The discovery of Steam curators in an alleged scheme to obtain and resell free game keys via a virtual sting operation has been removed by Valve.
Earlier this week, Brok the Investigator creator Fabrice Breton talked about the influx of requests for free game keys he received from Steam curators following the debut of his game. While there was little doubt that some of those curator pages were genuine, Breton felt that many more were being used by con artists to obtain free game keys. By using gray-market code resellers like G2A to turn those free keys into hard cash, they could reduce genuine purchases that benefit the creator.
Breton claimed he responded to those key requests with keys for the free, constrained Prologue edition of the game rather than the full release in order to distinguish the genuine curators from the con artists. Even though those keys would be identical to complete ones prior to redemption, any curators who were truly interested in playing the game would immediately see the difference and contact the developer to report it.
Few curators voiced their concerns, “confirming that the most of those emails are from scammers who did not even activate those keys on their account before posting a review,” as Breton put it. Another indication that many of the free keys Breton sent were not being used by the recipients is the game’s early availability on key resale websites.
Breton claims that among some of the curators who received the Prologue keys, “a good chunk of ‘suspicious’ negative reviews” of his game have begun to surface. There were several curators for whom Brok was the only title with a bad evaluation, and a few curators who changed their recommendation from favorable to unfavorable. Likely after getting angry clients coming back at them from resale sites, Breton explained.
Breton adds that those reviews are 100 percent bogus because they couldn’t play the whole game because he only sent them the Prologue keys. A curator page can suggest or criticize any game in the Steam library, in contrast to the more direct user review mechanism on Steam, which demands that reviewers actually own and play the game in question.
A comprehensive analysis of the curators that criticized Brok by Reddit user darklinkpower revealed a number of strange commonalities among several of them, including the same admins and creation dates. However, as of Wednesday morning, none of those curator pages are any longer accessible due to what appears to be a purge by Valve for “violating the Steam Community Rules and Guidelines”. However, Google cached versions of some of the curator sites from recent weeks are still accessible right now.
Breton suggested that Valve alter Steam’s Curator Connect service in order to lessen the deluge of phony requests that developers receive and to enable developers to recognize and validate reliable curators.