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Natural Caution: The Perils Of Cheap Game Keys

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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