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PayPal Withholding Indie Game Dev's €600,000 Account 775

Posted by Soulskill
from the money-for-nothin' dept.
epee1221 writes "Markus Persson, a.k.a. Notch, the developer of Minecraft, posted on his development blog today that PayPal limited his account with unspecified cause on August 25th. Since then, payments for the alpha version of Minecraft have continued accumulating while Notch has been unable to withdraw them, and the account now contains over €600,000. PayPal recently told him it may take up to two more weeks for things to get sorted out and that if they conclude that there is funny business involved, they will keep the money." This unfortunate news followed an announcement a few days ago that he and a friend would be starting a studio of their own to continue development on Minecraft and start working on a new project.
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PayPal Withholding Indie Game Dev's €600,000 Account

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  • Sigh (Score:1, Informative)

    by blai (1380673) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:43PM (#33536068)
    PayPal is not a bank.
  • by mewsenews (251487) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:45PM (#33536114) Homepage

    Almost exactly five years ago, Paypal froze $30k in Hurricane Katrina charity money raised by SomethingAwful, the story is here [somethingawful.com]. They're still crooks now.

  • Two Words (Score:4, Informative)

    by killmenow (184444) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:46PM (#33536130)
    Google Checkout
  • by rotide (1015173) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:50PM (#33536186)

    PayPal is infamous for this.

    Years ago, when I pulled my account information from them it was "common" knowledge in the eBay scene that if you were a seller and a buyer claimed it was a fraudulent sale, PayPal would pull the refund directly from your PayPal account without notice. If the funds were not in your PayPal account, they would pull it from your linked checking account, again, without notice.

    The common strategy was to setup a second "dummy" checking account and link PayPal to that one. Whenever you had money in your PayPal account above a certain amount, pull it into your "dummy" account and then transfer the full balance _out_ of that account into one that isn't linked to PayPal.

    Why someone would trust PayPal, who isn't a bank, with well over half a million dollars is beyond me.

    For some interesting stories, paypalsucks.com

  • by TamCaP (900777) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:53PM (#33536232)
    PayPal power results from 2 factors. Terrible bank bank transfer opportunities for individuals domestically, and even more expensive ones internationally. In many European countries nobody uses Paypal for transactions. It's either direct bank transfer (many banks offer no-fee transfers to other banks), bank-based payment system or credit cards. Yet in the US (a HUGE consumer market) those options are limited to credit cards, and check / ACH system and PayPal fills that niche just perfectly. It's changing, i.e. SunTrust recently introduced cheap on-line wire-transfers for only $3 / transfer - a big upgrade, as it used to be $25. Yet for some reason, the interbanking system in the US is still far behind what Europe has to offer (except for credit cards - there are definitely more developed here!)
  • Re:This is why (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:04PM (#33536386)

    Not just ANY indie game. One that has been widely featured in edia and has hundreds of thousands of subscribers. I see people playing it nearly every day (Granted, I study software engineering so the people I interact with don't represent society as a whole... But that indie game is BIG). linky [wikipedia.org]

    Still, a very big sum so there might actually be something shady going on... But it is feasible that he just earns that much.

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:04PM (#33536394)

    Turns out it was with a stolen credit card. So they reversed the payment leaving me with a -$600 balance.

    I'm not saying that it's right, but the real banks do exactly the same thing. As a merchant, all the risk is yours. The agreements you have to sign with banks (or other credit card transaction handlers) are truly horrendous, but you can't take your business elsewhere, because they're all pretty much the same.

  • by WillDraven (760005) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:07PM (#33536450) Homepage

    But at least he is clearly de-authorizing them from using said card and if they do he can contest the charges and/or sue them for credit card fraud.

    It is debatable whether this will do any good in the end but at least it makes it a bit more difficult for them to claim they had his permission.

  • Re:Two Words (Score:5, Informative)

    by gaspyy (514539) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:07PM (#33536460)

    A few more words about Google Checkout: works only in US.

    I am using Paypal to sell a game. The demographics are USA 39%, UK 11%, Italy 8% and so on. Overall the 20-80 rule is observed.
    By using Google Checkout instead of PayPal, I would have prevented 61% of my sales - you know, long tail and all. It's true that only 0.05% of the sales are from e.g. Maldives, but all these sales add up.

