March 13, 2012

The Dangers of Being Kicked in the Face


UPDATE UPDATE: In case you missed it, I did a follow-up. I linked it on the bottom of this post for good measure.

UPDATE: GATT has responded to my post. They've also removed the link in their header. Luckily it lives on below. Since I'm being accused of libel and threatened with lawyers (though I'm not sure why, they've got a bit of libel going on in their own vicious counter post), I've removed most of my final paragraph and a few harsher accusations, which was mostly unsubstantiated speculation. However, the idea that the ad was some kind of context sensitive gaff is ridiculous. I still highly recommend you don't purchase this bundle.
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The Indie Face Kick bundle has been making the rounds lately, and it seemed like a great deal of a package. Eight new indie games, consisting of Booster Trooper, Dead Horde, Sol Survivor, Avencast, Runespell: Overture, Still Life 2, Post Apocalyptic Mayham and Greed Black Border. An eccentric mix, but some good games mixed in all the same.

However, there was something off. Whether it was the unprofessional trailer, the lack of any sort solid information from the bundle runners, or just the weird selection of games (some of which aren't even really indie games like Still Life), it didn't seem to sit right. However, thanks to an eagle eyed user on the GOG forums, I was informed that the site running the bundle, Gaming: All the Time, had something really alarming on their own site.



On the main page of the site, which appears for all intents and purposes to be a general reviews and previews site, there is a ridiculously fishy link for "Need Cheap Steam Keys?" on the top bar. Following the link leads to one of many sites devoted to reselling illegitimate Russian Steam keys. From this site, they offer far cheaper copies of Steam keys, Origin keys, GFWL keys and others, advertising a quick delivery and educating one on the use of VPNs to bypass region locks, a practice against Steam's ToS and liable to get your account locked.


As some of you may know, Steam prices are far cheaper in Russia to combat a widespread piracy problem. This has lead to a new issue, in which shady sites buy Russian Steam keys wholesale and resell them to users in other countries. Gaming: All the Time, for whatever reason, is advertising one of these illegitimate sites.


A WHOIS search reveals that the sites appear to be registered to separate owners (thanks to Marcus E, who also started researching this shady business after I did the first thing any self respecting geek would and alerted Twitter). While this is clearly just an advertisement, it is a deliberate one and not context sensitive as the editors of GATT seem to compare it to.

I have alerted many major gaming news outlets to this development, and I am in the process of reaching out to the developers of the games involved in this promotion for comment. This post will be updated as necessary. Please help out by spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter, and other such outlets.

UPDATE: The story continues on the next post.

29 comments:

  1. I would like to make it clear that GamerKeys.net has never and will never use any customer information for anything beyond providing our service. Also, all games do not require any kind of work only a select few which are noted. This site is not illegitimate and does not condone any acts which are illegal in your territory.

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  2. @gamingkeysnet: You are selling a product which can get people's account (which they may have paid thousands of dollars to create) permanently banned, and there is no mention of this on your site. It's also safe to assume that you won't be reimbursing people if your product gets their accounts banned.

    At very least, what you do is deceptive, and harmful to other sites that try to make an honest living selling legitimate products.

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  3. If you want to buy russian key go to plati.ru or other similar sites and buy it directly you will get it cheaper :D Also i don't do this because we have cheap keys in poland as well xD

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  4. @MonstaMunch I have been using keys like this for years in my main steam account and have not been banned, also I have thousands of happy customers and not 1 has ever told me an account was banned. Perhaps that can happen when someone sells stolen keys but since I don't people do not get banned. Also how am I deceptive? Of all the sites like mine I have the most disclosure. Please look into things more and see who are getting banned and for what reason, I doubt its because of the keys provided by legitimate shops like mine. Some shops do deal in stolen keys, I suggest you investigate everything before ever making a purchase on any site. Also don't tell me I am harming other legitimate sites, What I do may be frowned upon by a small minority but it is not illegal. Loopholes are the backbone of industry and I am just carving my small corner. I am making an honest living, I don't hurt people and bring great products to people for much cheaper than going to a store without risk of fraud. I say that's honest enough.

