Return to “Technical”

Post

Steam Key Scammers

#1
Gamasutra has highlighted a disturbing blog post by Leszek Lisowski, lead developer at Wastelands Interactive (maker of Worlds of Magic).

As part of the PR ramp-up to releasing Worlds of Magic, Lesowski provided Steam keys for backers and press. Over the ten or so days up to the game's release, he sent well over 10,000 Steam keys and confirmation emails, primarily to backers.

But during this time he noticed that he was starting to get numerous email requests from people with YouTube channels asking for review copies of the game. Thinking that this was a good idea to help spread the word about the game, he frequently replied to these requests with a Steam key (or two or three).

Some days later, he noticed a comment in a Steam forum thread that G2A.com was selling Worlds of Magic for $15, a substantially lower price than the game was intended to sell for. Curious, Lesowski bought one of these Steam keys... and found it was one of the ones he'd sent out to a YouTuber.

He went back to the emails he'd received, and found that quite a few of them had email addresses differing by a single number. What seemed to be happening was that people were simply claiming to have YouTube accounts, and were making up different email addresses with each one requesting a free Steam key for that game, then turning around and selling those keys.

He tried a test: over about 2-3 hours, he sent 46 email requests for Steam keys to various developers. He received 16 free keys from 15 developers, worth about $400. (He then returned those keys, unused, to the developers.)

Imagine what someone doing this kind of thing all day, every day, could make.

To try to deal with this -- so that some purchasers of his game at its full price don't freak out that someone is selling basically stolen keys for a much lower price -- Lesowski started asking anyone claiming to be a YouTuber asking for a review copy to provide the link to their channel, where he could get their email address either from the channel or through the YouTube messaging service. Five out of 23 provided a real address to a real YouTube channel. In other words, about 70% of the keys he provided probably went to bogus requesters.

This did reduce the number of keys provided to people who presumably weren't legitimate. But as John Bain ("TotalBiscuit") points out in the comments to the Gamasutra article, many of the more popular YouTubers have their YouTube messaging service turned off to avoid the massive amounts of spam and death threats. So they won't ever see a request through that channel from a game developer asking them for a valid email address.

I'm posting this here in the LT Technical subforum because it looks like this might be a (somewhat) technical problem if Valve accepts LT for sale through Steam, and in particular if LT becomes available through the Steam Early Access system. Josh is likely to receive requests from purported YouTubers for review copies of Limit Theory, both before and after it goes live.

Sadly, it looks like -- unless he wants to see Steam keys for LT selling on some dodgy sites for a price that will anger customers who paid full price for it -- Josh will need to find some way to verify that these requests are coming from legitimate reviewers, and to carefully document exactly where each review Steam key was sent. That's time he shouldn't have to spend... but the alternative is to help perpetuate people who are ripping off game developers.

What a world.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#3
"Don't give away 10,000 Steam keys" is probably good advice.

Some amount of shrinkage is probably inevitable, and trying to prevent every case would hoover up all of Josh's time around the launch window.

Even so, it is offensive when game developers have their trust abused by people just lying to make a quick buck off of someone else's hard work. Grrrrr.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#4
If you don't want people using something how they want to, don't give it away.

However I think giveaways are a good thing. While you may lose some immediate revenue you are still advertising your game, people are buying it who may not have before if it's substantially cheaper. By extension their friends and friends friends will now be exposed to the game that won't otherwise have been.
Don't be shortsighted when it comes to reaching consumers.
woops, my bad, everything & anything actually means specific and conformed
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#5
Katawa wrote:If you don't want people using something how they want to, don't give it away.
It's still a breach of trust though. This is a case where people ask for a key so they can do X, but then they go and do Y. If here developer had known the people were going to do Y he may not have provided the keys.

The deception played on the developer is the problem. He could avoid it by never trusting anyone on the net, which is sad but probably more effective, hence the vetting problem. He learned the hard way.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#6
Katawa wrote:If you don't want people using something how they want to, don't give it away.