    If Google Checkout gets global, I'll be the first to jump. Until then, Paypal is a simple method trusted by the buyers. I just make sure I don't keep my money there.

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:09PM (#33536494)

    Just use temporary credit card numbers.

    Citi Cards has one, so does Discover.

    1 time use numbers. Discovers expire the same month as your normal card.

    Citi Card's expire the next calendar month and you can even set a limit. I couldn't imagine using anything else.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:13PM (#33536550)

    SIXTY THOUSAND PEOPLE BOUGHT AN UNKNOWN GAME, WHICH IS IN *ALPHA*, IN JUST TWO WEEKS?????

    I call serious bullshit on this whole thing.

    The game was featured on Reddit one day so everybody went out and bought it. That's why the spike was so large.

  • by KozmoStevnNaut (630146) <henrikstevn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:13PM (#33536570)

    Sixty thousand people have bought the game since May 2009, not in the last two weeks.

    I bought the game a couple of months ago and every other game in my collection had been neglected.

    The basic gist of it is that the entire world is generated from cubes on the fly. You explore, chop down trees, make tools, mine for minerals and stone, build houses/castles/towers/ridiculous pixel art sculptures and watch out for monsters which inhabit the world at night and dark corners of your mines and naturally-occuring caves. The world is generated on the fly as you explore, with mountains, rivers, forests, caves and the occasional treasure room. Multiplayer is in the early stages right now, but fun. Single player is an amazing time waster, it's so easy to get completely sucked into a world made up of giant pixels.

    It's one of the best indie games I've ever tried and it's made by just one guy.

  • by lwsimon (724555) <lyndsy@lyndsysimon.com> on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:15PM (#33536594) Homepage Journal
    I do this, to this day, for my eBay store. *Everyone* I know who uses PayPal for business has been burned to one degree or another.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:16PM (#33536610) Homepage

    Actually, sixty thousand people have paid for it just since the account was frozen!

    Minecraft is an entirely new category of game. There is no name for this new category. This is why indie development rocks; EA is happy to release new iterations of the FPS, but they would never gamble with a new class of game entirely.

    The basic idea of Minecraft is this: you find yourself in a randomly-generated 3D world. It's daytime. At night, monsters will pop out of the darkness and attack you. Your only hope of survival is to harvest resources from the world (wood, stone, etc.) and build a shelter and weapons to defend yourself. The night/day cycle repeats: harvest, build, defend.

    Think of it as something of a combo of Elder Scrolls and Second Life.

  • by rekenner (849871) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:20PM (#33536680) Homepage
    Here, let me type 9 characters into YouTube for you.
    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Minecraft&page=&utm_source=opensearch [youtube.com]
    Bam! Watch. Be educated. Or shit, look at Wikipedia. It can explain it too. It's amazingly popular among other Internet forums (Something Awful, LueLinks, part of 4chan), as even though it's an alpha, it's been fully playable for months. So, you know. Multiplayer games that let you goof off and hang out with people make money. SHOCK.
    I'm not sure if you're lazy, stupid, or a troll. But your post is calling the guy out on tricking people, when there's an easy to find product there. ... Though, looking at your name, I suppose I have the answer.
  • by JumpDrive (1437895) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:22PM (#33536710)
    The only problem I can see is why would a bank go through this hassle.
    Currently they can just hold onto your money and put it into the Federal Reserve and make money.
    Why go through all the hassle of dealing with buyers and sellers.
    It's much more lucrative to them if the sale goes through a credit account also.
  • Re:Two Words (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cederic (9623) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:22PM (#33536722) Journal

    and yet, the one time I had an issue with an online merchant I'd bought from via Google Checkout, filling in Google's "it went wrong" form led to an immediate response from Google, and a couple of days later a refund in full.

    When the process works seamlessly without me needing direct contact with a person, I'm willing to forgo that contact.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Informative)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:24PM (#33536748)

    "...As of July 2007, across Europe, PayPal also operates as a Luxembourg-based bank..."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PayPal [wikipedia.org]

  • by Suzuran (163234) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:24PM (#33536752)

    Valve blogged about it, which is what drove a big chunk of those sales.

