Rebellion Revokes 'Stolen' Sniper Elite 3 Keys, Users And Resellers Cry Foul

Steam is a convenient place to purchase one's games, but it doesn't always offer a competitive price. Enter the likes of Green Man Gaming and other key resellers, who are able to offer better deals, especially if you live outside the US. Rebellion's Sniper Elite 3 recently debuted on Valve's distribution service and like other Steam titles, you can pick up a key for it from these discount stores. Unless Rebellion decides to revoke those keys, of course.

Rebellion recently asked Valve to disable a batch of keys it says were "stolen" from one of its retail distributors, a fact it revealed today in a post on Sniper Elite 3's Steam forum. The developer recommends those affected contact whoever they purchased their keys from and ask for a refund.

On the surface it seems clear-cut: Steam keys stolen, sold illegally, said keys are revoked. It's more than likely going to screw over customers more than whatever entity has sold those keys, but Rebellion is offering compensation in the form of free DLC... which is nice, but ultimately useless if you don't own the game.

Understandably, affected gamers immediately complained, with a few stating that their GMG-purchased keys were revoked (though this is difficult to confirm). Despite not being caught out trading in stolen keys, UK-based CJS CD Keys, one of the bigger stores in the reseller business, posted a response on its blog where it accused Rebellion of banning "thousands, if not hundreds of thousands" of keys bought legitimately through sites similar to its own and that the developer's actions are an attempt to get gamers to buy the game at full price through Steam.

It's impossible to verify either side of the story, though it's hard to believe the sinister excuse that Rebellion is attempting a money grab by banning keys. Ultimately, it serves as a warning to others: Be careful where you purchase cheap Steam keys.

UPDATE! - Have you had your Sniper Elite 3 Steam key blocked, OR been given a refund? [Steam, via Kitguru]


Comments

    Good on Rebellion for disabling the CD Keys, With cd keys as cheap as 20-30 usd before release and sold everywhere, you know something is wrong.

    Shame on cd key sellers to claim they are not wrong since they get a batch of stolen cd keys at practically no cost to sell for profit and now blaming it back to Rebellion. Resellers can complain all they want but they are selling stolen goods whether they like it or not.

      If a site has been dealing in stolen keys, then go after the site by all means, even block the keys if they have to as it's stolen goods, flat out and simple. But the legitimate resellers, the sites who purchased properly and have not been caught up in this criminal activity, who purchased legally with good intention should not be punished for the actions of a criminal. If this happens and can be proven, then I'll be more likely to believe the CJS story, but for now, the wording in their article is highly dubious and the way it jumps from 'thousands' to 'hundreds of thousands' is just plain stupid. That's like saying 'One person got a bad deal...' suddenly it's '500 people got a bad deal'. It's the same giant jump of logic, or lack of.

      That being said, sites like GMG, OzGameshop etc are reputable and don't generally (generally) deal in stolen keys in my experience (I'm happy to be proven wrong with evidence, not just opinion or 'I heard from my mate'). I'm particular myself about where I shop, I bought SE3 last night from GMG for 29.95 on one of their deals, but if my key were blocked I'd definitely be seeking a refund posthaste.

      I'd say honestly, this has more to do with those people who buy from those dodgy russian sites and shit like that.

      But I've checked as of 5 minutes ago and it hasn't been. *Whew*

      Last edited 28/06/14 12:51 pm

      This makes me wonder what the supply chain for digital keys looks like. A supply chain is the number of links it takes to get a product from the producer, to the end user. Because they aren't physical products, it doesn't need to be that big. I'm guessing; Rebellion>Steam/GMG/other sites>end consumer.
      That would mean that GMG and other sites know damn well where the keys they have sold/are selling came from.
      Therefore, either GMG has been naughty and some customers have been caught up in it, or some buyers have done the dodgy on less reputable sites and tried to escape Rebellions righteous retribution by also trying to rip off GMG as well.

      Last edited 28/06/14 1:10 pm

        That is of course, if the few users claiming they got theirs from GMG are being genuine.

          excuse my ignorance but how does an online retailer steal keys? don't they come direct from the supplier? do they use key generators? are key generators still a thing?

            That is of course, a great question and one Rebellion should answer? I imagine a key generator of some sort, given most keys are created via an algorithm of some sort.

            It'd be more of a case of distributors are sent a table of keys and the table was stolen from the distributor who had shit security (excellent external, fucking abysmal internal is my guess, 20 bucks says inside job), when that theft came to light the whole table of keys was revoked on steam.

