with a much more detailed message. Impressed by his tenacity, I decided to take him up on his offer and became his mentor for a period of six months. Having an extensive almost two-decade-long journey in the business world, I began sharing valuable business insights to Dawid.

As our mentorship progressed, Dawid came up with the idea of embarking on a joint venture – a gaming business. Initially I was skeptical, I questioned the benefits of entering such a seemingly niche market: “Why gaming? Gaming is for kids!”

However, upon delving deeper into the industry landscape and gaining a better understanding of its potential, I came to realise I was wrong. Gaming wasn’t just child’s play; it represented a forward-thinking opportunity.

Back in 2010, we were a small group of individuals fuelled by grand aspirations and ambition. Our collective vision was to establish ourselves as the premier destination for gamers seeking their favourite titles, initially through an online store. However, as the gaming landscape evolved, so did our strategy. We have recognised the emerging shift from physical game copies to digital downloads, we saw an opportunity to pioneer a new approach. While others remained fixated on traditional distribution models, we made an important decision: instead of merely serving as a retail outlet, we decided to establish a digital marketplace.

Just to draw the bigger picture: In 2010, when we initially launched G2A.COM as a conventional retail platform, nearly 70% of the market still relied on physical copies. By 2014, when we made the milestone transition to a marketplace format, that figure had plummeted to 39%. Fast forward to 2018, and it has decreased further to 17%. Remarkably, by 2023, physical sales were a mere 5%, underscoring the total shift towards digital consumption.

What allowed us to grow to the size we are today is something that in my opinion should be a foundation of our every decision. In order to become the largest marketplace in the gaming industry, we had to be on top of the game in six areas: price and range of offers, UX, payment options, security, and support. I’m glad to say we do our best in every area mentioned, with many new innovations, like new categories on the marketplace, new UX designs, or new offers for our users being implemented even now.

g2a logo graphic
G2A.COM gathers in one place 75,000 digital deals offered by sellers from around the world

You have a partnership with the Drift Masters European Championship (DMEC), which includes a competition taking place in Ireland this month (June 2024). Please tell us about that and why you struck the partnership.

We have always been strong in the esports scene, having already spent over $12 million on partnerships and events, supporting over 70 teams and over 110 tournaments all over the world. Our activity has given us a perspective on the gaming community, confirming that they are very much interested in competitive sports, not only in the digital world.

That’s why we decided to expand and move into the world of traditional sports, with the DMEC being the biggest, albeit not the first partnership in this direction. Parallel to supporting online events, we were also working with traditional sports organisations and teams as far back as 2016 and our partnership with the Sporting Club de Portugal. Those were occasional, and not a part of any bigger strategy. Presently, we’ve chosen to integrate this domain into our overarching goals roadmap. This decision aligns seamlessly with the refined business strategy we’ve been diligently implementing. Revisiting the notion of supporting real-life sports feels like a logical progression towards bridging the gap between online and offline sports experiences.

The first time we partnered up with Drift Masters was in 2023, with G2A.COM being a main sponsor of the Warsaw finals. I have been a great sport fan for years, appreciating the enormous efforts and determination of the athletes, and the beauty of any rivalry. We are a dynamic brand, and sports is a natural direction for us.

G2A.COM means ‘the Gate 2 Adventure’, and we consider sport, and in that case drifting, as a great adventure with great thrills. We have also noticed that there are areas, where our goals and those of the DMEC intersect – we both want to reach not just die-hard enthusiasts, but whole families, showing it can be a source of entertainment for everyone.  It’s also an event that reaches out beyond the boundaries of one country. 

The 2023 finals were a huge success, both for Drift Masters championships and for G2A.COM – there were over 55,000 people on the stands of the Warsaw’s National Stadium, and the virtual racing booth had much interest. That’s why we decided to continue our partnership and extend in for the entire season of 2024. We’re starting the season in May in Valencia and together with the Drift Masters team will be present during the event.