However I think giveaways are a good thing. While you may lose some immediate revenue you are still advertising your game, people are buying it who may not have before if it's substantially cheaper. By extension their friends and friends friends will now be exposed to the game that won't otherwise have been.
Don't be shortsighted when it comes to reaching consumers.
I think you're right, but it's the deception really. Granted, it's 100% possible that some people lied to get their friend a key and that this was the best way to give themselves more leverage.
Image
Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#7
If you're lying to get keys, then go sell those keys... then that's fraud.
I'm perfectly fine with people getting free keys for them and their friends... I'm not fine with trying to make a profit on the back of others.
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#8
Katorone wrote:If you're lying to get keys, then go sell those keys... then that's fraud.
I'm perfectly fine with people getting free keys for them and their friends... I'm not fine with trying to make a profit on the back of others.
Personally I am not fine with people getting keys for free for something that costs money. A person just like me could say "Hey I am a youtube reviewer :think: and I would like a review copy" and get a full price game for free. That is almost if not just as much stealing as piracy.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#11
MrPerson wrote:A person just like me could say "Hey I am a youtube reviewer :think: and I would like a review copy" and get a full price game for free. That is almost if not just as much stealing as piracy.
Would a person like you tell your friends about the game if you enjoyed it?
woops, my bad, everything & anything actually means specific and conformed
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#12
Katawa wrote:
MrPerson wrote:A person just like me could say "Hey I am a youtube reviewer :think: and I would like a review copy" and get a full price game for free. That is almost if not just as much stealing as piracy.
Would a person like you tell your friends about the game if you enjoyed it?
Are you saying the ends justify the means?
Image
Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#13
DWMagus wrote:
Katawa wrote:
MrPerson wrote:A person just like me could say "Hey I am a youtube reviewer :think: and I would like a review copy" and get a full price game for free. That is almost if not just as much stealing as piracy.
Would a person like you tell your friends about the game if you enjoyed it?
Are you saying the ends justify the means?
It does depend on what the question is... At my store we offer a discount to people that ask for it. We also give away promotional vouchers that people can use themselves or give away.
We do get people that try to scam us. Changing money tricks, paying with fake currency and so on...

The difference here is that if people are dishonest and in it for their own gain, we experience it as negatively. If people talk to us, saying they love our products but wouldn't mind some samples or a bit of a discount for their patronage, they'll get it.
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#14
DWMagus wrote:
Katawa wrote:
MrPerson wrote:A person just like me could say "Hey I am a youtube reviewer :think: and I would like a review copy" and get a full price game for free. That is almost if not just as much stealing as piracy.
Would a person like you tell your friends about the game if you enjoyed it?
Are you saying the ends justify the means?
The purpose of giveaways is advertisement. There's no reasonable way to determine if the legitimate youtuber who wants to show the game to his 15 subscribers has a wider social reach than the person who's bought it cheaply when they otherwise might not have. In either case the original giver has lost the complete revenue value of the product in exchange for attention, which was his goal.

If that's not reasonable to you then I can only suggest people giving away keys check who they're giving them to.
Katorone wrote:The difference here is that if people are dishonest and in it for their own gain, we experience it as negatively. If people talk to us, saying they love our products but wouldn't mind some samples or a bit of a discount for their patronage, they'll get it.
It doesn't matter how you feel about it though, as a business, what matters is product awareness to secure broader sales. People network all on their own if they like something, losing some sales to gain many more is pretty smart.
woops, my bad, everything & anything actually means specific and conformed
Post

Re: Steam Key Scammers

#15
Katawa wrote:
DWMagus wrote:
Katawa wrote:Would a person like you tell your friends about the game if you enjoyed it?
Are you saying the ends justify the means?
The purpose of giveaways is advertisement. There's no reasonable way to determine if the legitimate youtuber who wants to show the game to his 15 subscribers has a wider social reach than the person who's bought it cheaply when they otherwise might not have. In either case the original giver has lost the complete revenue value of the product in exchange for attention, which was his goal.

If that's not reasonable to you then I can only suggest people giving away keys check who they're giving them to.
The post was not meant to be poignant, but a sincere question. You bring up some points that I hadn't considered.
Image
Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.

Online Now

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron