Sniper Elite 3 CD Keys revoked by Rebellion – We Smell A Rat!

The CEO of Rebellion?

CJS would like to Re-iterate that our keys were fortunately NOT affected by this scandal. None of the Sniper Elite 3 CD Keys sold by were affected, and we still have them in stock ready for instant delivery. We are reporting on it in this blog post as we think it is wrong that a company should accuse 60+ retailers in our sub sector of the industry of being illegitimate.

One of the biggest scams to hit the game industry is unfolding as I type this article.   You may already be aware of it. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Sniper Elite Steam 3 CD Keys have been Illegally revoked and de-activated, by the game’s own developer, Rebellion.  CJS CD Keys are lucky enough that we have not been affected by this problem. If we ever are, we will always provide customers with a full refund or a fully working key, but so far, so good.  What’s not okay though, is that Rebellion appears to be trying to frame innocent retailers for their own doings, but we seek to find out the truth about the goings on.

What happened?

On 27th June, thousands, *It has since been confirmed to be around 7000* of CD Keys for Sniper Elite 3 were revoked from customer’s Steam accounts without warning and without a legitimate reason. Affected customers and indeed, the affected retailers who sold the keys, had purchased the keys legitimately, only to see the game disappear from their Steam game library.

How many retailers were affected by the problem?

The situation is currently unfolding, but it appears that over 60+ retailers have been affected by the scam.  An interesting point is that the issue is not unique to companies dedicated to selling CD Keys.  There are also many reports that customers who purchased from official outlets such as GreenManGaming were also affected by the scam.  The only keys which were NOT revoked appear to be keys sourced from boxed copies of the game, and keys bought directly on Steam.

Why did it happen?

Immediately after the keys were banned, Rebellion tried to cover themselves by posting the following statement on the Steam Forums: (it has since been edited to suit their side 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. If you have been affected by this we encourage you to contact the seller in question and seek a refund immediately.”

Just a few hours ago, this statement recommended that customers get a refund from their retailer and purchase the game directly on Steam at full retail price.  They have since edited this out in response to the major backlash from customers who paid in good-faith. They also added the following statement, which we believe is a white lie at best:

“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.”

If rebellion were happy for the games to be purchased anywhere, then why did they previously recommend that customers only buy directly on Steam? (They since removed this comment).  How could ‘just one set of keys’ reach 60+ retailers? The affected retailers are based in countries all over the world, who buy from various distributors around the world. Some even buy directly from the relevant regional publisher, if they are a large shop with sufficient purchasing power.

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.  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 beleive 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 (I.E from publisher to distributor).  See here for full details.  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.  The only requirement in law for re-selling virtual software / digital goods is that the original copy of the virtual item must be destroyed once copied over to someone. (This makes more sense when considering the re-selling of a digital copy of your legally purchased music, for example).   Of course, with Steam’s DRM system, the key can only be used once, so deleting access to the ‘original copy’ is not an issue.

Unfortunately Rebellion want to encourage the public to purchase their game at the full retail price, directly from Steam, in order that they can maximise profits. We have reason to believe that the banning of keys sold outside of Steam goes against numerous antitrust, anti-competition, and anti-monopoly laws.

While many game developers (and Steam themselves) will legitimately try to encourage users to stay away from re-sellers and buy directly on Steam at the full retail price, what Rebellion has done today is absolutely immoral. They have banned legitimately purchased keys, legally owned by multiple online retailers and gamers worldwide, and covered their tracks by claiming that the keys were ‘stolen’.

What can we do?

If you are a gamer and you have purchased from a retailer only to see your key revoked, we would love to hear from you in the comments section.   Most retailers should give you a full refund or replacement on the key as a goodwill gesture. In the meantime the retailers affected by this scam will no doubt take it upon themselves to clear their names, claim back the money on the illegitimately revoked keys, and make sure that Rebellion are punished for this immoral act.

We (CJS CD Keys) are lucky enough that we have not been affected by this issue.  If you purchase Sniper Elite 3 from CJS CD Keys you will not be affected as we have tested our keys and they are in fully working order.  In addition, CJS CD Keys have a policy where customers will always receive a fully working key (forever) or a full refund, so you know you have full support if you ever did run into trouble for some reason.  CJS would never deal in ‘stolen’ goods, and we know for a fact that many of the affected retailers also would never do such a thing.  Indeed, it’s quite difficult to believe that thousands of game keys were ‘stolen’ and magically reached numerous distributors worldwide in the space of a day.  It’s rather obvious who is the guilty party here.

We also found an interesting comment from PC Media PTE LTD, an official seller of games, similar to ourselves, which was posted on the controversial steam thread:

“Ok, this kind of thing has to stop.