Next competitions will go around Europe, visiting Kildare in Ireland, Harma in Finland, Riga in Latvia, Mariapocs in Hungary, and will end in September in Warsaw, Poland. I really recommend showing up to the live event, as the emotions and the whole vibe is exceptional. DMEC organisation in the future is planning to go beyond Europe, and I think that it’s a commendable plan.

“The first time we partnered up with Drift Masters was in 2023, with G2A.COM being a main sponsor of the Warsaw finals. I have been a great sport fan for years, appreciating the enormous efforts and determination of the athletes, and the beauty of any rivalry. We are a dynamic brand, and sports is a natural direction for us.”

Bartosz Skwarczek, G2A.COM

Bartosz you have a lot of experience in business outside of G2A.COM too, please tell us about that – what should gamers know about you?

Let’s begin with where I came from. Growing up in a not-wealthy family, in the grey post-communist reality of Poland in the early ’90s and having no money in my pocket, it all started with motivation. When you are born in Poland and you fly to New York, Shanghai, or New Delhi, you always hear this question: “Hey, where are you from?”

And then you are set from the answer: “I’m from Poland”.

And the reply from almost everyone is: “From Holland”?

It’s relatively funny because I have been living in the Netherlands for a long time until recently. To our point, that was always very motivating for me to inspire others – people were not expecting someone running such a business coming from a country like Poland.

Being an entrepreneur has been my dream and my aim since high school, although there was a time when I was having a difficult time deciding between this career path and becoming a professional tennis player – ultimately, I decided to choose the former, though tennis remained my passion for life. I wanted to prove that there are no limits, and everything is possible. And then comes determination.

Ever since I started as an entrepreneur, I had a drive to achieve more and more. I was just hungry for success, for growth, for life. This hunger originated from exactly this kind of motivation I described here – I wanted to show people, to prove them that no matter where you are form, no matter where you start from, you can achieve great success with enough motivation and personal growth. This is why I became an entrepreneur and throughout over 20 years of my experience I worked on setting up many companies in several industries – before starting G2A.COM, I was managing a company from the steel industry. I was always looking for like-minded people to team up with to help me reach my goal.  You can start with no capital, in a post-communist country, in any industry – you can succeed. The awareness of new things to achieve to show people there are no limits keeps pushing me and my team every day.

Bartosz Skwarczek
Bartosz Skwarczek is an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience, as well as a coach, mentor, and public speaker

What are your views on the current state of the games industry, consumer demand and all the job losses over the past year?

Following the pandemic peak, the gaming industry has seen a slight decline in revenue for the last two years. Now, we can observe the restructuring process involving M&As and consolidation. It will certainly impact the industry, though from the gamers’ perspective, it may have some positive outcomes.

In the short term, we can expect the process of creating new games in the large companies to slow down, and some even be abandoned, like Odyssey. On the other hand, focusing on more secure strategies may strengthen the development of the most efficient franchises and bring more attractive games and premieres. It is also an opportunity for indie developers to cooperate with or hire very experienced game developers. Their experience combined with the creativity and unconventional approach, can result in new high-quality projects.

Additionally, developers and publishers may be more open to new forms of distribution and monetisation which hopefully means that games will become more accessible to a wider audience. This aligns with the mission G2A.COM has set out for itself – to democratise access to digital entertainment. We also dedicate a special program for developers and publishers – G2A Direct – where they can diversify their distribution and sell games directly on our marketplace.

Has G2A.COM had to take any steps to reorganise its structure in light of industry challenges?

The internal structure of G2A.COM enabled us to dynamically adapt to the industry’s situation. Fortunately, we didn’t need to undergo any layoffs, and we were already in the process of expanding our range of digital offer to reach a broader audience beyond the gaming market, which also aided us.

Our digital items not only include games and subscriptions, but also gift cards (ranging from streaming services, fashion, music and even food), software, and e-learning digital keys. We are constantly expanding our non-gaming offer and want to open our Gate 2 Adventure for everybody – simply speaking: everyone’s invited.

