Natural Caution: The Perils Of Cheap Game Keys

By Alec Meer on March 8th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

I chew-chew-chews you

Here’s a cautionary tale, and a stark reminder that digital goods are still the World Wide Wild West. While a majority of PC games these days seem to ultimately involve a Steam key (which is itself an understandably controversial state of affairs), ownership of one of those keys can be sold by any number of third parties. So we see online stores both reputable and troublesome striving to offer downloads for less than a direct Steam activation, less than each other and, most commonly, less than the frequently outrageously inflated official pricing in some territories. Such was (and presumably is) the case for Natural Selection 2. Revealed developer Unknown Worlds yesterday, “Recently, a batch of 1,341 NS2 Steam keys were purchased using stolen credit cards. These keys were then offered for sale by various resellers. The owners of said cards disputed the transactions, and thankfully received their money back.”

Thankfully for them, but less thankfully for a) Unknown Worlds and b) the people who had bought the keys.

“The end result is that for each key, Unknown Worlds was charged a ~$22 charge-back fee by the card companies involved, and we lost the $25 purchase as well. Once this activity was detected, all the keys were deactivated, and we are encouraging affected players to seek refunds or initiate their own charge-back.”

Oof. No-one wins there, do they? Well, apart from whoever it was who managed to spoof those credit card details and may now be able to scarper with the cash gained from the key re-sales.

As the NS2 team themselves admit, this is not an especially dramatic crime and few, if any, of you lot will have been affected by it. But quite a few of you will, I imagine, at some point find yourself doing a price search for a game you’re interested in, and will then gravitate to somewhere that’s a dollar or two cheaper. Clearly, a little common sense goes a long way. But sometimes our wallets make their voices known before our logic does. Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!

You can read more on the NS2 situation here. In that particular game’s case, it can currently only be officially bought either direct from the devs or via Steam, with Green Man due sooon. If you see it anywhere else, be vewy, vewy careful.

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103 Comments »

  1. Iain says:

    Anyone know who the “various resellers” were, so we can avoid?

    • mouton says:

      Suffice to say, the only authorized sources are: Humble Store (via official site), Steam and GreenManGaming (coming soon).

      Any other store can be a scammer. Not necessarily, but the risk is very much there.

      • slerbal says:

        It is for sale right now on GMG and as far as I am aware has been for some time!
        http://www.greenmangaming.com/s/gb/en/pc/games/action/natural-selection-ii/

        I am curious to know whether it has been actually approved for sale on GMG?

        I’ve bought a couple of games from them, and honestly the experience has been really poor. I’m not implying they are shady, but they sure appear more than a bit inept.

        • Ansob says:

          GMG are one of the major DD sites these days.

          • Ninja Foodstuff says:

            And they consistently have good sales.

            Just like steam used to. Sniff.

          • HadToLogin says:

            Steam sales didn’t changed a single bit and still are good.

            But world move forward and now many sites – especially GMG and Amazon – have great deals.

            But Valve doesn’t need to change anything. When in same time Amazon and Steam had Deadlight on sale, where Amazon had it for $3.something while Steam had it for $7.something, it still became bestseller.

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        • Cleave says:

          I’ve pre-ordered bioshock infinite there as it was a few quid cheaper (and I already own Xcom so got Spec Ops there for free) but I only have a key to play some crappy facebook bioshock styled puzzle game… apparently my key will be given to me on release but I thought I’d just be given a pre-order key for steam.. we’ll see, I hope I can still pre-load though.

          • Gundato says:

            GMG’s policy is to generally not promise to get you the key ahead of time. Worst case scenario: You might get it a day or two late. But in every experience I (and most people) have ever had with them, you’ll get the key a day or so ahead of release so that you can preload.

          • HadToLogin says:

            That’s quite normal deal when you preorder Steamworks games not on Steam, since Valve is sending those keys quite late. But quite often you’ll get key few days before release date and be able to make a pre-load.

        • Beelzebud says:

          I’d take it from the horses mouth… UWE does not list them as an official reseller. They only name Steam and their own website.

        • zain3000 says:

          Honestly, I’m always a bit surprised when I hear tales of GMG’s poor customer service. I’ve bought a number of games from them recently (Dishonoured, XCOM, Bioshock Infinite [preorder]) and have never had a problem activating the games on Steam. Everytime I’ve put in a customer service ticket it has been answered within 24 hours and the issues have been resolved every time.