            Logical and secure, job well done. My problem is not with that part, it's with the whole "so what are you actually doing to replace my key" half of the discussion. I don't want a refund, I want my game.

            CC @weresmurf

      How do you assume that all digital key stores use stolen product? Because they're cheap? Most of the keys i can find are almost identical in price to the US rrp of the game... A number of russian sites knowingly sell stolen goods but measures against those have been in place for years.

        Actually, I assume that all digital key stores use legit products, with the exception of those Russian sites you mentioned.

        What I was saying was that any digital key store would know that the keys they sell are legit because they get them from the publisher, not a non-reputable source.

        The publisher would sell them at below RRP, and retailers add their own margins on top of that, with Steam adding more than the digital key stores in certain markets, such as Australia

    How does someone steal Steam keys?

      Steal a load of games, open them up and copy down all the CD keys. Well thats the only way I can see it happening.

      Distributor has a database of keys, bypass their security, copy the database, & don't let anyone know. Sell keys a day earlier on dodgy sites and hope not to get busted

    It’s impossible to verify either side of the story, though it’s hard to believe the sinister excuse that Rebellion is attempting a money grab by banning keys.

    I find it strange that you cannot believe a practice that has been in use since the beginning of selling things.

      The reason it's hard to believe is because it's basically moustache twirling villainy, all that's missing is a top hat, cape & tying a lady to a railway track

    It's altogether possible that the people who bought their games via legitimate channels and later had them banned were the ones who the keys were stolen *from*.

    That is (for example):
    - Rebellion sells keys to GMG (probably on consignment)
    - GMG sells keys to people
    - Hackers duplicate the key generation process and/or intercept some of the traffic to/from GMG, thus finding out what the keys are
    - Rebellion finds out about this via a small but noticeable number of duplicate registrations, all handled via particular resellers, and bans the entire pool to block further use of the (really, actually) stolen keys
    - Internet explodes

    In this scenario everybody is doing the "right" thing, although Rebellion are being inflexible in a way that hurts their genuine customers. Heck, even some customers win out as when there's a duplicate registration Rebellion have no way of knowing which one is OK.

      This is most definitely the very likely situation.

      If this were the case, the people who got their cd key would either register the game on their steam account, thus preventing anyone else from using the key. or the people who illegally copied them would register it and the person who bought the CD key wouldn't be able to us it, and would then contact GMG.

      This is Rebellion taking a slab of CD keys sold by key vendors and asking steam to ban them.

      The thing about "legitimate" customers is that they are all legit. Customers aren't likely buying knowing that the keys are stolen. In the end its not fair only to all the customers. I hope the publisher becomes hated and avoided for this behaviour.

    Wonder if its just steam? because i bought the PS4 version, and my DLC (the Hitler one) says the key is invalid... might raise it as an issue

    I've sent rebellion a tweet asking exactly what's going on and if they'll be sending replacement keys to retailers, they seem to have been answering a few on the topic so I suspect that if they're not honestly trying to make things right then they're at least in some manner of arse covering PR mode so I'm hoping to get some sort of reply.

    The way it sounds to me from the information I've pieced together is that Rebellion give the keys to various distributors who then on-sell them to companies like ozgameshop & GMG. It was one of those distributors who had a major theft and consequently everything from them had to be revoked including the keys for the physical copies they also distributed which is why there's reports of boxed copies not working either. That's where it seems logical to me that Rebellion aren't the ones at fault, there was a breach in a different point in the chain after it left them.

    Kind of like that debate that sometimes crops up about ethics of buying computers, where does the consumer have to draw the line and trust that things aren't being made in a way that eventually supports slave labour for minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or wherever? What about the vehicles the shipping company uses and the fuel burned by the vehicles and the clothes worn by the people who process the fuel etc... In this case, Rebellion has to trust that the distributor can get their product to the end point and the end point has to trust that the product coming from the distributor is legit. Chances are the distributor didn't know the breach had happened until after they'd sent the keys out.

    All that said, Rebellion could certainly have had a more explanatory statement and not implied that buying direct from steam was the only remaining option which the initial version of the post on steam certainly did. The later revisions improved it and clarified that the buying on steam was the only way they could verify the thing for giving you the DLC for free (which is also weird, stolen keys revoked, any remaining should be valid, surely job done?). But yeah, if a refund is the only option and OZGS don't get 2 more keys at that price, I'll have $60 more towards my new laptop I guess and be waiting for the next steam sale or GMG coupon once it's confirmed that their keys work again.