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  5. @GamerKeysNet, it doesn't matter what you say, your keys may be legal and meant for Russian users but they are not legal for those outside of that region to use. This is WHY users outside of the region need to use the VPN! And using a VPN is against Steam rules, and yes you can be banned from Steam if caught. They warn heavily against this, and I do know one person who was caught doing this. Sure there are people that may get lucky with this, just as there are people who get lucky with hacking/using false keys/buying someone else's Steam account, but it is still against Steam rules and if you are caught you will most likely get your account disabled. Just the fact that you are telling people how to circumvent region restriction by using a VPN tells that your business is shady and definitely not legitimate for those outside the region the keys are meant for.

    Also, I'm not touching this bundle.

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  6. @Geoweo If you look through he shop only a select few require that and legality isn't an issue. Also for the majority of games there is no need for VPN because keys are non region restricted. The fact that I sell keys which are region restricted does not indicate that I am illegitimate. Comparing me to someone who uses hacks, false keys and other illegal methods of getting games is like comparing a police officer to a murderer. Also I don't believe it's luck when hundreds of thousands of people do it everyday. I will say this, using VPN to purchase games on Steam is highly illegal, The use of VPN to activate a key bought in another country is in a grey area. How you view the grey area is up to you. Also, I have read the Steam Subscriber Agreement and have yet to see anything about VPN activation's. Please indicated where you see that.

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  7. GamerKeysNet, you seem persistent so I'll indulge.

    Section 2(E) of the Steam subscriber agreement.

    "You are entitled to use the Software for your own use, but you are not entitled to: (i) sell, grant a security interest in or transfer reproductions of the Software to other parties in any way, nor to rent, lease or license the Software to others without the prior written consent of Valve; (ii) host or provide matchmaking services for the Software or emulate or redirect the communication protocols used by Valve in any network feature of the Software, through protocol emulation, tunneling, modifying or adding components to the Software, use of a utility program or any other techniques now known or hereafter developed, for any purpose including, but not limited to network play over the Internet, network play utilizing commercial or non-commercial gaming networks or as part of content aggregation networks, without the prior written consent of Valve; or (iii) exploit the Software or any of its parts for any commercial purpose."

    Using a VPN most definitely counts as the user redirecting the communication protocols used by Valve.

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  8. @gamerkeys: Your entire argument is rendered irrelevant by your site's explicit instructions to your customers on how to use a VPN to activate your products, without mentioning to them that doing so can get accounts banned. Don't try to tell me people have never had Steam accounts banned for using VPNs, you know that's nonsense as well as I do.

    And interestingly, I pre ordered the bundle, and it took my money without asking for any contact information from me. It's hard to see how they will send me the keys when they don't have my email address, are they going to ask paypal for it? I can't ask them directly as the contact form on their site doesn't have a send button. Even if it isn't a scam, it certainly feels like one at this point.

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  9. @GamerKeysNet actually, I wasn't comparing you to hackers and such, I used them as an example in things that people can get lucky in getting away with without getting banned. And it applies to using a VPN with Steam, in any matter. Users might get lucky, or they may not. And it doesn't matter if your site is 99% legit, the fact is that you are encouraging people to use a VPN, provide instructions on how to do it, and don't even mention the risks. Colin and MonstaMunch pretty much covered it, so that is all I have to say on the matter.

    @MonstaMunch that does seem very shady, however when you use PayPal to buy something doesn't PayPal give the contact info? Perhaps they will send them to your PayPal e-mail address. But even if it's really weird they don't ask you for it themselves or at the very least give a confirmation.

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  10. Geoweo and MonstaMunch are pretty painful.
    One does not understand what constitutes "legal" (why would selling game keys be *illegal* in any way, shape or form? makes no sense. limiting where keys may be used could be an illegal trade restriction, however. for example, if a UK-bought Dead Island boxed copy cannot be activated in France, that is *illegal*. that is Valve and publisher Dead Silver *breaking the law*. you know, the real law. not some subscriber agreement bonanza.), the other doesn't understand Paypal and calls others "shady" because of that. I know a ton of sites that operate the way you complain cannot possibly work.
    And nothing of this really has anything to do with that silly bundle of bad games. You know, PAM? It's pretty much the worst of my 600+ Steam games. Dead Horde? Metascore of 45. Sol Survivor is good, that much I will admit. The others however are all utterly irrelevant.
    Instead you go "bawwww mommy, if we click buttons on some website... oh gnoes a key shop!". And then portray those as the worst evil known to mankind. Sure.