Optimising our organisation is always a priority. We actively look into new technologies, like AI solutions, and are always finding ways we can implement them in our everyday work, making sure we stay on top of the game in this area.

What are your thoughts on the state of esports and the so-called ‘esports winter’ bringing a market correction and decline in investment?

The history of G2A.COM’s relationship with esports is long – it practically dates back to the beginning of both the company and online competitions as a worldwide phenomenon. Since the founding of G2A.COM, we have sponsored both teams and events, investing millions in this area. While esports is certainly not as big at the moment as it was a few years ago, our current collaborations with the Polish PLE (Polska Liga Esportowa, Polish Esports League) and the AGO Esports team, shows that it has certainly not disappeared completely.

It’s important to us that this part of the industry is in line with our overall business strategy, as we are currently equally interested in supporting online sports and entering the world of traditional sports. I’ve mentioned our cooperation with Drift Masters but we are also partnered with Michal Kanarkiewicz, a chess champion, on the Chess Academy project, to bring closer the beautiful game of chess to a wider audience. We are also working with Polish Olympic competitive speed climber and World Champion, Aleksandra Miroslaw, as well as Dani Clos – a professional racing driver. Stay tuned as we plan to announce many more exciting partnerships in the near future.

“The history of G2A.COM’s relationship with esports is long – it practically dates back to the beginning of both the company and online competitions as a worldwide phenomenon. Since the founding of G2A.COM, we have sponsored both teams and events, investing millions in this area.”

Bartosz Skwarczek, G2A.COM

G2A.COM has had some controversies in the past. Why do you think this is the case, and what changes have you made to improve operations over time?

Only by not doing anything can you be non-controversial. It’s natural for the industry to initially react with distrust when a disruptor emerges on the scene, and at the time of G2A.COM’s establishment, we were precisely that. Over the years, we’ve become the go-to destination for over 30 million users, consistently maintaining our popularity without any significant drops. Despite the emergence of numerous new players in the digital marketplace, we have managed to retain the trust of our customers.

Our biggest and most important improvement is in cybersecurity. This has been an ongoing process throughout the years. Simply – there is no marketplace in the world that isn’t at risk of fraud happening. G2A.COM has a very good track record marketplace fraud rate as it is much lower than the global average of 2.9%. We have achieved that by tightening our sellers’ vetting process. If anyone wants to sell on our marketplace, they must undergo very strict business verification procedures before they can even start selling. It is a long and careful process of checking whether the individual is running a registered business connected to digital trading, and is not seated or trading in AML-prohibited countries. Through the verification process, we are able to gather all this information about their business.

Considerable time is needed to fill in all the required information and attach all the necessary files. Every section of the verification form is mandatory and needs to be completed to move forward. Once the check is complete (which consists of on average of 50 input areas plus mandatory files and documents), the seller is allowed to trade.

We have also been working tirelessly to develop our internal cybersecurity solutions, teaming up with the experts in the field like SentiONE, Akamai, Qualys and Justt, to implement the latest AI-assisted technologies into our systems while supporting our internal teams with external partners.

Just as we have found ways to optimise our cybersecurity, we continue to do the same in terms of user experience by improving our homepage and bringing in new categories and visuals, streamlining the purchasing process as well as improving our payment options portfolio.

Bartosz Skwarczek 2
Bartosz Skwarczek is a winner of Forbes magazine’s BrandMe CEO award, the Digital Shaper Award and the Gold Medal of Polish Academy of Success

How are game keys able to be cheaper on your marketplace than Steam? Where do the game keys come from?

This is a topic that comes up quite often, showing that the business model G2A.COM has introduced is something new to the gaming industry. For years, the gaming market and especially the pricing model has been straightforward: publisher – SRP (standard retail price) – client. That was typical for the boxed distributions at the start. With the development of digital sales, the market has changed, and other, more appealing, pricing models emerged to consumers. The market has developed many different channels of sales to attract different groups of customers – retailers, wholesalers, resellers, marketplaces, off-price sellers, which is positive as it shows that the customers and their needs are always at the centre of market interest.

