The other day, a real “drama” unfolded on Steam around scam curators. It all started with a mini-investigation of the indie developer COWCAT, who, using the example of his game BROK the InvestiGator exposed a scheme to resell keys provided for reviews.
In late August, COWCAT revealed on Twitter that he was tired of the many requests for review codes, most of which came from fraudsters, who then resold these codes on other platforms (this topic is far from new, and on the same Reddit, indie developers have already been discussing it for a long time). So he started sending out codes in response to such requests… for a free prologue—say, if the curator really asked for a code to review, he’d ask again for the “full” code once he got to the end of the demo.
And indeed, while some curators actually wrote to him again asking for a new key for the full game, most of the “curators” didn’t respond, instead the game’s Steam page started showing negative reviews of suspicious content (all of them claiming to have the full game, whereas COWCAT did not provide them with such keys). As the developer notes, he has no proof, but he is sure that these “demo” keys have appeared on trading platforms such as Kinguin, Gamivo and G2A.
BROK is currently being mass targetted by Steam curators sending negative reviews 😶
⬇️ THREAD ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/ae0L24ei3H
— BROK 🐊 OUT NOW! (@COWCATGames) August 28, 2022
COWCAT then informed Valve of these curators’ behavior, and in response he received a very discreet letter without any specifics, but later it became known that Valve has banned at least 20 curators who left negative reviews on BROK the InvestiGator.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping them from creating new accounts and continuing their activities — which is why some developers are already abandoning the practice of providing keys for Steam reviews. Among them, for example, the developer of Frostpunk is the company 11 Bit Studios, which publicly announced it will no longer provide keys to curators on Steam. That said, based on both their own experience and feedback from other developers, most of these requests still come from fake accounts created specifically to collect and resell keys.