          • bill says:

            Me too. But when I used them they were much smaller. Their tech wasn’t as advanced as Steam, but as they were a small company they gave very speedy personal customer service.

            One time I mentioned a bug and they responded and released a patch within a few hours.
            Another time I mentioned that the game I wanted to trade in wasn’t worth very much, and they actually raised the trade in price for me.
            And a final time I emailed them about a manual, and they sent me the PDF within hours.

            They seem to have grown rapidly since then, so I’d guess it’s the usual case of their popularity outstripping their size. Hopefully they can keep up and keep their previously nice personal service.

        • SavageTech says:

          I’ve never had a problem ordering from GMG; their keys are delivered promptly and always work. If a game is “out of stock” they either stop offering it or let you order at the sale price after a warning that you’ll have to wait for more keys to come in.

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      • Beelzebud says:

        On their own blog they say the only legit places to buy it is their website or Steam. Until they actually name greenmangaming themselves, I don’t think i’d trust buying from there.

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  2. Thomas says:

    One of those days were chargeback rules really suck.

    Probably not worth having chargeback insurance either :(

  3. Gundato says:

    My suggestion is to just avoid key resellers in general. In most cases, you will get comparable prices if you wait a month or two and you will never have to worry about being at risk of getting an account banned/screwing over the devs if you stick to the reputable sources.

    Rule of thumb: If it seems too good to be true, it is probably scamming someone.

    • AngoraFish says:

      “In most cases, you will get comparable prices if you wait a month or two”

      Except if you happen to live in a territory, such as Australia, where prices in general start 50% or more higher than US retail, then routinely get screwed by either missing out on sales entirely, or prices never dropping at all.

      For example, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (a 2009 game) is currently $89.99 on Steam for Australians, yet is $19.99 for people logging in from the US.

      Thanks, but I’ll take my chances with the grey market. Even if I lose a key occasionally I’ll still end up well ahead. These companies should be grateful that I’m not just pirating their games out of spite.

      • Benjamasm says:

        Exactly this, in Aus the price for most games is over $80 Australian, which equates to $82 US, or 63 Euros or about £55. This isnt a taxes issue, nor a distribution issue, these are digital delivery items and there should be no basis for the massive price difference we face. Some new release games even go up to over $100 australian, like hell any gamers in other countries would be willing to pay that sort of price. So most PC gamers in australia have started to turn to the grey market, or purchases from oversea’s.

        • HexagonalBolts says:

          I thought all Australian prices were higher in general because their wages were far higher?

          • 1Life0Continues says:

            This is the (somewhat legitimate) excuse used by retailers. However, it doesn’t take into account the general cost of living either. Yes, our wages are higher, but they HAVE to be for people to survive. It only in-line with the CPI (barely) which means these prices still do not fall in line with the rest of the world. Besides that, many digital distribution stores charge the same, if not more, than brick and mortar, despite not having the same logistical issues they do. All in all, this country is pretty screwed when it comes to pretty much everything, from games to electronics.

          • luminosity says:

            Common misconception. Our minimum wage is much higher than the US. Our median wage is lower.

          • Muzman says:

            There isn’t much justification any more. It isn’t even some misguided protectionism, apparently. It’s just because they can.

            http://www.ausgamers.com/features/read/3256952

            http://www.choice.com.au/itpricing

            We are virtually obliged to seek out competition because of this sort of thing.

          • drewski says:

            luminosity – that might be historically true, but it certainly isn’t post-GFC. Median household income in Australia is about A$68.5k, while the US has slipped to just over $50k. And that’s not adjusted for Australia’s strong dollar, either, which gives Australia’s income a 2% kick at the moment.

            Adjusted for household income, you would expect games to be priced about 30-35% higher in Australia.

          • AngoraFish says:

            The main reason for the “Australian Tax” is that 15 years ago the Australian dollar was worth half what it is today. Although the Australia dollar is now 1:1 to the US dollar the price differential has remained at the 15 year old rate, mainly because it’s what people have become used to paying.

            Of course, with the internet nowadays, it’s pretty easy to discover that we’re being ripped off, and almost as easy to work around it by buying grey market keys. At the moment we’re in the whinging phase, but market forces will eventually bring things closer to parity as more and more of the population start using work-arounds in order to pay a fair price. I will continue to whinge in order to do my bit to ensure that this day comes sooner rather than later.

