GII is reporting this morning that UK-based developer Rebellion has revoked thousands of Sniper Elite 3 Steam keys after – it claims – a retailer suffered a "security breach" which resulted in stolen keys being sold to customers through various means online. The game took the top spot in the UK charts for the most recently recorded week, according to Chart-Track.
Rebellion claims that it was forced to cancel the redemption of many Steam keys, which in turn has angered some resellers and a lot of customers. A post by Rebellion on its Steam community page explains some of the story.
"We have been saddened to learn that some fans have been caught out by companies selling unlicensed or stolen Sniper Elite 3 Steam keys," reads an initial post from the team. "If you have been affected by this we encourage you to contact the seller in question and seek a refund immediately.
"In addition we're aware that some gamers may have pre-ordered these keys in good faith, believing them to be genuine – missing out on both the game, and the 'Target Hitler' DLC pre-order incentive."
"In response to this we'd like to offer the 'Target Hitler' DLC FREE to all those affected by this."
Despite the olive branch of DLC from Rebellion, customers affected by this move were unhappy with the explanation, and some distributors affected by the move also spoke out. CJS-CDkeys who claims it only sold on legitimate keys to its customers, accuses Rebellion of price fixing, calling into question Rebellion's story. The company said it was a matter of first sale doctrine, which is perfectly legal according to a court ruling from the highest court in Europe.
"Unfortunately, we find it rather hard to believe that a single set of 'stolen' keys managed to reach official distributors and publisher offices all around the world," reads the post from CJS. "We believe that this statement: 'As a developer Rebellion are happy for you to purchase the game anywhere you see fit' is an absolute fabrication."
"We believe Rebellion banned these keys for the exact opposite reason. While the term 'unauthorised reseller' bounces about the internet, the truth is that there is no such thing. Under the first-sale doctrine, the copyright ownership of a license key ends after the first sale. This means that all legal entities (even members of the public) have a legal right to re-sell their license keys as they see fit. The developer has absolutely no legal right to stop keys being re-sold."
Rebellion later clarified its position, blaming a security breach at an unnamed retailer.
"We appreciate that some people are upset, this is exactly why we wanted to make this offer to gamers who've been affected through no fault of their own," an update reads.
"To clarify, one of our PC retail distributors informed us that some of their allotted Steam keys were stolen. We believe these keys were then resold to multiple companies, with no payments going to either Valve or the retail distributor."
"Steam were immediately informed and have now revoked that set of keys."
"As a developer Rebellion are happy for you to purchase the game anywhere you see fit and support price competition in the PC market – we have in no way targeted any specific vendors (who may have also thought these keys were legitimate), just this one set of keys."
"All we can suggest if you have been affected is to please contact your vendor and first ask for a replacement key, and then contact us for the free pre-order DLC if you are successful."
Another retailer, Green Man Gaming was named as an affected retailer, but it turned out to be a mistake on the part of users who were trying to redeem codes for the DLC to get the full game.
"We are an official retailer for and have a direct contract with Rebellion," the retailer wrote. "We had confirmation from them this morning that a DVD retailer had a security breach, and a batch of keys became available for sale. We understand that Rebellion are going to be putting out an official statement about this at some point today."
"This issue does not affect Green Man Gaming, nor our customers," the company added.