    The game is basically first-person Dwarf Fortress. Your job is mine riches out of the ground while not dying.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:30PM (#33536868) Journal

    If the credit card was stolen, then the loss should come out of the credit company's pocket, not Paypal or the Ebay seller. PLUS paypal is supposed to provide seller protection if the item was shipped to a verified address.

    If it were me I'd track down the buyer and demand back whatever product he stole. You have the address.

    ALSO: Those comments that say Paypal is not regulated are flat wrong. There are numerous regulations/laws that cover Paypal, and it was their violations of those laws that got them into trouble with multiple American States several years ago. The judge in the case nullified huge sections of Paypal's EULA as being contrary to these laws. ("Consumers cannot sign-away their rights already protected by state and/or federal law.")
    .

  • by Pluvius (734915) <pluvius3&gmail,com> on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:34PM (#33536912) Journal

    Sigh... Slashdot: News for Nerds Who Can't Read.

    payments for the alpha version of Minecraft have continued accumulating while Notch has been unable to withdraw them, and the account now contains over €600,000.

    Rob

  • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@ubermMONET00.net minus painter> on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:44PM (#33537058) Homepage Journal

    Western Union actually bought an internet bank account transfer company called Custom House [customhouse.com] recently, which is really good if you want to transfer money between bank accounts in different countries. So they're at least dipping their toes in "this newfangled interweb thing".

  • Re:Two Words (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:45PM (#33537066) Homepage Journal

    The point is: you need to be in the USA or the UK to have a Google Checkout account in the first place.

  • Re:competition? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:58PM (#33537220) Homepage Journal

    In Canada we have Interac [interac.ca]. Many don't realize it, but every bank card in the country can be used to do online person-to-person money transfers without using Paypal.

  • by node 3 (115640) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:03PM (#33537292)

    ALSO: Those comments that say Paypal is not regulated are flat wrong. ALSO: Those comments that say Paypal is not regulated are flat wrong.

    *NOBODY* is saying that PayPal is not subject to laws. What they are saying is they aren't regulated like a bank, where you can have some reasonable level of confidence that your money is safe.

  • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:11PM (#33537422)
    One is born every minute. Just look at the above comments... "they took my money but I still use them"... etc. I don't anymore and never will again. Ever. Period.

    If paypal is the only payment option, then you have no payment options as far as I am concerned. There are a few OSS projects where i will donate too as soon as there is a paypal free way to do it.
  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:14PM (#33537470)

    https://deskshop.discovercard.com/thincard/thinclient.html [discovercard.com]

    You might not have a Discover Discover card, but a Discover card issued by another bank.

    I wrote a javascript bookmark so I don't have to sign it just to open another window.

    https://www.accountonline.com/Athena/PageServlet/thinclient.prod.xsl?loginlib=loginlib&issuerid=1&brand=Citi [accountonline.com] is Citi Mastercard's.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Informative)

    by Surt (22457) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:20PM (#33537558) Homepage Journal

    Bank, in the US, has a specific meaning, and requires FDIC insurance of your deposits, as well as lots of other good stuff that would prevent the sorts of abuses PayPal regularly visits on its customers.

  • Re:competition? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Skal Tura (595728) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:22PM (#33537588) Homepage

    Moneybookers, ePassporte, AlertPay are probably the biggest. Then there is the niche eGold and the like.

    But nothing garners consumers & buyers for business like Paypal! Over 98% of our proceeds come via paypal for example.

  • by Mycroft_VIII (572950) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:22PM (#33537596) Journal
    You should always use the correct spelling and abbreviations with any online commerce.
    Spelling out lane or drive or court , etc. can make it difficult if not impossible to accurately locate you.
          If something is being delivered to you and the address is not correct, or the phone number is NOT answered (or long distance) you might not get what you ordered.
          Also your apartment number/letter (or suite or such) is NOT part of the street name. If there is a box for 'unit' or apartment use only it for that.
          A computer is trying to match up your address most of the time and if it can't a human may try to call you to find out where you are.
          Where I work if you don't put in an address the computer can locate we usually call, if no one answers we cancel the order rather than waste time and risk the chance it's a set-up to rob the driver or a prank. All the majors do this in food delivery and most of the small ones.
        If you don't know the correct abbreviation for the suffix then look it up since you are already online.