            It is also worth noting that housing costs in Australian (both buying and rental) are amongst the most unaffordable in the world. The “Australian Tax” applies across a large range of both everyday and consumable goods. Therefore, while Australians are not poor by any means, much of this relative affluence is absorbed by a massively inflated cost of living.

          • luminosity says:

            Hmm, it seems you are correct, and the numbers I was looking at were out of date. Still, even without taking PPP rather than absolute dollar amounts into account, the disparity in pricing is well out of range of the disparity in income.

        • Diving Duck says:

          Mate, jump the ditch to NZ, we have to pay your prices but are only paid a peasant’s wage in comparison. Regional pricing of digital stuff is completely inexcusable. At least the Aussie govt is attempting to look like they care with their review of pricing, ours only wants to point out that your lot are doing a review but say that they do not think there is any real issue over here.

          I have used a grey key place (I think it was G2Play) in the past but stopped after they started asking for a scan of my ID (passport/drivers license), but were quite happy to still take my money. I have to say that they did fully refund after some email tennis though.

          • mrd says:

            That’s exactly what it is with g2play. They get scammed themselves and want to make sure it’s not stolen CC details. They don’t ask for all your details, telling you to cover up particular parts of the drivers licence for instance like the actual licence ID.

            Once they accused ME of scamming them because their wires got crossed with me buying a game then cancelling it for a refund. After it was cleared up they were super apologetic and gave me a shedload of their points on top of the refund as apology. As in enough to buy two or three games. Never had an issue with them that couldn’t be resolved.

          • Diving Duck says:

            Fair do’s. Glad it wasn’t anything dodgy, still don’t like the idea of sending that level of information over the wires (maybe it’s my old fogey age making me all suspicious)!

        • jrodman says:

          You lot need better american friends.
          I’ve bought so many games for my aussie gaming compadres due to ludicrous prices over there.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            Pretty much this.
            As I’m in the UK I’ve gifted games to friends in various places in Europe & they’ve gifted back whenever games are cheaper or are censored for the guys in Germany (or sometimes “not available in your region”). Friend in Turkey gets prices in USD since they don’t use the Euro so finding the best deal is simply a case of checking steamprices.com

            Data smuggling rings are the future. NO OCEANS etc.

        • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

          I know when me Sis came over to the UK from Oz recently she went batshit crazy shopping beast woman. Not her ‘bag’ shopping usually but given that stuff(to her) seemed so cheap, I though several £100+ boots(amoungst other things) seemed quite pricey.

          She works for a Trade Union so won’t be exactly ‘rich’ in an Austrailian sense!!

      • Phantoon says:

        For once, the law protects people.

        From bad games.

        Anyways, the problem isn’t with any specific company, it’s that Austrailia hates things that aren’t killing each other for gas and dying from fallout. At least, that’s what I learned from The Road Warrior. Best documentary I’ve ever seen.

      • PseudoKnight says:

        Piracy is preferable over costing the company in chargebacks and paying a third party for an illegitimate copy. (keys may be okay, but you never know) I know some people would wag their finger at me for this, but pirate now and buy later when the price is fair compared to other regions. And consider paying anyway for games/companies you want to support. (and never-ever buy MW2, heh) The money should go to the right place.

        But totally continue being loud about this. I live in the United States, but I’m behind you on this issue.

      • drewski says:

        You can walk into JB H-Fi and pick up MW2 for $20.

        Must be a contract thing, there’s no way Steam would be that uncompetitive otherwise.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Clearly it is a contract thing, which is kind of the point. I’m quite confident that Steam would much prefer not to have to worry about the hassle of having to enforce regional pricing.

          For what it’s worth, other examples of the ‘contract’ thing:-
          Shift 2 Unleashed $79.99 v $19.99
          Lord of the Rings: War in the North $73.99 v $19.99
          Dead Space 2 $69.99 v $19.99
          Medal of Honor $69.99 v $19.99
          R.U.S.E. $29.98 v $9.99
          Divinity II: Ego Draconis $49.99 v $19.99
          L.A. Noire $49.99 v $19.99
          etc. etc. etc.

