Have You Been Affected?
Sniper Elite 3 may be riding high in the UK charts this week, but Rebellion's sharpshooter has been making bigger and less savoury headlines over the weekend due to the decision to revoke a huge batch of Steam keys sold by a variety of resellers.
Leaving hundreds of gamers who bought the keys in good faith unable to play and in search of refunds, with a powerful yet vague accusation of "stolen" codes and dodgy third-party resellers as explanation.
What's going on? Who's in the right here? Much is still unknown, but it's high time we weighed in.
Sniper Elite 3 released last Friday. As per usual the game was available to buy on Steam at RRP, but many code resellers and third-party stockists were already selling batches of pre-order keys, from the likes of CDKeys.com and Greenman Gaming to far less reputable outfits.
However, as reports of non-functional keys (and even licenses being deactivated several hours after first install!) ramped up, it became clear that something wasn't quite right. Rebellion eventually copped to deactivating a batch of Steam keys and issued the following statement.
"We appreciate that some people are upset, this is exactly why we wanted to make this offer to gamers who’ve been affected through no fault of their own.
"To clarify, one of our PC retail distributors informed us that some of their allotted Steam keys were stolen. We believe these keys were then resold to multiple companies, with no payments going to either Valve or the retail distributor. Steam were immediately informed and have now revoked that set of keys."
Odd, but absolutely possible. Perhaps an employee of the retail distributor leaked or illegally sold the codes, an email may have been intercepted or, just as likely, a fake or cloned credit card used to purchase a batch of codes that was since sold piecemeal to numerous serial code resellers before the distributor cottoned on. Remember that many resellers don't care about the provenance of the codes that they receive, rather it's all in the profit margins. Their main goal is to make money, not provide us with savings. Adding a little credence to the story, it appears that some Hungarian retail copies have been deactivated too, perhaps hailing from the original distributor?
So a plausible tale, then, but the variety of retailers involved is staggering if all the reports are correct. Gamers claim that codes from more than fifty companies have been affected, prompting many irate gamers to allege that Rebellion are simply trying to force gamers to purchase the official Steam version at its full £39.99 RRP. Half price fixing, half monopoly, all deeply questionable despite their explanation being as believable as it is annoyingly vague.
Just to stir the pot, CJS CD Keys stuck their oars in good and deep, despite their codes not actually being part of the "stolen" batch.
Rebellion's response to these accusations has been limited, beyond advising affected consumers to request a refund or replacement from the reseller in question, then providing free pre-order DLC to everyone involved. A nice touch, but in all honesty, it's probably time they explained the situation in more detail.
"As a developer Rebellion are happy for you to purchase the game anywhere you see fit and support price competition in the PC market - we have in no way targeted any specific vendors (who may have also thought these keys were legitimate), just this one set of keys."
It's possible that Rebellion have to keep the specifics quiet if a criminal investigation is ongoing. We've reached out in case.
Either way, if you've been left in the lurch, get in touch with your reseller -- most are offering both refunds and voucher codes to apologise for the mishap -- and tell us who you bought it from. It would be interesting to conduct a little poll on how widespread this issue is here in the UK.