    Mycroft
  • by cawpin (875453) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:34PM (#33537758)
    Yes, they can lock it but not indefinitely and without explanation. That is theft. A TOS doesn't override the law.
  • by Mr. DOS (1276020) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:39PM (#33537844)

    I bought it. I love it. I've been telling everyone who'll listen to me about it.

    The reason the site contains so little information about the game is because there isn't much to tell – by and large, the game is the definition of a sandbox. For gameplay examples, you should look at some Let's Play videos; I recommend the ones done by mastatsan [youtube.com].

    BTW, the reason it's sold so many copies is because 4chan's /v/ [4chan.org] hooked onto it in a major way, and it's spreading quite quickly through Reddit [reddit.com]. My point is, although the number of copies sold sounds huge for a game still in alpha, it's somehow clicked with a huge number of people. Also, whatever said this all happened in the last week isn't quite right: while sales have been rising steadily for the last while, the game's been purchasable for over a year now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:42PM (#33537880)

    I'm sorry, but no game in the history of the world has made 600,000 euros in monthly sales. That translates to about 10 million dollars a year. Starcraft has made about 11 million in its twelve year publishing history.

    That sounds convincing, until anyone realizes you're just wrong. Welcome to 2010, Starcraft 2 did $180 million it's first month:
    http://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=115420
    Paris, FRANCE – Septebmer 1, 2010 – Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced that StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty has sold over 3 million copies worldwide in the first month of its release, building on the game’s momentum as the bestselling PC game of 2010 and the fastest-selling real-time strategy game of all time.

  • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:49PM (#33538008)

    Another alternative is to set up a merchant account for processing credit-card payments yourself, but you need to be a certain size for that to be a sensible option. The Minecraft guy probably is big enough now that a merchant account makes sense, but he wasn't when he started out as a random 1-man shop selling a $10 game on the internet.

    I'm going to use this as an opportunity to plug BrainTree -- my new employer uses them as our payment gateway, and they're a dream to work with: They provide well-written APIs for all common platforms, and when I have a problem I get an email back from a member of their dev team typically in about 30 minutes.

    Their front page says "We [heart] developers", and AFAICT they mean it. Github is one of their marquee customers.

    Taking credit cards doesn't need to be awful.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @03:08PM (#33538266)

    According to the US postal service, your apt number IS part of the street and should be on the same line.

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Friday September 10, 2010 @03:37PM (#33538632) Homepage Journal

    Just google "credit card merchant account" and most terms for internet only merchant accounts is something like $15/mo + flat $0.30/ transaction + 2% of the gross amount. They all have 1-800 numbers with live, english speaking (native speakers, even).. it's pretty legitimate, and has been around for quite some time. Many of them have free plugins to use with your Drupal site, etc to use. It might have been rocket science in 2003 but it's just a set of credentials, a piece of code, and a bank account number now.

  • by kwiqsilver (585008) on Friday September 10, 2010 @05:02PM (#33539766)

    No information is ever deleted from PayPal.

    There's a credit card table that lists every credit card ever entered into the system, there's an address table that lists every mailing and billing address ever entered, there's a series of tables that list the information for every transaction ever attempted, etc.

  • by theaveng (1243528) on Friday September 10, 2010 @05:20PM (#33540038)

    When you use PayPal, you waive your right to a chargeback and agree to use Paypal's "dispute resolution mechanism".

    Although I prefer to use paypal's dispute resolution, when they are unable to recover the money (because seller emptied his account), then I call my credit card company. I've done several chargebacks on paypal purchases.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @06:00PM (#33540508)

    Also your apartment number/letter (or suite or such) is NOT part of the street name

    Except for when the USPS (United States Postal Service) address database includes your apt # on the address line. Then when you try to validate an address [usps.com] with the APT # on a different line or section, it gives you the standard format as "123 FAKE ST APT 1".