I understand where Rebellion are coming from in regards to prices being too low and regional based restrictions being bypassed but this is a free internet where people have the choice to do what they like with something they just purchased.

What you are doing here is against the fair trade act 1973 and will be dealt with to the full extent possible in terms of claiming any losses and damages from Rebellion. All of our suppliers are officially licensed distributors yet you have the audacity to claim we are all fraudulent buyers and that everyone can only buy it from steam for it to be legitimate.

This is a complete fabrication and has no legal standing whatsoever. Every person or consumer has a right to purchase your game wherever they see fit of that company is buying your games legitimately and you cannot punish us or any other seller for selling your game if this is the case.

This is possibly the most underhanded tactic i have ever seen from a publisher and you deserve to be punished for it.



Which retailers have been affected by the scam?

We are currently aware that over 60+ online retailers have been affected by the scam.  There are numerous reports on the Steam forums of GreenManGaming customers have been affected too, so it seems that this problem is not unique to CD Key retailers. It’s rather clear that Rebellion are trying to monopolise on the digital sales of their game, while framing legitimate retailers and claiming the keys as ‘stolen’ to try and cover their tracks.

SHARE this article on Steam Forums by using this exact link to get around Steam’s rather unfair censorship filter:

Update 30th June 2014:

It appears that Rebellion have attempted to backtrack again on their post by providing a short list of companies which they sell directly to, seemingly trying to imply that anyone not on the list is not legitimate.

There is a slight flaw in this though…   CD Key shops do NOT tend to buy keys direct from the developers. They buy the games in physical boxed form, from authorised distributors.    Do you see Amazon, Game, Shopto, and every other single independent boxed video game company worldwide in their list?  No.   That’s because they are only listing companies which they have direct contracts with.. They are excluding the long list of companies which buy boxed copies from the publisher or distributor… and that includes most of the 60+ digital key retailers.

The truth is, CD Key shops do NOT tend to buy in digital form. They buy physical boxed copies and convert them into digital keys.

The supply chain for physical boxed copies goes something like this:    Rebellion ->  Publisher -> 100+ Distributors (in various countries) ->  Retailers (Amazon, GAME, CJS CD Keys, EBGames, etc).  Some of the bigger retailers can sometimes buy directly from the Publisher if they have sufficient buying power.

While the likes of Amazon ship out the boxed version of the game, CD Key stores open the boxes and sell them digitally. That is the sole difference.  The growth in the market over the last years has enabled CD Key sellers go a step further, and have the official distributors scan the codes on behalf of the CD Key shops, saving on unnecessary shipping.   The distributors can be anywhere in the world, since keys can be delivered within seconds.   The result?  Cheap games, sold digitally.

Price comparison:

Steam: £39.99

Amazon: £25.44

CJS:  £20.99

As you can see, while our keys may seem impossibly cheap to the average digital gamer, they are actually not so unbelievably cheap, when compared to their physical counterparts.

While the situation unfolds on the Steam forums, we will post relevant screenshots here, to try and bring together the evidence. Please click the images to see them larger:

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  • I’m going to go ahead and say it – it really doesn’t take much persuasion to convince the average PC game to pirate a game. Those that buy a PC game are rare, and those that pre-order are even rarer.

    These keys were bought in good faith. Even though we didn’t have a single review to base our judgement on, we ended up investing in a copy anyway. They may view the price as ‘too low’, but lets face it, they aren’t exactly Rockstar or Nintendo. Nobody was really expecting a 9/10 game here, and 15 quid seemed like a fair, not overly cheap, price. Reviews hovering around 6 and 7 out of 10 have vindicated this.

    I got my key preordered from another site. I installed it last night, and left the computer on overnight to download. After a long day working on my Master’s thesis, I wanted to kick back and relax playing a new game, one that I was very excited to play. Then I see that my key has been completely rejected. To be fair, yes I was refunded, but since all of the cheap keys seem to be cancelled, I start to get quite angry.

    Then they post an official response, making blatantly libellious claims accusing all the resellers of knowingly trading or purchasing ‘fraudulent’ keys, and to add to the insult, suggest that we should only buy directly from steam at more than twice the price. Again – based on the reviews, the game is barely worth 15 quid, never mind 40.

    But they truly inspired vitriol with their deceptive responses, and hilariously hamfisted backtracking, constantly re-editing their post on Steam. They changed their story and backtracked so many times. It’s more than obvious that they have deliberately lied here, not just acted somewhat deceptively.

    I figured that this was massively illegal, and now I have this official statement to back my suspicions up. I’m glad to see CJS issue such a blunt rebuke of the developer, especially if they were not affected by the scandal.

    I have bought many games by Rebellion, but I’ll never preorder based on faith in the developer again. Their actions were truly unconscionable, and I cannot believe that Steam assisted them in their actions.

