STEAM GROUP
Sentinels of the Store StoreSents
STEAM GROUP
Sentinels of the Store StoreSents
109
IN-GAME
602
ONLINE
Founded
January 17, 2017
Language
English
2dengine Dec 20, 2017 @ 12:45am
On DailyIndieGame
First of all I'd like to thank the SOS community and zarkonnen.com for inspiring me to speak up.

There are many sites out there that sell Steam keys. Some are secure, like Humble Bundle and Groupees. Many are not and take advantage of unsuspecting devs. Most people are not aware or simply lack the confidence to speak up. My goal is to raise awareness and stand up for the small devs who are getting screwed over, and assume that they can't do anything about it.

The exciting offer
Few years ago, I was approached by DailyIndieGame to participate in one of their bundles. Seemed like a good deal so I signed the agreement they provided and handed them some keys for two of our games. DIG featured our games in several different promotions:
https://web.archive.org/web/20150825133358/http://www.dailyindiegame.com/superbundle_37.html
https://web.archive.org/web/20150914043216/http://www.dailyindiegame.com:80/superbundle_36.html
Altogether, the promotions resulted in “16339 bundles sold”. It seemed like a success at the time!

The switcheroo
Two years later, I noticed an unusual spike in Steam key activations. This was quite suspicious as we had not participated in any large promotions since DIG! Generally speaking, unusual spikes in activations looks very similar to situations where keys are stolen, re-sold or farmed (as in the case of IndieGameStand). Sadly, many small devs simply don't notice or don't have the resources to react when similar things happen. In certain cases, devs are threatened or bullied, often by key re-sellers or people involved with gray market activities. Although harmless, this sort of negativity creates the impression that the game in question could be of poor quality...

I checked the Steamworks stats – 58069 of the keys I provided to DIG had been activated. To be fair, DIG has an option where if a customer pays over the average price, he or she receives an extra key. That means that from “16K bundles sold” there should be no more than 32K activations, right? The agreement which Robert from DIG had himself provided clearly promised that “Any unused licenses will be returned to the Developer”. Since Robert must have “forgotten” about this agreement, I politely contacted DIG asking if they had any unused keys laying around. My request was ignored for several months. I contacted them again in December 2017 and this time Robert replied that DIG didn't store any keys after the promotion was over. I asked if he knew the total number of keys he had handed out, but Robert claimed that it would be too much trouble to figure that out. His explanation was that “1 bundle sold” according to DIG didn't really mean 1 key of each game, it could be mean 2,3 or more keys!

The reality of the situation
It's very important to emphasize that we love giving our games away to people who appreciate them. Legit sites like Groupees automatically send out a list of the "unused keys" while HumbleBundle shows you exactly how your payment is split and used. On the other hand, consider this when buying your games from shady sites: where is your dollar really going? DIG does not reveal how many keys were handed out – turns out that we're only paid a few cents per activation. DIG bundles feature six games so that's less than 25 cents shared among all devs... but wait DIG's minimum payment option is $0.99, right? So what happens to the rest of your money? Nobody knows. My personal guess is that the rest of the money is going in the pockets of shady re-sellers. These people are shady because they can't vouch for the products they are selling.

Conclusion
Fellow devs, please don't assume that this sort of situation could never happen to you – especially if you were involved with bundles or giveaways in the past. Things happen - keys get stolen, bundle sites come and go... I'm not trying to point fingers or blame anybody. In fact, there are many legit bundles out there that totally deserve your dollar! The tragedy here is that a lot of inexperienced devs are coerced and swindled in similar ways and don't even realize it. Please help out the little guys and honor the legal limitations and conditions of what you are allowed to do with your Steam keys. Better yet – buy your games directly from the devs or a reputable store like Steam.