  • by sdnoob (917382) on Friday September 10, 2010 @06:18PM (#33540688)

    Just use temporary credit card numbers.

    *that* is exactly what we use our paypal account for (and pretty much the only thing).

    unfortunately, paypal has decided to discontinue the popular and convenient virtual mastercard debit numbers (aka the 'paypal plugin') starting september 22.

  • by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robertNO@SPAMchromablue.net> on Friday September 10, 2010 @06:24PM (#33540726)
    Jackass? Settle down, poppet.

    That being said, you are wrong on so many levels:

    It's MY card.

    Nice try, but no, it's not. You may wish to actually bother to read the agreement you signed when you opened that account. Universally, you will find a clause that says "At all times, any cards issued attached to account remain the property of [issuing institution] and must be returned upon demand."

    I have the right to control who uses it (me only).

    If anything, you mean the responsibility. I don't think you'll find many rights to using a card. You could authorize additional users, but when you let someone else use your card, you'd be forfeiting any and all protections against liability stemming from the use of said card.

    I have DEMAND PHOTO ID written below my signature, so the clerk will ask to see my photo.

    Again, it's a basic tenet of human maturity and responsibility that we read and comprehend the contracts we enter into. However, evidently, many of us choose not to, and wax indignant and polemic, ignorant of our ignorance. In your cardholder contract, the one you signed, if not also on the card itself, you'll find a clause, "This card is valid ONLY UPON the signature of the cardholder.". In many cases, this emphasis is explicit. Many contracts / institutions will also state that you are not to write CHECK ID on the card.

    That same contract will also state that your issuing institution, and the merchants in its network reserve the right to seize and retain possession of your card, and that the merchant may destroy the card on instruction from the institution. Remember, it's not your property?

    Now, why, may you ask, would they accept a signature on the back of your card, and not "CHECK ID"? Several reasons: 1) what makes you think your average merchant is trained in recognizing counterfeit ID or verifying identity from facial features? (Not that they are expected to be graphologists either, but that's another matter). 2) Some people like to believe that having such a request on their card raises the bar of liability and / or protection for them from fraudulent claims - "Did they check my ID?" - when in fact it does no such thing, after all your issuing institution made no such agreement with you, and in fact you went outside the bounds of your agreement to impart an obligation on your relationship between you and your merchant that has no bearing, weight or merit.

    Don't even bother referring to card-not-present transactions. The merchant pays a higher fee on such transactions, precisely because of the increased risk.

    Don't get your panties all twisted up because someone on the Internet has the unmitigated gall to suggest you actually read the contracts you enter into before mouthing off petulantly.

  • by Kristopeit, M. D. (1892582) on Friday September 10, 2010 @07:14PM (#33541160)
    not everyone had to pay... getting premium access in no way benefitted the players... it was more just stuff like uploading pictures and access to message boards. probably under 5% of people paid.

    $65,000 is way less than my salary... so now i'm supposed to spend weeks or months, paying a lawyer over $100/hour the whole time, AND waste my own time only to be later raped by the next payment processor or some parents group suing me because their child read the word FUCK and gave me their credit card number without permission?

    yeah, you're an idiot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 11, 2010 @12:34AM (#33542586)
    There's also been a guy (under the name citricsquid) running heavy damage control in the comments on Notch's blog and the thread on Hacker News.
  • by Kalriath (849904) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @04:09AM (#33543344)

    Ah yes, Enderandrew. I said I had problems with Paypal refusing to offer dispute resolution on one of my sales (via a third party) and he insisted that Paypal is flawless, and it was my processor's fault. Also insisted that any problems can easily be sorted by calling Paypal's "giant customer service centre".

    Suck it, Enderandrew.

  • Re:This is why (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheLink (130905) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:43PM (#33548706) Journal

    Well Starcraft 2 certainly seems to be doing better. And yes it can be pirated.

    Just googling seems to show there was quite some bad feeling about MW2 in the PC gamer community:
    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/11/pc-modern-warfare-2-its-much-worse-than-you-thought.ars [arstechnica.com]
    http://img692.imageshack.us/img692/4069/mw2b.jpg [imageshack.us]

    FWIW I've played none of the mentioned games.

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