An unknown number of gamers that purchased their Steam keys for the recently released Sniper Elite III from several different off-Steam sites sat down to play their games yesterday and found themselves suddenly unable to do so. Apparently, developer Rebellion informed Valve that many of their Steam keys were stolen from a retail distributor and resold illegally. These keys were allegedly stolen in bulk from a retailer of the physical copy of the game and then sold to third party sites (again, also apparently in bulk) where they were bought by consumers not knowing anything nefarious had happened. Valve revoked the keys when informed by Rebellion, which meant that some people who had already been playing and enjoying the game suddenly found themselves unable to do so. For some reason, this left many people quite mad and they flooded the game’s Steam forum to write posts containing poorly censored swear words.
And what was Rebellion’s solution to dealing with the anger of their customers? They encouraged them to go ask for refunds and gave them some free DLC to a game they can no longer play. I understand that they couldn’t just give everyone affected a free game, but the DLC really feels like salt in the wound. “Sorry you can no longer play our game. Here is some more of our game that you can’t play!” Understandably, the Steam discussion thread where Rebellion revealed why some people suddenly were unable to play their game has grown increasingly angry as more and more people are trying to figure out why they spent money at a reputable place of business and are suddenly being told by Steam (and Rebellion) that they can no longer play the game they just bought.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing is the reality of what can happen when you are no longer purchasing a copy of a game, but the rights to play the game. Publishers and developers can pull your right for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, leaving you having spent your money on a whole bunch of nothing. Some people on the forums are speculating this is Rebellion’s way of trying to force people to pay full price for their games and bypass the sites out there that sell Steam keys on the cheap. While we have no evidence to corroborate the tin-foil hat wearers out there yet, it is certainly within Rebellion and Valve’s rights to pull access for a game fraudulently purchased. It is yet another peril of the digital age, and a reminder to gamers out there to perhaps not try to save a couple of bucks by going to shady sites and just buying your game from a licensed distributor instead.