Steam Runs Out Of Keys For A Game, Keeps Selling It Anyway

Steam Runs Out Of Keys For A Game, Keeps Selling It Anyway

The Splinter Cell series for PC went on sale this weekend on Steam. Every game was discounted at 75% off, including Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the most recent game which Kirk Hamilton called in his review a sort of “greatest hits” collection borrowing the most successful parts from each previous game.

There’s only one problem. Apparently Steam didn’t have enough game keys to satisfy the explosion in demand for Blacklist that occurred over the weekend thanks to the sale. While Steam sells the download for the game, players also need a special key to “unlock” it once installed. This how publishers keep track of how many copies of a game are sold digitally on platforms like Steam.

Steam Runs Out Of Keys For A Game, Keeps Selling It AnywayFrom Steam’s support page regarding failures to contact the Key Server.

From Steam’s support page regarding failures to contact the Key Server.

Without said key, the game simply doesn’t work. Earlier today I purchased Blacklist on Steam to see if the problem had been fixed. Customer complaints on this subject, littered across Reddit and the Steam community, go back to October 28 when the sale first started. Sure enough, after the game had downloaded and installed, I got the same error as everyone else.

When you try to run the game from the client, a message pops up for a split second saying “Requesting key…” Another message immediately follows saying “Failed to connect to server.” According to Lipntooth and other users on Steam who have requested support, additional keys were supposed to arrive at some point today. This has been an ongoing problem for the digital storefront, having occurred in the past around other large sales for popular games and holidays.

As of when this story went live, the game still wouldn’t start. While some users have successfully received refunds for the game, others it seems have decided to wait for Steam to fix the issue so that they don’t have to download the nearly 20GB file again or pay the regular price if they want to purchase it again later. The Splinter Cell sale is set to end tomorrow.

We have reached out to Steam for comment.


  • Blacklist is a really great game. I got it for $10 a couple of years ago at JBs and couldn’t believe how much fun I had with it. Highly recommend!

  • Isn’t this making the best of a bad situation? The alternative would be to end the sale early meaning no one after the 28th would get the good price. It’s the digital version of a rain check.

    • Pretty much this.
      Sure, it would be frustrating for anyone (in Australia) with NBN who’s looking to play the game immediately. But the reality of it is a pretty simple (on face value) technical fix. Steam approaches the publisher about generating more keys or a new seed, and distributes the moment they are available.

      I don’t see this as groundbreaking news really. As a customer, if the product doesn’t work, you are entitled to a refund. Or, if you’re really interested in picking it up at a good price, you simply wait for the release of new keys. There’s a story here if that timeframe takes, say longer than a week.

  • I think people would be a lot less upset if when you clicked purchase you got a message telling you it may be a few days before keys are available. This would let you make an informed decision on how to proceed.

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