Steam bans scammers after developers reveal dubious game resale

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Image: Valve / Kotaku

Earlier this week, a developer Twitter thread about Steam Shadow Curators potentially lying to get free game codes went viral. In the topic using a bit of a bite-like operation to support their suspicions, the developer suggested that these dubious curators were taking game keys and selling them instead of using them to actually review the game they claimed to be interested in. Valve has now shut down some of the curators involved in the alleged scam. And after all this, the developers of the popular city-building survival game frostpunk announced that they would no longer provide keys to curators.

August 28 Independent developer Cowcat, developer of the recently released point-and-click beat ’em up game. Brockshared a viral thread on Twitter explaining how a particular type of scam works involving curators, Steam codes, and reviews.

The quick and basic explanation is that Cowcat and other independent developers have inboxes filled with code requests from various curators on Steam. Most of them are considered scammers. To find out how many of them were questionable, Cowcat sent codes to all these curators, but not for the full game, but only for the demo. The idea was that if the curators were legit, they’d get to the end of the demo and then reach out and ask for the full code to do a proper review. Instead, many did not, and codes for the game began to appear on key sale sites, although Cowcat does not support these types of marketplaces.. Shortly thereafter, some curators began posting negative reviews about Brock, although neither received the full game. While there are other possibilities, it is likely that these curators were simply trying to swindle some free codes from Cowcat, which could then be resold.

In response, Cowcat contacted Valve and received a response from the company, who explained that he would study the curators in question. It seems that Valve agreed with Cowcat and others on Reddit who believe that these particular curators played by the rules and may have used negative feedback as punishment for not providing keys. (Curators can leave reviews for games they don’t own.)

At least 20 curators– many of which left negative reviews about Brock after receiving the keys for the demo – are now banned from Steam. Clicking on a link to one of these curator groups will take you to Message from Valve stating that “This group has been removed for violating Steam community guidelines and guidelines.”

Of course, since anyone can quickly create a free Steam account and group and become a curator, it’s likely that many of these shady users will return, creating new lists and continuing to swindle codes from developers. But this sudden public exposure of this scam could make it difficult for those who want free codes to flip. At least one game developer and publisher, 11 Bit Studios, publicly announced as a result of this situation, he will no longer provide Steam keys to curators.

“Based on our experience and the experience of other developers,” tweeted frostpunk developers, most [Steam curator] the requests come from fake accounts used to collect and resell keys, and the published reviews are of no value to the community anyway.”

While it’s good to see Valve step in and try to stop some of these scams, developers like Cowcat are still hopeful that the company will do more to improve the curator system. Many need additional verification methods and ways to filter real users and merchants from random scammers or dubious users. Until then, emailing curator codes can always be a gamble.

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