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          If by “a contract thing” you mean the publisher of the game sets the price charged on Steam then yes you’d be correct. Modern Warfare 2 is $80 is Australia because Activision want to charge that price. VALVe have nothing to do with the prices charged by major publishers. They’ll advise people on pricing & sales (usually indies) but they don’t set the price a consumer is charged for anything which they don’t make themselves.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            Not 100% correct, Valve have stated on Steam and in interviews that pricing is a decision between them and the publisher with Valve having quite a bit of input. Ultimately as Valve get paid a percentage of the ticket price and have the dominant position in digital sales there’s no inclination to cut profits by being competitive outside of their sales and even then those sale prices aren’t always competitive with other digital stores sales.

          • drewski says:

            My point is that some publishers sign different contracts to others – Valve seem to have a lot more flexibility in how they price stuff from, say, 2K Games than they do with Activision.

  4. Stevostin says:

    “Oof. No-one wins there”

    You mean, apart from the companies in charge of providing the money related service (also called as “bank”), who failed but charged the failure on other’s ? It’s a common fatality that “bank never looses”, but fact is the bill is on the ones who really can’t do anything about the issue. Not exactly a virtuous circle here. It’s clear the charge should be on the ones who failed, wether it’s unconsequent cc holder or most probably, not efficiently secured banks.

    • Koozer says:

      Was about to say similar. The bank must be rubbing its metaphorical hands at this.

    • vecordae says:

      I used to work at an American bank. Not only is this not surprising, but it’s deemed a necessity. To accept blame for anything means taking fiscal responsibility for every single time that it occurs afterwards and that might cost money. Even when the bank returns fees, even when the problem was directly due to the bank’s own negligence, those fee returns are held against the customer. Tellers, call-center personnel, and even branch managers exist solely to gloss over the fact that the banking industry is a cold, callous, calculating entity designed solely to separate man from his money.

      • Stevostin says:

        The idea that if we accept it once it’s forever is an exageration, but even if it was not, refusing to take the weight systematically puts it systematically on somebody’s else. At the end of the year, that money will not pay for the team doing natural selection but you can bet your ass some people at the bank who did the mistake will get some bonus. You can dress it in any way, the guy responsibles make others pay for their mistakes. Not only is it unfair (who cares, the world’s unfair!) but it’s a receipe for repeating the same mistake.

        • drewski says:

          How do you know it was a bank (or credit card companies’) fault?

          Isn’t it vastly more likely that a bunch of people just got phished?

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            You completely missed his point. Regardless of how the credit card details were obtained the end result is that Unknown Worlds are down $22 each on most of those 1300 keys. Where did that money go? The banks who issued the credit cards.

            This is all explained in the article if you read it.

          • drewski says:

            No, I completely understood the point. The gentleman I replied to claimed that “someone at the bank made a mistake [and] will get some bonus.” As far as I can tell, the financial institution(s) involved had nothing to do with the fraud and I don’t see how there’s any evidence that they made any mistakes.

            It is not a mistake to apply a chargeback fee to a customer. It might be bad business, it might be excessive, but it’s not an error, it’s a deliberate policy.

          • Stevostin says:

            If you read all that I wrote, I mentionned the possibility that it was the CC owner’s fault. Because true, sometime it is. Bank can’t come in your home and protect your computer so if you fail here, agreed, you pay, not the bank, not Natural Selection devs. So you bleed, and then you do something about securing your computer.

            Also a case should be made about potential responsability like by hacked named like Steam & co. They may be directly responsible for some of this hence charged.

            That being said, there’s a share of security that should happen at bank level who shall provide way to secure simply things. When I pay for something online, I recieve a phone message with a code and then I shall enter it on the web. That’s an exemple of the state of the security. Pretty hard to steal that, uh ?

            That’s why I blamed bank by default but if someone can make a point about who’s to really blame here, I am ready to listen. But it will hardly be Natural Selections dev, that’s for sure, and that’s my point.

      • drewski says:

        …who on earth ever thought banking was anything BUT that?

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        I didn’t know they charged vendors for fraudulent sales, fuckin’ unbelievable. They profit from fraud basically(as I’m sure in large scale cases like this the admin is nowhere near that amount charged) so why bother trying to stamp it out, CRIKEY!!

    • Deano2099 says:

      Also arguably a win for the consumer. They can now legally chargeback their purchase, and that’s what Unknown Worlds are telling people to do so no moral issues either. So if you bought the game, played it, and are done with it, you can get your money back.