    I am truly livid.

  • I too was stung by this as I had pre ordered the game from simply at the start of last month, last night I received the key and successfully redeemed it via steam and started the download when I went to bed as my connection is so slow.

    Upon waking up this morning I was greeted with the revoked pop up box and luckily for me the monies were refunded, I then purchased from cdkeys and had a fun hoir of play before the revoke message appeared after I logged off for food. Again the seller refunded the monies and I was shocked.

    I normaly buy from cjs but this time the other two sites were cheaper but since picking up my third key and this time from cjs it has worked with no message.

    What worries me is that the way a developer can do this as it just looks like a blatant oh my god look how many redemptions there have been and all the money we have lost.

    Cdkeys were selling for under £16 compared to steams £39.99, it is a no BRAINER that those figures did not sit well with accounting.

  • Got mine from SimplyCDKeys and it was revoked first thing today.

    Never had any issues with their keys before, and this is evidently an issue stemming from Steam/Rebellion themselves.

    SCDK have refunded my money and given me reward points worth £4 as an apology. Personally I’d be more happy for that £4 to go towards legal costs against Rebellion for this absolute crime.

  • Hi

    I pre-ordered this key from a reputable online seller that I have used numerous times before and cannot praise enough. This sounds like a poorly thought out ‘knee jerk’ reaction by Rebellion, without thinking of the longer term consequences. Many legitimate online key sellers and gamers have been affected by this and they will not forget this monumental ‘f*** up’ on Rebellion’s part. The first rule of business is to build up a reputation that can be trusted and this has just come crashing down for Rebellion. I am desperate to play this game but feel much more strongly about the underhand and immoral way that this company have naively and greedily dealt with the very people who pay their wages. I have been given a full refund and will continue to use the online retailer involved. However, I will not be ordering this game again and will NEVER be ordering any game linked to Rebellion again – principles come first. It would not surprise me one bit if this is the start of their ‘undoing’, and deservedly so.

  • Same thing happened to me after purchasing from a CD key seller I’ve used dozens of times before and never once had an issue. They were extremely apologetic to me and even offered me a free copy of Sniper Elite Nazi Zombie Army 2, as well as the option of a full refund or a replacement key as soon as they were available. I’m glad I read this article, especially the paragraph regarding the legality of CD key re-sellers, as it’s made me much more confident in purchasing from these types of stores in the future. As far as Rebellion’s actions, it’s shocking a developer would go so far as to accuse many reputable companies of copyright infringement just to squeeze as much money as possible out of their game.

  • short and sweet,
    I got mine a day early from GAME in the UK, which was revoked as its GAME I’m never getting my money back or a replacement, so its not just affecting online cd key sales.

    not more to say until i sober back up.

  • I got a key from an official seller (GMG), the key was revoked, and I’ve now got my refund and torrented the game.

    I have every single Rebellion game they have published on Steam, but I won’t be buying any more, fuck them

  • This is one game I will not buy, nor anymore rebellion games, 🙂 hopefully they’ll learn their lesson when the time comes for them to go to court

  • I didn’t buy this game but I do wonder whether this is a one-off or the beginning of a campaign to attempt to put online key sellers out of business. Hopefully it is the former, but it will be extremely interesting to see this story develop in the coming days.

  • If they wanted to encourage piracy for this game, they pretty much succeeded.

  • I didn’t buy the game, and I’m glad that I didn’t because when you look at all of this you end up thinking “well they don’t even deserve the good faith of those who are affected”, but what made me more angry is that they had the nerve to accuse all of those good sites, such a shame…

    I for one, am not made of money, I don’t buy games at release I await until they drop to the suitable price that they deserve then buy it with my hard earned money, all I want from all developers is to think about how much their game is worth, if they started selling Sniper Elite 3 @ 25$ or 20$ they would get a lot of buyers because the game deserves its price, maybe more thus making it a good deal, but they seem to understand that principle backwards…

  • I would not be surprised if Rebellion saw the sales figures between those who paid £15 and those who paid £40 on Steam and decided the latter was far too low. We can’t let them have the game for that cheap! We must get more people on Steam so we get max profits!

  • Just saying, in Hungary a big physical shop is effected, Cdgalaxis who sells boxed copies got some of (or all of) their keys revoked. They get their copies directly from the Hungarian distributor I do not think would buy stolen physical boxes to sell.

    Hungarian language facebook post on

    first post tells:
    My sniper elite 3 just arrived but unfortunately I am one of those whose cd key has been used up. What should I do?

    Then CD Galaxis says contact

    Last post explicitely tells, that the users CD key has been revoked by steam due to non payment. He also asks what to do, he gets the answer again to contact [email protected] for answers.

    Quite interesting.