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The Sniper Elite 3 Steam Code Debacle: Theft Or Cash Grab?

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
PC games, Rebellion, Sniper Elite 3

The Sniper Elite 3 Steam Code Debacle: Theft Or Cash Grab?

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.

Add a comment9 comments
ODB_69  Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:31

I don't believe a word from Rebellion having been following this all weekend. OK some of the smaller key sites maybe. GMG? Unlikely, possible, but unlikely. Then I see codes from Game & Amazon are affected too.

I call shenanigans


My cdkeys code was thankfully unaffected

JonLester  Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:45

@ODB: To play hypothetical devil's advocate, wouldn't Rebellion have specifically targeted all codes knowingly sold or distributed to the cheapest third-party key resellers or more keys if price fixing was the end result? As you've mentioned, some keys from the cheapest resellers haven't been affected (even all the CJS codes), making this a highly ineffective way of price-fixing.

Hypothetical being the operative word, mind. I'm not convinced that what I just described is actually possible.

The fact that so many retailers (not just resellers) seem to be affected is utterly bizarre, though, you're right. Perhaps Steam were overzealous or an entire enormous batch had to be culled in full in order to successfully deactivate a small number of stolen copies?

Which, erm, still wouldn't be okay.

I've reached out to Rebellion and will update when and if I hear anything.

Last edited by JonLester, Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:54
Tsung  Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:51

I agree ^ Shenanigans.. luckily I got in early and my code worked (picked game up for £13 from Cd-Keys) but friends have not been so lucky. I can't help but feel they did not like the lower prices being offered and revoked keys accordingly.

Oh, Jon posted before I did, slipping in there. :)

Last edited by Tsung, Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:52
El Siccse  Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:52

Hi There, I was one of the pre order purchases which the key after having been accepted and pre loaded, was revoked shortly after the game was released.
I do think they are trying to force people to purchase through steam. It strikes me as unlikely that a rogue key thief could make contact and sell to lots of online key sellers whilst valve/rebellion/police are all ignorant of there existence. Rather than revoke the keys of 1000's of customers they could have furnished the key resellers with replacements whilst they investigate the theft on their own time and at their convenience.

As always I will vote with my wallet (I do not pirate games, though I am happy to take advantage of geographical loopholes and currency fluctuations). It's obvious we are getting ripped off when they can sell it in india/russia/mexico hell even the US, at lower prices and still turn healthy profits. It's a particular shame as it is a UK developer and I do try to support them (pre ordered AvP, fool me once etc)
I will probably buy the GOTY when all the dlc is included and it's below £15. In the meantime I will play the mighty fine Titanfall , as I can now get in a game thanks to the latest patch. among others, Until those keys get revoked anyway.

JonLester  Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:56

Thanks for the feedback everyone - definitely seems to be centred around CDKeys at least here at Dealspwn/HUKD. At least they seem to be pretty serious about customer service/refunds.

Anyone stung with a GMG/Amazon key, or keys from another reseller?

Last edited by JonLester, Jun. 30, 2014 at 14:57
roberttaylor8273  Jun. 30, 2014 at 15:26

Not me but had a friend who's had problems with his GMG key. hope this is not a start of trend with other company's revoking cd keys bought from sites like GMG.

Last edited by roberttaylor8273, Jun. 30, 2014 at 15:33
Radchek  Jun. 30, 2014 at 19:45

Myself & a friend pre-ordered keys from simplycdkeys.com because of the price reduction & because my friend had bought from simplygames.com in the past & found them reliable.

We duly ordered at the end of May, got our keys on Thursday 26th, preloaded overnight & validated by Steam, played one hours or so before noticing the game being revoked.

Within a couple of hours Simplycdkeys had authorised a refund & we tried to buy replacement keys from cdkeys.com which we duly tried and which were duly revoked, thankfully they too have been refunded.

Incidentally both company's have given discount vouchers, but to be honest I am not certain that we'll ever bother trying to redeem them, having been burnt by this.

We've now ordered boxed copies, & if we ever buy just game keys we'll likely go direct to the publisher such as Blizzard etc..

TheChappy  Jun. 30, 2014 at 19:50

This is why physical discs are better than downloads.

ODB_69  Jun. 30, 2014 at 22:12

@ODB: To play hypothetical devil's advocate, wouldn't Rebellion have specifically targeted all codes knowingly sold or distributed to the cheapest third-party key resellers or more keys if price fixing was the end result? As you've mentioned, some keys from the cheapest resellers haven't been affected (even all the CJS codes), making this a highly ineffective way of price-fixing.

Hypothetical being the operative word, mind. I'm not convinced that what I just described is actually possible.

The fact that so many retailers (not just resellers) seem to be affected is utterly bizarre, though, you're right. Perhaps Steam were overzealous or an entire enormous batch had to be culled in full in order to successfully deactivate a small number of stolen copies?

Which, erm, still wouldn't be okay.

I've reached out to Rebellion and will update when and if I hear anything.


I think CJS (Like some other sellers) get the steam code from retail physical copies (generally cheaper than downloads).

Its odd to say the least...I don't get why my CDKeys one is fine but others arent and what are the chances that Game & Amazon have bought some random guy on the phone.

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