Rebellion revokes "unlicensed" Sniper Elite 3 keys, offers free DLC as compensation
Rebellion has revoked more than 7000 Steam keys for Sniper Elite 3, many of which were already in the hands of gamers. The studio said the keys were stolen, distributed to resellers and then sold without payments going to either it or Valve. But one such company, whose keys actually weren't revoked, has accused Rebellion of simply trying to force people to pay the full retail price for the game.
In a message posted on Steam, Rebellion explained that one of its retail distributors reported the theft of some of its Steam keys, which it believes were then sold to other sellers. They've since been revoked, and Rebellion recommended that anyone with a canceled key seek a refund from wherever they bought it; it also offered a free copy of the Target Hitler DLC to make up for the hassle.
According to distributor CJS CD Keys, however, the original message suggested that after receiving a refund, impacted gamers should re-buy the game on Steam at full price. That led the site to accuse Rebellion of revoking the keys not because they were stolen, but because it wants to maximize profits by forcing people away from discount resellers.
"While many game developers (and Steam themselves) will legitimately try to encourage users to stay away from re-sellers and buy directly on Steam at the full retail price, what Rebellion has done today is absolutely immoral," it wrote. "They have banned legitimately purchased keys, legally owned by multiple online retailers and gamers worldwide, and covered their tracks by claiming that the keys were 'stolen'."
Rebellion also posted a list of "licensed partners" who have not had any keys revoked, noting that it represents "the full list of companies that get their keys directly from us for digital sale" and are thus safe to buy from. Instead of calming the situation, however, CJS pointed out that Steam key resellers generally don't buy directly from developers. Instead, they buy boxed copies from authorized distributors and then resell the included keys; in fact, it said that the growth in the market has given some Steam key sellers enough clout to have distributors scan the keys on their behalf, saving the cost of unnecessary shipping.
Rebellion didn't directly address the accusations, but it did take pains to state that the vendors involved may well be victims themselves and said it's not trying to force gamers toward any particular seller. "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 wrote. "All we can suggest if you have been affected is to please contact your vendor and first ask for a replacement key, and then contact us for the free pre-order DLC if you are successful."
The free "Target Hitler" DLC offer is good until July 4.