Thanks for reading and much love,
Ivan from 2dengine

Fellow devs who think they may be affected: please contact me via Steam or through: http://2dengine.com/?p=customers

Update 1/20/2018: I have a little bit of sad news regarding this story. DIG has started re-selling keys for our games on their "Marketplace" without any notice or asking for consent. In short, they have no decency or respect for devs.
Last edited by 2dengine; Jan 21, 2018 @ 6:27am
< >
Showing 1-15 of 29 comments
talgaby Dec 20, 2017 @ 12:56am 
For devs, it does not help that DIG offers a key exchange program for the bundles they sold, so keys can linger in their database unused for years. They also have a store and a flea market segment.
Interestingly though, they are usually considered one of the better options for small cheap indie games and for the most part, we saw their owner try to be active and helpful when possible—at least with customers.
2dengine Dec 20, 2017 @ 1:03am 
After the recent changes to the Steam Store, a lot of the bundle sites are becoming desperate. I've seen "40 games for a dollar" deals... You can guess what will happen in the future when these sites shut down.
Ryuu Dec 20, 2017 @ 1:51am 
Originally posted by 2dengine:
After the recent changes to the Steam Store
What exactly of those affected bundle sites? If you don't mind explaining a little.
2dengine Dec 20, 2017 @ 2:00am 
Ryuu, hard to say exactly.
The biggest change is that Valve has placed restrictions on the number of Steam keys that can be generated by each dev.
In the days of Steam Greenlight, people were eager to get into bundles as that would push their game through the voting process. As you may guess, devs, bundles and key re-sellers used to cooperate (consciously or not) in order to shove games through Greenlight.
Last edited by 2dengine; Dec 20, 2017 @ 2:10am
R3ap4r Dec 20, 2017 @ 2:51am 
Originally posted by 2dengine:
Ryuu, hard to say exactly.
The biggest change is that Valve has placed restrictions on the number of Steam key that can be generated.
In the days of Steam Greenlight, people were eager to get into bundles as that would push their game through the voting process. As you may guess, devs, bundles and key re-sellers would have to cooperate (consciously or not) to shove a game through Greenlight.

Yeah, they set up a system where people bought "greenlight" bundles for 99 cents, and the
only way to get your keys, was if the games in question were greenlit, this left the buyers
with no other choice as to cast a positive vote, no matter how bad the games were, and most
of them had the promise of trading cards when greenlit.

The past couple of months, we've seen a shift in their behaviour, cards are not available
from the start, Valve now uses an algorithm to determine when they will drop.

They are desperate to find out how this algorithm works, so they're spewing out companies
and games at a rate you won't believe.

Not only that, they're setting up curator groups/systems and sending out emails to devs
asking for keys in order to "review" them.
One guy even bragged about having 9 groups under his control, ready for positive reviewing
and looking for "partners" to help him out in his money scheme.

When you start looking at these 0.99-1.99$ games and their curation, i'm sure more people
will find out exactly who they are and why they do it, hell, some of them are "developers"
themselves.

"Developing" games and testing/abusing the backend, while at the same time,
controlling/manipulating the reviews through their curator groups and friends/bots.

Meanwhile they have to generate money, suddenly, games on the store for years, that have
about 5-10 players a month, now have 1200-1600 players for a few days and then the
count drops to the same amount they started out with.

Same goes for banned developers, they do come back, more than Valve knows, it's funny
to see the info to find them is out there in plain sight, but Valve chose to "hide" these
games rather than having a decent team to check the games/developers out.
2dengine Dec 20, 2017 @ 3:24am 
R3ap4r, I'm sure you've done a lot more research into this than I have.
At the end of the day, Valve can handle most attempts to exploit the Steam store.
My concern is for the small devs being exploited.
Like in the case with IGS which involved hundreds of devs (most of whom are probably still in the dark).
"I asked if he knew the total number of keys he had handed out, but Robert claimed that it would be too much trouble to figure that out. His explanation was that “1 bundle sold” according to DIG didn't really mean 1 key of each game, it could be mean 2,3 or more keys! "

I'm very interested in the logic used to justify how it could EVER be 3 keys or more.

That 32k activation ceiling is exactly right. Up until (very) recently, they only sold 1 bundle or 2 at a time. There should be absolutely no way that anyone could have 3+ keys without that information being reflected by the total bundle sales.