      Other than the inconvenience of charging back, I’m not really seeing the downside. Unless you paid with PayPal.

  5. Ansob says:

    The final gist of this is “fuck banks and card providers.” Ultimately, since there’s no cost associated with creating a key, UWE doesn’t incur any costs from not getting paid and revoking those keys; the costs are entirely due to the banks/card providers being greedy twats.

  6. CommanderJ says:

    Scrolling through comments, it appears that G2play was one of the sites that offered these keys. I’ve bought quite a few steam keys from them and never had any issues at all. Maybe I’ve just been lucky – or maybe G2play got unlucky and was similarly scammed by the fraudulent wholeseller. It’s unlikely they knew the keys had been bought with stolen credit cards and still bought them from the guy.

    In any case, it appears to be not quite as safe as I thought, from previous experience.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The vast majority of the keys sold on these sites aren’t stolen, they’re just grey market keys from a different region where pricing is cheaper.

      Like the horse meat scandal, it is probably one wholesaler with hot keys who’s to blame.

    • swampzero says:

      i can confirm g2play has never fucked me so far. but hey i guess there’s always a first time. Still, i would probably trust em at this point

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Well done to you making any sense of that comments thread layout. I was trying to see if keys4me which I’ve bought from in the past was listed, but gave up.

    • Diving Duck says:

      I went off G2Play after they started asking for proof of my ID (passport/drivers license etc). It really rang some alarm bells for me there. Not sure if dodgy or not but a Google about it didn’t assure me much. As I mentioned in a separate response further up, they did refund my money when I refused to hand them such information, so maybe they are just being over cautious about people scamming them?

      Edit: “mrd” mentioned further up that it is to protect themselves.

  7. swampzero says:

    Since we’re talking about key resellers, I kinda want to give a shout-out to these guys because they have given me great service and great keys every time.

    Even when Guild Wars 2 came out and their own official site wouldn’t sell me the game, these guys sold me not one but THREE valid keys. So yeah, you can buy from G2Play.net safely.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      If I’ve read it correctly, the issue is not that the keys were legit, but that they were themselves originally bought with dodgy funds

    • Thermal Ions says:

      And for every good experience story there’s a bad one. I wouldn’t go near them based upon my one and only experience getting ripped off by them.

  8. Greggh says:

    World Wide Wild West – say it fast five times.

    Or don’t, it’s cool…

  9. DarkFarmer says:

    Holy shit this is bad. Now I don’t feel that bad about buying NS2 even though I don’t really play it. A 25 thousand dollar hit for those chargebacks is brutal.

  10. nimbulan says:

    This is exactly why I stay away from grey market key sites. I’ve heard about this happening before and with legitimate retailers competing more and more over price, it’s hard to justify the risk of shopping elsewhere.

  11. DickSocrates says:

    Ohhhh! So the obvious answer to “Where do these keys actually come from?” is crime!

    • DrScuttles says:

      I always thought that the keys were grown in people’s foil-lined attics using special steam-powered lamps. Damn, does it suck to be wrong.

  12. Saul says:

    I was burned once by a site called CJS. The key they sent me told me it had already been used, and they refused to replace. My argument with them took just enough time that the game went off sale on steam, too, so it ended up costing me doubly.

  13. SkittleDiddler says:

    This makes me a little nervous for buying Steam keys from resellers. I’ll gladly take my chances though — the amount of money I’ve saved buying from one particular gentleman over the last month is mind-boggling.

  14. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    GMG are reputable – I’ve saved tons of money with their deals. They wipe the floor with Steam.

    Other lesser digital sellers I avoid, until such time their reputation reaches that of GMG.

  15. sinister agent says:

    This is one of those things that will be really difficult to explain to the recently thawed.

    • DrScuttles says:

      This and dubstep.

    • The Random One says:

      “Nowadays, things can exist on computers as only data. Sometimes, to get a thing, you give a code and receive the thing in exchange. But some people give fake codes, or codes that have already been used, or codes that they have gotten through criminal activities, and then sell them; if you buy those codes you’ve spent money for nothing.”

      There. Now dubstep will be a tad more complicated…

      • sinister agent says:

        Because computers and data and codes will not require any explanation. They are fundamental parts of human existence. Yes.

  16. Mathute87 says:

    God, do most of you actually buy stuff on Steam?

