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Retailer allegedly reselling Humble Bundle Steam keys for profit
Retailer allegedly reselling Humble Bundle Steam keys for profit
March 28, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

Game Informer published a short report this afternoon about retailers who are allegedly buying Steam keys for games through Humble Bundle sales and reselling those keys at a profit.

The chief subject of the report is 7 Entertainment, a PC game digital distribution company founded in Singapore in 2009. 7 runs a number of websites that sell CD keys and Steam keys for games, including storefronts like Gametime and Fast2Play.

Ed Key, co-creator of Proteus and noted indie developer, independently verified that Fast2Play was reselling Humble Bundle game Steam keys -- which can be purchased for as little as $1 -- by purchasing a key for Proteus through the F2P website, then comparing it to his log of Steam keys he'd issued.

Sure enough, he claims the key he purchased from Fast2Play matched one that he had already sold as part of a Humble Bundle deal. As of this writing, you can still purchase a key for Proteus on Fast2Play for €3.40.

"I don't really consider this to be any different from piracy in my mind,” Key told Game Informer. “The only difference is that they're charging money for something that The Pirate Bay would give out for free."

It's worth taking time to read the full Game Informer report, which includes further comments from Key along with input from other affected developers.

Gamasutra has reached out to representatives of 7 Entertainment for further comment.

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Marc Magi
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Humble Bundle already has an easy way to resolve this. I've bought several bundles since November 2013 that require steam keys be directly linked to a Steam Account (ditto for Origin). IDK whether they do that with every bundle that offers Steam titles but it would be a major deterrent as long as Steam continues to prevent gamers from "selling" games in their collection.

Additionally, more often that not, each game will have its own key which is a major temptation for personal purchases to be shared as gifts. However, HB and the publishers can always require that one linked key unlocks the entire bundle to steam/origin or other gaming service.

Simon Ludgate
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Ah, but one of the joys of Humble Bundle is that you can buy a bundle, take some of the games for yourself, and give some of the games to your friends. I often end up with duplicates when I get a bundle and gift those keys to friends, and on another occasion I got a bundle specifically because I knew a friend wanted one of the games in the bundle, so I gifted him that game got a few for myself in the deal.

I think this is more a problem of market inefficiencies than piracy though, because if people could get the keys more cheaply through Humble Bundle than through this reseller, then they should only ever buy from HB rather than reseller. The only reason they'd go to the reseller is if they don't know about HB, or if they missed the bundle.

It should be worth pointing out that the same principles of First Sale Doctrine apply in this case: if I see a good special on items at a store (eg: a loss leader) and buy a lot, then resell them at a profit after the sale ends, I'm simply plugging a hole in the market caused by lack of price competition failing to otherwise depress the non-sale price of the good.

In this case, the game maker still got paid for the game at a price they were willing to accept (whatever share they got from the Humble Bundle sale). If a reseller is undercutting their non-sale price, their solution is simple: compete in price and eliminate the reseller's profit margins. If they don't want to ever compete with sales, then they have to protect the integrity of their product's price point by NEVER distributing it in any form of sale or bundle--at which point this reseller would never have access to keys to re-sell.

You can only compare this with piracy by imagining some piracy site that let you download steam keys that were legitimately bought from a publisher.

Kyle Redd
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Yeah, this is not anything like piracy. The keys were legitimately purchased by everyone involved. The act of reselling the keys may very well be a violation of the HB terms, but don't equate reselling with stealing.

As far as I know, Humble Bundle has already rectified this problem anyway. All bundles now do not issue keys but instead deposit the games directly into Steam accounts, which effectively kills any large-scale operation from exploiting it as 7 Entertainment allegedly has.

Keith Nemitz
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Some of these resellers are auto generating steam accounts and selling the accounts. Humans are very clever, especially when you're not burdened with a moral compass.

Jacek Wesolowski
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So, in order to buy a game from a reseller, I need to enter new account credentials, make sure the key is registered as gift, make friends with my actual account, switch to my actual account, accept the invitation, switch back, send gift, switch again, and accept the gift. And on top of that, I'm paying more for this pleasure than I would if I went straight to Humble Bundle and just got the games directly for my own account.

Or, I could just keep a growing number of bogus accounts, each containing only a fraction of my library (I guess I could use those fancy new family settings for sharing libraries).

This begs for an information campaign (on part of Steam, I think, because they're the neutral party and they have access to traffic data).

Ismini Boinodiris
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This article should be updated with the response from 7 Entertainment.