    If Kotaku would offer some good old fashioned journalism, they would have to ask a few questions, and if Rebellion doesn't answer them, other involved sides doesn't answer them, they should try to find probable answers.

    The first question to ask for: If at any distributor a major theft occurs, how come that only Sniper Elite III keys are affected?

    As you can see this is simple question, but it is hard to answer. Either it is a very unlikely event, or Rebellion handles the same event differently than other publishers, or the theft happened at the Publisher itself.

    ----

    As you see these pre-order keys were bought by key selling sites as pre-orders BEFORE they were printed. Look at affected sites: G2A, Kinguin, etc. They all have a huge enough monthly income. Why would *all* such sites, with *all their income* risk this? They are big enough taxpayers so they are constantly checked. Buying from an untrusted / unusual source would have many risks.

    It is possible that preorder keys wouldn't be delivered to them. They could get invalid keys. They could get duplicate keys. There might be problem with VAT, etc. and if they deal with untrusted suppliers.

    Why on the earth several involved companies ran by very different people would make the same mistake buying from a such source? As you see Rebellion doesn't offer any explanation for this.

    ----

    Okay, lest assume that by pure miracle someone only stolen Sniper Elite III keys, and those sites by pure miracle would fall for the same scam. But those purchases were made before the keys were issues. How on earth would a thief know in advance, that due to sheer luck he will find a certain amount of Sniper Elite III keys? Not only the game, but the fact he will have enough to supply his customers.

    ----

    If you don't like conspiracy theories involving divination / time travel (to know stuff in advance), where a lot of people has to act against his best interest for no apparent reason, you should dismiss the claims from Rebellion.

    ----

    To have basis for revoking keys, they would have to *prove* the theft. Without proof it is fishy. At a distributor many things can happen. Some accidental problems... Or clever theft by an inside man. Inside man can be a problem at the publisher as well.

    But as these inside men can represent the company they work for (in an unauthorized fashion), and the customers trust the company... Many would fall for it. But a honest company would say: Our employee, our responsibility. And wouldn't revoke the keys. Giving underpaid and desperate employees access to a lot of things comes at a risk. BUT financing this risk is cheaper than having well paid employees and good practices to avoid such theft.

    Probably they would tell Rebellion that their keys were lost / stolen / exposed in an explanation about why they need new set of preorder keys. But probably they would pay for the additional keys, just explain why they need preorder bonuses.

    What happens if Rebellion is trying to be nice with the Distributor? They can say: "okay, we revoke the key, and you get a new batch." This is their side of the story. Soon a lot of people will be angry at both Rebellion, the Distributor (the retailers who bought the game here) and the retailers involved.

    Not only customers would be mad... But a lot of retailers would be mad as this ruins their business and was unfair, and against normal business practices and they done nothing wrong. They would end up with a conspiracy theory. As they know they haven't bought stolen keys from an untrusted source... They bought from usual legit channels.

    Often they visit the distributor in person, pay with hard cash, etc. and it is regular business. If the incident happens at the distributor BOTH key sellers, small Brick and Mortar stores would be affected. And sometimes even big chains who try to save a bit on shipping by buying something in the affected region.

    As you see an inside job can explain everything. If it was at the publisher, the issue can happen that way. If it was at a developer? It can happen that way.

    There is another possible explanation. Remember WoW: BC? Blizzard mixed up some keys. If key printing and creation is messed up and a distributor claims their own people, press, etc. runs into duplicate key problems, so the keys "might be leaked or stolen". If keys aren't revoked, they would end up shared by many people. If they are, the problem would happen.

    As you see all you need is one bug to end up in this scenario, without any proof or any solid claim from any side. As retailers cannot prove so easily that the keys they bought and sold aren't fakes, and checking which of them are revoked, it would turn into a total mess.

    The someone suspects something, key revocation without solid proof scenario has good explanation. But what the publisher offers is just as bad as the wild guesses and conspiracy theories by certain key sellers.

    Inside jobs aren't that rare... And bugs and related issues can be expected as well.

    Game sucks anyway, they should be giving it away.

    Green Man Gaming have put an official response to this on their blog: http://blog.playfire.com/2014/06/official-retail-partner-benefits-of.html

    Well I understand why people think g2a steals keys because that's why they are so cheap but that is actually not the case. What g2a does is buy keys in bulk and the price varies on how well the product is selling. Usually on release the games will be cheap because people haven't had the chance to buy it yet. If g2a was stealing keys and then reselling them they would have been shut down a long time ago.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now