Let’s take a look at the standard game release process. It’s a hectic and fast-paced timeline, that presents some unique challenges to overcome. The first challenge is right after the game’s release date as the publisher has about six weeks to sell a game while the media hype is high. We noticed this with the release of Helldivers 2. During that timeframe, the publisher has to consider price sensitivity since many clients cannot afford to pay the full price of the game. Simultaneously, the game itself cannot be discounted  so quickly after its release, when it is still selling at SRP, even though the publishers would like to cover as much market demand as possible.

They solve this by selling the keys in bulk (large bulks, 50,000 keys or more) at a discount to wholesalers, retailers, their official resellers – business sellers in general. This is the original point of sale, where the publishers earn profit off the sales of keys –via their own channels and websites, and through different, indirect sources.

Such resellers are then fueling the off-price channels like G2A.COM, by selling the game at a discount compared to SRP and still making a profit compared to the price they paid the publisher. The sellers can offer huge discounts thanks to cutting their margin; 2-3% instead of 30% – if they have a fast capital rotation. This model has a positive influence on the community as more gamers can afford to play these games.

This off-price sales model is not limited to gaming only – in fact, it is very popular in nearly all other sales industries: fashion, cosmetics, electronics, etc. It’s quite common to find branded hoodies that normally cost upwards of 80EUR in official stores, in an off-price store for about 40EUR.

With all things considered, the digital landscape has a huge advantage over physical commerce: the developer pays next to nothing for generating a new copy – the only costs (if any) are the ones of handling the server and paying someone to use the software to generate a key. There are no costs of handling physical merchandise, no logistics or production of boxes etc. This allows the off-price commerce model to be even more dynamic, as the items can be created, “moved” and sold in record time. This is also the reason why in the digital world, the difference between SRP and off-price can be much bigger than in the physical world.

What would you say to anyone who is uncertain of purchasing a game on G2A.COM? Do you verify the sellers on your marketplace?

Simply – don’t worry! Visit G2A.COM, pick anything you want, checkout and leave everything else to us. As I mentioned previously, security is one of our top priorities, and we are proud to have created a safe environment for everyone on our marketplace. We hope to see more companies prioritise security like we do. Our anti-fraud rate is at the level much lower than the industry average of 2.9%. We care about our customer’s safety and their satisfaction which, is why we offer very easy and fast payment pathways as well as instant delivery.

In the past we operated on an open-marketplace model, which allowed many more sellers to start offering their keys – this started to cause doubts with in the community regarding the sources of those keys. After taking feedback from our  users into consideration, we decided to focus solely on being a B2C marketplace. The vetting process for sellers is tough, but it is our responsibility to ensure only verified businesses can sell on the marketplace,  as well as oversee that all transactions between sellers and buyers are covered by our internal Anti-Fraud team and security solutions, like Justt (covering the protection from chargeback fraud). We also have a wide range of payment service providers (PSP) who we work with on daily basis allowing our customers to make purchases using debit/credit cards, PayPal or Google/Apple Pay, as well as various local methods like Vemno, BLIK, iDEAL, Pix and Sofort.

“Security is one of our top priorities, and we are proud to have created a safe environment for everyone on our marketplace. We hope to see more companies prioritise security like we do. Our anti-fraud rate is at the level much lower than the industry average of 2.9%.”

Bartosz Skwarczek, G2A.COM

What are your thoughts on AI in gaming and its potential and challenges?

AI solutions can help with both the creation and development of games – right now many companies, including G2A.COM, are experimenting with using AI tools to help in the creative process by generating ideas and pitches for the graphics design teams as well as creating realistic, immersive experiences for the gamers themselves.