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    1. Hey, just want to be clear I didn't say what they were doing was illegal. It is against the Steam TOS, which is an agreement that is pretty clear. Violating it can get you very banned, very quickly, and there are some pretty wretched horror stories about Steam's harsh banning policies.

      It doesn't really have anything to do with the bundle. It has a lot to do with the fact that the site hosting the bundle has no moral qualms with receiving ad revenue for a site that is very clearly against the Steam Subscriber Agreement, not to mention the Origin TOS as well.

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    2. By "legal" I meant by Steam rules. Not the laws of the government. I don't know whether or not region-locked keys are legal-by-law to be used outside of the region it was meant for. But I do know that Steam does disable accounts that use a VPN to unlock them, and have been known to suspend accounts that have used other means of circumvention. I went on to explain exactly what I meant in both of my previous posts, but it seems you looked no further than the word "legal" in the first sentence of my first post.

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  11. I dont know (or care) if this is legal. But i do know i definitely appreciate this information. I will not be touching this bundle and will be spreading the word to all i know to do the same.

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  12. It very interesting for you to use Section 2.E. That's the only section that even mentions the use of something that could be interpreted as VPN. unfortunately it clearly States it is in reference to steam's Matchmaking service. How does that apply? The only ones breaking laws with restrictions are the publishers. Also, anyone who shops on our site must accept both the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions which states that we are not responsible for anything negative that can happen. We may provide information but since that in and of itself can not be interpreted as an instruction or command to do something and with the customer reading out T&C it is obvious that we are doing nothing wrong at all.
    Also to the person who had question about paypal. When you pay with paypal the merchant has all your info. Everything that you have in paypal. Your Defaults Address (if you didn't specify one), phone numbers and verification status. And with paypal's lack of protection for sellers of digital goods, delivering to your paypal address is the safest way to do anything.
    I won't vouch for the bundle, I don't know GamerX personally or even long enough for that but I can vouch that in all the keys i have sold, not 1 person has told me they were banned.
    Also, The fact that you boycott this bundle does nothing but hurt the devs.
    I started this shop because I saw how bad other shops had become scamming and stealing from people and using stolen keys. I know how much that can hurt a dev. And I also know that many of my customers could potentially be 1 step away from just pirating a game. I allow devs to make at least some money off their product and not just loose a sale all together. Vilify me all you want, but in the end I am happy to say that I sold well in excess of 1000 MW3 keys which means at least $11,800 USD went in the pocket of the Activision.Instead of a complete loss they were able to get something out of it. some people are not able or willing to pay 60 USD/EUR for a game, I allow them to at least support the devs a little rather than just pirating which could be eaier than anything I detail on the site.
    So while you try to fight against something you think is wrong. Find out just how much money devs make from sites like mine. We might work in a grey area, the devs are able to eat and support their families.

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    1. To assume that many would pirate these games if they can't get them for a discount price from a shady site seems very presumptuous and pretentious at best. It is also extremely offensive to me, and many other gamers i'm sure, who are proud and happy to support devs. for their huge time investments and wonderful work.

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    2. People who are "offended" by facts are my favourite sort. Go on please.
      *grabs popcorn*

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. so your telling me its a "fact" that people will pirate these games unless its bought from a shady discounted website? Plz link me these "facts".

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    5. Also just as a side note. Me being offended dosent mean i am sitting at the computer nerd raging. I just found it to be a false off the wall statement. Sorry to ruin the show before your popcorn even got cold.

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    6. Whoops. Just deleted myself. I was trying to learn how comment moderation works by experimenting on myself. I'm just glad I tried it on me first.

