Wadjet Eye Games was giving away Steam keys for its adventure game, The Blackwell Deception, on Halloween before President Dave Gilbert pulled the plug. Gilbert says he planned on giving away 50,000 keys in total, but quickly changed his plans when he discovered that 30,000 of the keys had been stolen.
People downloaded hundreds of keys at a single time, Gilbert tells Red Door Blue Key , "collecting Steam keys for reselling later." To combat this, Gilbert removed the Steam keys and placed them on another website, attracting a backlash from players.
"It almost instantly led to a large number of angry emails and tweets," he says. "Even though it was a free game, it's almost as if it didn't count because it wasn't going in their Steam library." He tried to find a way to prevent further exploitation by asking BMT, the sales provider Gilbert used, to create a "1 code per IP" system, but the hackers masked their IP addresses and continued downloading anyway. By the end of the night, 30,000 keys had been pilfered.
The problem began when BMT inadvertently posted a link to a Steam key generator. After 20,000 downloaded keys and at Gilbert's request, BMT removed the public link to the generator, but that wasn't enough.
"The next morning I woke up to discover something terrifying," says Gilbert. While BMT did remove the link to the generator, the sales provider did not remove the generator itself. At the very least, Gilbert says that fans have been genuinely sympathetic for his plight.
"The outpouring of support on twitter, Facebook, and email has been nothing short of heart warming," says Gilbert, who doesn't seem to hold any contempt towards BMT, saying "their service was never intended for anything like this." But he also admits his exasperation to Gamasutra that he could not persevere through the chaos for what started out as a free giveaway.
"[But] it was just too much to deal with, and there was only so much effort I was willing to put into a free offer."