Realistically, since the average price and sale cost differ by (like at most) 10 cents, it's probably pretty fair to just assume most people end up with 2 keys--so real activation hovering closer to 32k than the 16k sold. But, yeah, anything beyond that absolutely rings of something shady going on.
Last edited by ReptilianWorldOrder; Dec 20, 2017 @ 5:58am
2dengine Dec 20, 2017 @ 7:14am 
Thank you very much for confirming this!
Would love to hear from anybody else who has dealt with DIG.
Originally posted by ReptilianWorldOrder:
I'm very interested in the logic used to justify how it could EVER be 3 keys or more.
Perhaps somebody from DIG would make a really compelling public response and claim responsibility although I highly doubt it.
Occular Malice Dec 20, 2017 @ 7:39am 
I'm really curious about something and hoping someone on this thread can chime in. I'm just getting a few games ready for EA now so ultimately get them on the store (thinking I might do itch.io first since it won't cost me $100 up front). My feeling is that if any group approaches me for keys I'm going to be hesitant (except for something like Humble where I know them to be legitimate) but even if I do decide to generate and hand out keys, I'm not planning on handing thousands of keys over to anyone. That just doesn't make sense to me. Sure, a few YouTube streamers will get them and maybe if they want I can provide a few for them to give away, but in general I just don't see generating thousands or even hundreds of keys to hand out. Am I being realistic here? I only ask because the OP said "58069 of the keys I provided DIG". Why would anyone provide *that* many keys to one place at one time?
2dengine Dec 20, 2017 @ 8:41am 
Malice, it depends on different things like agreements and so on. The bundles we had worked with before that point were (and still remain) very trustworthy.
I think you are missing the broader point here. We've been making small games for a while now. You gotta have heart for honest folks who are scraping the bottom of the digital barrel for a few extra cents.
talgaby Dec 21, 2017 @ 1:18am 
DIG has a presence on SteamGifts (the owner announces the new bundles in the Deals section) and maybe on reddit as well. You could try to ask him the same questions in front of the public.
2dengine Dec 21, 2017 @ 1:52am 
Talgaby, I'm not trying to slander and would never confront anybody in that way.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether the keys were stolen or have leaked unintentionally.
The problem here is that many unsuspecting devs and customers are continually being ripped off.
Please help us stop the scumbags by sharing this story with your friends.
Last edited by 2dengine; Dec 21, 2017 @ 10:48am
2dengine Jan 20, 2018 @ 5:08am 
I have a little bit of sad news regarding this story. DIG has started re-selling keys for our games on their "Marketplace" without any notice or asking for consent. For me, this site should be considered a part of the grey market, similarly to Kinguin or G2A.
Uh, well... it is. Part of the site is--by definition--grey market. They have a literal marketplace where users sell their second-hand keys from all sorts of other sources to other users. That's the 'grey' in grey market; the unauthorized selling of products by third parties for the purpose of arbitrage.

You're mistaken in implying that there's something inherently wrong with the grey market though. Unauthorized is not illegal. Grey market is not black.

You're certainly not alone being confused by that. Manufacturers and authorized sellers always have a vested interest in defamation and blurring those distinctions for consumers because it best serves their own economic benefit.
Last edited by ReptilianWorldOrder; Jan 20, 2018 @ 6:14am
2dengine Jan 20, 2018 @ 6:48am 
Reptilian, depending on how the keys were acquired - there are often legal limitations involved. Many bundle sites have "terms and conditions" that explicitly prohibit the reselling of keys. Not to mention the cases of stolen keys. My personal opinion is that reselling of keys is probably illegal a lot of the time. Of course there are some devs who work together with the grey market.

Also, did you read the original post in this topic? I tried to make it as clear as possible that the "economic benefit" is most certainly not going towards me. :)
Last edited by 2dengine; Jan 20, 2018 @ 7:00am
< >
Showing 1-15 of 29 comments
Per page: 15 30 50