    Bigger sites (that I use. Won’t mention those that I don’t): Gamefly, Game Digital, GetGamesGo, GMG.

    Never had an issue with those, and I’m from Spain. TB mentions them, among others, on today’s Content Patch.

    The one I only had a real problem with was Gamersgate with the whole Borderlands 2 4-pack BS that happened in December, and as their response to it was really poor, I won’t be buying from them any more.

    Others sites? Shady. Games that are 60 bucks sold for 15-30 bucks? Shady.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Didn’t knew Russian part of Steam is shady – you must look really hard to find anything there that cost over $30…

  17. Kefren says:

    Thanks for the Torquemada ref, Alec.

    • Benkyo says:

      This quote is the only thing I remember liking about Torquemada, but this one line was enough to keep me reading through however many hundred issues it ran for.

  18. whoCares says:

    I don’t want to be an ass, but with the bargain buckets and savygamer.co.uk (if I understand correctly, you and them are friends) you do a great deal of supporting cheap-key-shops that may be profiting from stolen keys. Just want this to be noticed.
    “But quite a few of you will, I imagine, at some point find yourself doing a price search for a game you’re interested in, and will then gravitate to somewhere that’s a dollar or two cheaper”

    • drewski says:

      Bargain Bucket links are almost always entirely to legitimate direct online retailers, not grey import key resellers.

      • whoCares says:

        I bought 1 game from such a shop – Saints row 3 reduced on release – and got a jpeg-Picture of the key. That is quite grey.
        I think it was from a bargain bucket but definitely from savygamer.
        You cannot look through the workflow of these shops and can not know if they get the keys from legit sources. Many shops do not have reliable reviews.
        I felt like this article is a little bit unfair against people that look for good deals. If your good deal was not legit, which you can not know and RPS or SG can also not know unless someone tried it out and reported it , you are one of those persons that this goes to : “Clearly, a little common sense goes a long way”. This means that one person, that does the same thing as another person, is an idiot because what he does was hiddenly connected to something bad. Bad luck => idiot.
        I did not mean that the majority of those shops are evil or that bargain buckets are bad. And admittatly it was friday and I was beschwippst. But I think my point is valid nonetheless.

        • drewski says:

          Savygamer might dabble more in the grey market stuff, but I’ve not seen any links to that sort of thing here that I can recall.

  19. Phranx says:

    “The end result is that for each key, Unknown Worlds was charged a ~$22 charge-back fee by the card companies involved”.

    Wouldn’t the $22 be charged per each unauthorised transaction? Why would the companies charge this per key? Does this mean that every single key was purchased from Unknown Worlds with a stolen card individually?

    • KwisatzHaderach says:

      A very just question.

      I also wonder what’s the gain for UWE to disable the copies bought with a stolen credit card and resold. After all, ppl did pay for their games and UWE won’t get their money back by forbidding them to play. It’s not that everyone will buy a new copy straight away.

      • HadToLogin says:

        But some will. And some will wait for sale to buy them. So they will get some money.

  20. Vorrin says:

    what? 22$ chargeback for every purchase? so 29.502$ dollars for banks just … cause someone cancelled the purchase?

    Come on, that can’t be right, unknown worlds didn’t do anything wrong, how could anyone walk up to them and ask for 30k back?

    *update: well, no, actually apparently from what they wrote on the site, they really were charged back 30k. I think this is very much the same as bank robbery, and can’t understand how it could possibly be acceptable in any way, but hey….

    • drewski says:

      The banks incur an administrative cost for having a theft monitoring, debt recovery and chargeback system in place, which is what the fee covers. It’s too high, of course, but dealing with fraud isn’t cost-free for financial institutions.

      Whether or not passing the cost of card fraud onto retailers is fair or not is another question, but the bottom line is that retailers and/or customers would pay for the cost of fraud one way or another, whether through higher margins, other fees, higher interest rates or less comprehensive consumer protection.

      • jrodman says:

        That is a false conclusion. It’s quite possible banks would absorb the costs in a competitive market. Costs aren’t *always* passed on, although they might be.

        • Llewyn says:

          Since when has transaction processing been a competitive market?

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Since people started making money off of it.

          • jrodman says:

            I mostly agree with this sentiment, but obviously prices are not infinitely high, so there are some factors limiting price.

            I just hate the whole axiomatic sort of thinking “costs are always passed on” that people tend to spout who have a vested interest in costs not being raised.