      Anyway, I'll paraphrase originally said: The idea that hundreds of would-be pirates use his site instead isn't at all a fact. As a counter-point, look at the Facebook page for GamerKeys.net, where you can find several posts and comments along the lines of "I found your site had the cheapest price on [insert game here] so I cancelled my preorder."

      Are there would be pirates who use GamerKeys.net? Probably. But there are plenty of customers who forsake licensed stores in favour of it too. It would be impossible to decide whether this had a net positive or negative effect for the developer, so to claim one take on it as fact is not responsible.

      (FYI, the reason I was experimenting with comment moderation is simply because I wanted to see if it was possible to edit out lysek's link. I'm pretty strictly against deleting comments here on Backlog Journey (unlike the Distinguished Competition), but I'd prefer to keep links to unauthorized keysellers out of the comments. Thanks.)

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    7. Claim: "Subset of world population will only buy games for price X, otherwise pirate or ignore. Other subset will not buy games and either pirate or ignore. Other subset will buy games regardless of price. Other subset [..]. Members of at least one subset will buy more games or at least buy them earlier if provided with cheaper prices. Said people are willing to take the risk of EA or Valve or whoever arbitrarily taking said games away from them again, a risk also shared (to potentially a lesser extent) by people who do not buy from key shops and just breathe oxygen."

      You: "What, you say there are people different than me who are not happy to pay $60 or $100 for a new videogame! I am offended. I vote we remove your right to say such things and lock you up. To federal pound me in the ass prison with you."

      Personally, I only bought Saints Row 3 for $50 in 2011. Everything else was substantially cheaper.

      P.S.: I doubt the people whose sweat you want to reward get much more from a $50 retail purchase of their game than from a $20 Russian/Thai/whatever key. The number of middlemen is likely bigger in the first scenario.

      P.P.S.: Ok, I didn't end up making any popcorn. Maybe next time.

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    8. And if it provides you any consolation, Commodore Colin, I doubt the majority of your visitors would have the resources to buy from the link you are trying to remove. They don't take credit cards or paypal over there and it's all in moonspeak.

      (Not trying to spark any further discussion of this though. Solely seeking to calm your fury a tender little bit. It's not even a clickable link.)

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    9. I find it a bit hard to believe, trust or like for any of that matter someone who under pressure retorts to childish arguements like "i'm going to grab popcorn".
      This is just sad.

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  13. ..that said 'reputable' key shops reimburse customers for issues they may have, rather than going "we are not responsible for anything negative that can happen [..] with the customer reading out T&C it is obvious that we are doing nothing wrong at all".
    And that by the way also doesn't work legally (to get back to that popular topic) when you sell to customers for example in the EU, as you do advertise to them in Euros on your website, thus you most definitely need to adhere to EU customer protection laws, and "we don't care if it explodes on you" is not how adhering to laws looks.

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  14. We do reimburse you for the key if it doesn't work. We don't reimburse for the user making any mistakes. Last time I check no one will reimburse you for all games on a banned account. Please tell me who. Who is a reputable shop? What do you consider reputable? Please tell me, since you all seem to be hung up on the fact that I allow customers to purchase region locked games. Would you all consider me reputable charging the same price as all the "reputable" sites and telling you nothing? It seems like that to me. I actually do no business in the EU, the point of sale is USA. I follow all USA laws. Anyone who want's the protection of EU laws should definitely never buy from a company outside of the EU. The EU has no power over me at all and can not force me to do anything.

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    1. I hear Steam's pretty reputable.

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    2. As I said, from the point on where you offer your games to customers in € and similar, you need to ask yourself if you are not contracting under the law of their respective countries.

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  15. Just a quick update on the bundle itself: They got back to me and confirmed they will be using the email address from the paypal transaction, and that email confirmation of purchase will only be available when the bundle is released. They were polite about it.

    @gamerkeys: I wasn't asking if you refund someone for a game that doesn't work, I'm asking if you refund them for the value of their entire Steam account if they get banned for following your instructions by using VPN to activate your products. Still, it was a rhetorical question, no need to answer.

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Hey. The one rule for comments is common sense. I'm pretty relaxed about it, so just be cool and polite. Cheers!