Generative AI seems like a great tool for games, especially in terms of implementing AI algorithms based on ChatGPT from OpenAI and Bard from Google in video games. Several developers such as Ubisoft, have already said that they will be using AI to generate immersive experiences by making NPCs react dynamically to your actions in-game and generate different responses each time players interact with them. This is a major development  in NPC interaction that has not been heard of since the start of gaming – truly dynamic reactions, commenting on player’s actions and achievements in a non-scripted way are just few ideas that come to mind when thinking about it. This may be the gateway to a fully immersive experience in video games.

These practical applications of AI and intuitive tech solutions can be found not only in gaming – it can also help people with special needs. A great example of that is project Gameface: a new way of controlling a cursor with just hand and face gestures. It can be a great help for people with motor disabilities, and the fact that the project is led by Google allows me to stay optimistic about the outcome. 

gate 2 adventure
G2A.COM means ‘the Gate 2 Adventure’, and the company considers sport, and drifting, as ‘a great adventure with great thrills’

What’s next for G2A.COM? And do you have any predictions for the future of the games industry, perhaps in the next five to ten years?

There are several predictions I can make, based on the research we’ve made:

  • Revenue and release stabilisation – after the slight decline in revenue the gaming market experienced in the last two years, we predict a slow and steady revenue increase of 1.3% by 2026. Here at G2A.COM we noticed a similar trend but thankfully were able to avoid the post-pandemic drop. Contrary to the trend, 2021 to 2023 were the years of mass growth and diversification into the all-digital global marketplace for us – offering much more entertainment than just games. As such, we aim to stabilise, secure our position and grow our offers for both gamers and non-gamers alike. 
  • Game Pass-like subscriptions are not taking over the market – while the popularity of game-pass subscriptions is still high, companies and publishers have noticed that there is a problem with comparing them to similar services in other industries. Games require active participation and usually hold people’s attention for much longer than a TV series or music would, which means a much slower consumption rate from them. This may actually be a positive view for online marketplaces like G2A.COM – here our users can find offers for both subscription services, and individual games at premium prices, not to mention offers for music services, TV and more. In addition, we have noticed that gamers often treat game-pass subscriptions as a kind of demo or trial version for games they’re interested in and if they like a particular game, they buy that title.  
  • AI will be more and more widely used in game creation – the use of generative AI-based tools in game creation allows studios to save both time and resources, allowing the creation of more immersive experiences for gamers, e.g. dynamic interactions with NPCs. The growth of this technology in 2023 was immense and shows no signs of stopping in 2024. New solutions and areas to use generative AI will be introduced and thoroughly tested. Many companies, including G2A.COM, are already actively implementing such tools in their everyday work, from cybersecurity and anti-fraud protection to graphic and SEO idea pitches, as well as customer support and experience.

Turning my attention to G2A.COM and our plans, we are actively working to expand our brand and communication efforts, looking for new partners in non-gaming events and partnering with teams of traditional sports.  We will expand our cooperation with Drift Masters and look for more opportunities in other sports as well.

We’re also developing and expanding our core gaming offers to make sure our users can find everything they need on our marketplace – various digital items, latest premieres, and classic legends. We’re also planning on expanding our digital items portfolio to e-tickets, audiobooks, e-books, and much more. The world is turning digital, and we are ready for it.

Last but not least, our major focus will always be increasing the quality of our services for the end user. In our internal company roadmap, we have over 150 features to be implemented on our website, so stay tuned, we are coming strong.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The gaming industry is challenging and has many unique characteristics. The most distinguishing thing that differentiates it from other industries is how active and strong the community is. They can either strengthen any given game or make it quickly fall into oblivion. The bond between the players and publishers is a very special one.

Also let’s not forget about other mediums – great example is the Fallout series that have boosted the sales of Fallout game franchise in April. The connection between games and TV or movies will be even bigger.

Lastly gaming brings people together – keep in mind that now ’70s and ’80s kids grew up during the gaming explosion which started with Pong and went on to Mario, Mortal Kombat, FIFA to first game consoles and beyond. So, going back to my initial statement before G2A.COM started: Is gaming for kids? Not at all – it’s for everyone!

Related article: How G2A.COM and esports grew together: a look at a piece of gaming history

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