        • drewski says:

          In which case the cost is passed onto shareholders.

          The reality is that banks and credit card companies charge these fees because they can; because it makes them money. Fraud is not a victim free transaction – either the retailer, the consumer or the institution will pay the financial cost of the crime.

          I don’t know where it’s “fair” for the cost to fall, but clearly it has to fall somewhere. At the moment it’s retailers.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Well Unknown Worlds did technically do something wrong. They accepted payment for goods using stolen card/s. They have effectively paid the price for having insufficient systems in place to protect against this scale of fraud – whether through having weighed up the risk/benefit of better systems and deciding to take the risk, or simple incompetence. Given they’ve halted sales through the Humble site it would seem they recognise this misjudgement themselves.

      • HadToLogin says:

        Are you saying if I beat you and stole your card (and now-a-days you don’t even need to beat people to steal card, you can use phone to steal data from those touch-cards…) it will be shop fault I put correct data during a purchase while you couldn’t block your card due to being unconscious in a hospital?

        • drewski says:

          I guess the way to look at it is that as a seller of a product, you can be secure or you can make money.

          Maximum security means not accepting credit cards as a form of payment. Clearly this is going to severely limit your ability to make money.

          So, in return for accepting the card issuers’ right to charge you a fee for fraudulent transactions, you dramatically increase your ability to profit from the sales of your merchandise due to credit card sales. You assume a higher risk in return for a much higher reward.

          Note – I don’t particularly endorse the argument, I’m just detailing it’s logical foundation.

  21. Medo says:

    As long as they are reputable, we should definitely stick with buying from key resellers. Why? Because we’re often being overcharged in DD.

    At least around here (Germany), brick and mortar or Amazon prices are often way below what the digital services charge, even if they include the key for Steam / Battle.Net in the box. If I order from England, things are often cheaper still, despite higher shipping costs.

    Of course buying from Amazon is an option then, but why should I have to pay for shipping a box from England to Germany when all I need are a few numbers inside the box? In other words, companies can in theory make money by buying boxed games in bulk, ripping them open, scanning the codes, throwing the boxes away and selling the keys for only slightly more than the boxed price, still at a huge discount to the customer, EVEN IN THE SAME COUNTRY. Of course this is a ridiculous thing to do, but it is actually the relative prices that are ridiculous here.

    Edit: Just for the sake of having an example: Dragon Age: Origins is 30 Eur on Steam, it is… wait, what? 10 Euros on Origin? I’m literally looking this up as I type. Anyway, an official boxed copy sold on Amazon by EA for the German market is 14 Eur, a UK reimport is 10.50 Eur.

    Well, at least in this example it just looks like Steam is overpriced. Unfortunately I don’t have time right now to look up more to see if I can find a trend.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      It’s not just Steam, it’s pretty much every digital retailer. They really can’t be blamed though — the publishers set the price.

      I’m saying this as a customer in the US: I’ll continue to buy $15-$35 keys from resellers as long as AAA publishers see fit to charge $60-$80 for their overpriced, overbudgeted products.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      That’s a pretty terrible example to use. Dragon Age has been out a few years so inevitably the retail boxes are going to be reduced in price & EA don’t want you to use Steam, they want you to use Origin so it’s no wonder their game is 3 times more expensive.

      Try using something a little more current & non-skewed in future if you have to make a point.

      • Medo says:

        Origin vs. Steam is a valid point, but I don’t see how the boxed vs. digital gap is any more acceptable for classics than for new releases. In fact, at cheaper price levels a greater percentage of the boxed copy goes toward producing and distributing the box, so one could argue that the difference in what you pay for the actual game is even larger.

        As a game that’s less likely to have publisher favoritism (and also slightly newer) I chose Super Street Fighter IV arcade edition, again before looking at the prices. It is 29,99 Eur on both Origin and Steam. You can get it boxed and new for 7.12 Eur from Amazon (or starting at 4 Eur + 3 Eur shipping from a different vendor on Amazon)

  22. mrmalodor says:

    I bought a copy of NS2 today just because of this article. It’s sad. Why should they have to pay for something they didn’t do?

    • jrodman says:

      While noble of you.. why should you have to pay for something they didn’t do?

      I mean I applaud your decision but I think this is more of a thing about being aware of and mitigating against risks. And also payment processors being jerks.

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