People love using Steam to manage and organize all of their computer games - so buying games that include Steam keys at a discount is a huge win for most consumers. The problem is when shady 3rd party sites buy up a bunch of game keys from discount and bundle sites and resell them for profit. I can’t really delve into the legality of this practice since I’m not a lawyer, but we can certainly all agree that morally this is wrong.
The big bundle site on the block is Humble Bundle. They started including Steam keys with their very first bundle and made it anonymous and easy to purchase a bundle and generate Steam, Desura, and even OnLive keys for your purchase in the early days. Unfortunately, the internet is full of scammers and this lead to some pretty prominent problems for them. There’s a really good article from GameInformer outlining how retailers have blatantly profited off of reselling bundle keys. Some may think that the above isn’t so bad since they at least paid for the keys, but there are plenty of cases where people are using stolen credit cards and other nefarious methods to grab keys for free and resell them elsewhere . To Humble’s credit, they deactivated a bunch of keys that were obtained fraudulently and changed their steam key redemption system to prevent further abuse. I don’t want to get into bashing other bundle sites, but there certainly a lot of them and they all have different key redemption systems. I think it would be smart for indie game developers to tread cautiously with their steam keys and ask the right questions about each platform.
With all that being said, we do our best here to prevent key reselling and abuse – sometimes the complexity of it may be to our detriment, but it’s to the advantage of the game developer. Our system isn’t perfect, but it certainly makes bulk key purchasing and reselling a huge pain in the ass. So for the sake of transparency, here’s an in-depth look at how the IndieGameStand System works:
Developers Upload Keys via our Developer Portal
The video above is a quick overview of how our developer portal works, but the important thing to realize is that game developers provide the keys and upload them to our system. Our system parses them and stores them for distribution to customers. I feel like we can never mention it enough that we ONLY provide Steam/Desura/GOG keys to folks that pay $1 or more for our PWYW deals. It’s also cool to note that a developer can upload keys at any time (even retroactively) after a sale to provide keys to ANY customer that has bought or will buy their game on our site. This is how developers can easily provide customers that paid $1 with steam keys after they are greenlit.
Customers buy Games on our site
I am using our PWYW deal for this particular checkout example since it would be the most likely target of a key reseller. First off, a customer would need to spend at least $1 to receive keys (we support Steam, Desura and GOG uploads). We also require a name and email address. We require this because you must create an account on our site and verify your email address to get your Steam keys. Every key is tied to an email address so that if a game developer ever contacted us about a problem, we could track down the culprit.
What if I gift the Game?
Using our gifting option allows a customer to specify a friend’s email to receive the game, keys and any other goodies. Again an email is required, so in this case the keys would be tied to your friend’s email address.
I’ll just buy a bunch of keys for my account!
You can certainly stock up on games from our PWYW deals or store sales, but you won’t be getting a bunch of Steam keys. Instead, we will store all of your extra copies in the game wallet (above) associated with the email address of purchase. From your wallet, you can get IndieGameStand keys that you can gift to friends and track if they’ve been redeemed used.
IndieGameStand keys start with IGS and will unlock the game and keys in a person’s wallet who does not already have the game you’re gifting.
Reselling is a pain in the ass or blatantly obvious
No system is perfect, a person could certainly purchase a bunch of IGS keys during a sale – head to their wallet and copy over a bunch of IGS links and resell them. I think this has never happened because it would be instantly obvious to consumers that their key originated from IndieGameStand. The 3rd party reseller would basically be sending their customer to our website to create an account and redeem their Steam key. The only other way I see that you could abuse our system is by creating a bunch of IGS accounts and buying a game on sale from each email. Then they would have to login to each account to redeem the Steam key and copy it over to a txt file or something. To do this on a large scale would be a huge pain in the ass and you would need access to tons of legit email addresses to verify the accounts. Even if this whole process could be automated, a game developer could always contact us and trace a resold key back to an email – where they’re probably using their own domain or something to exploit our system.
As you can see, we take all of this seriously and do our best to protect indie game developers from being exploited. If you’re a game developer on Steam, we’d love to sell your game DRM-Free with a Steam key on our site. Check out our developer portal for more information.
A Note on our Giveaways
Some readers out there may be familiar with our monthly contests and game giveaways and wondering how those keys are procured and distributed. We run little contests where we give out IGS keys here and there and sometimes even have Steam keys to giveaway. Steam keys never come from our system and are either provided directly to us by the developer for the giveaway or we purchase the game at full price from Steam to gift to winners of our contests.