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Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys

Steam users who purchased keys for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 through what turn out to be grey market sources have found themselves banned from playing the game. Apparently users have been able to buy discounted keys from sources that buy them in bulk for cyber cafes, foreign sales, and similar setups, only to find this is a no-no. A post to the Steam Users' Forums by Valve's BurtonJ says: "If you purchased just a cd key for the game then you purchased from an illegitimate seller and the game has been revoked." In a later post he clarifies: "I am sorry but you all did not purchase from a legitimate retailer. It is recommended that you contact the seller to request a refund. In the future, you should only buy unopened retail boxed copies from legitimate retailers or purchase via legitimate digital download services such as Steam and Direct2Drive." We saw a note about this yesterday with no working links to evidence of this, but found the sources today courtesy of a post on Voodoo Extreme.

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122 Replies. 7 pages. Viewing page 3.
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82. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 16:45 Beamer
 
It's called price discrimination.

And it's a good thing.

Say a company comes out with a cure for AIDS. Do you think they should charge Americans the same they charge people in Africa?

If you answer "yes," then the companies will charge Africans more than they make in 5 years, as that's how much is necessary for the company to recoup their R&D costs. You just deprived a whole continent of life.
If you answer "no, but cures for AIDS and video games aren't comparable" then fine, we'll charge everyone the same for video games and developing nations will either have zero chance of playing these games or, more accurately, just pirate everything since it's the only reasonable way they can get the games.

Pharmaceuticals price discriminate like crazy, and find ways to very stiffly charge those that try to get around it. In fact, they've lobbied so that importing drugs from other countries is a federal crime in the US. Get caught and you're looking at jail time.
If you'd prefer, Valve could do that. You know, rather than people doing this simply getting banned they can do jail time. If that's what you'd prefer.
 
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81. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 15:56 everyone
 
This is actually about forcing a price for this region, being an extremely wealthy nation means that if they can force North American users to only buy from Steam or major retailers they can effectively control the price for this product. (forcing a high price point like $60)

It's not uncommon for companies to try and impose price controls.
What is different about this situation is them going after the end-user, instead of handling things through their distributors and retailers, which is how every other industry does it.
 
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80. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 15:39 Tumbler
 
You keep mentioning lower income nations like that should mean something. Why should some people be able to buy the game cheaper than others?

This is actually about forcing a price for this region, being an extremely wealthy nation means that if they can force North American users to only buy from Steam or major retailers they can effectively control the price for this product. (forcing a high price point like $60)
 
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79. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 15:06 sfhand
 
You keep mentioning lower income nations like that should mean something. Why should some people be able to buy the game cheaper than others?  
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78. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 13:13 everyone
 
This isn't about unused licenses though, if you went to Walmart and bought the game, then sold it to someone else without ever using it, that code would work fine.

This is about licenses sold under specific conditions being used outside of that. Licenses sold for either business use like a cafe or for cheaper, lower income nations. Licenses with specific areas of use which then show up being uses by Joe Schmoe in the USA.

We don't actually know how they were bought and sold.
Perhaps these resellers simply bought 500 boxed copies in asia and are now reselling just the cdkeys. If that is the case than it is hard to argue some sort of specific restrictions on those licenses, unless it clearly states something about those restrictions on the box.
 
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77. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 12:49 StingingVelvet
 
In almost all cases, except apparently this one, the seller of the license is irrelevant. If I buy a copy of windows 7 and decide afterwards not to use it. I am perfectly able to resell my unused license to anyone I choose. The same is almost universally true for unused/unattached licenses.

This isn't about unused licenses though, if you went to Walmart and bought the game, then sold it to someone else without ever using it, that code would work fine.

This is about licenses sold under specific conditions being used outside of that. Licenses sold for either business use like a cafe or for cheaper, lower income nations. Licenses with specific areas of use which then show up being uses by Joe Schmoe in the USA.
 
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76. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 12:12 everyone
 
It's not just the technology that allows it, its the classification of the game as a license you purchase to play the game, not the game itself. That gives them a ton of legal leeway. Court cases to challenge this idea have come up and sometimes they side with the consumer and sometimes they don't... until the inevitable day when the idea is directly challenged no one can really say what their future legal boundries will be.

I'm not a lawyer, which is why I haven't claimed that anything they have done is illegal. Though it would be interesting to see if it held up in court.
My argument is based on the principle of consumer rights. Just because a company can legally do something, doesn't mean they should, and certainly doesn't mean that consumers should applaud them for doing so.

Right now though you buy a license to play the game, and if you buy the license from someone not authorized to sell it to you, well, you paid a lot for nothing.

In almost all cases, except apparently this one, the seller of the license is irrelevant. If I buy a copy of windows 7 and decide afterwards not to use it. I am perfectly able to resell my unused license to anyone I choose. The same is almost universally true for unused/unattached licenses.

This comment was edited on Nov 22, 2009, 12:13.
 
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75. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 11:39 StingingVelvet
 
It's called price discrimination.

I'm going to go tell a releator that charging more for a house on the water in Miami than an identical house in Nebraska is discrimination. Good call.
 
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74. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 11:38 StingingVelvet
 
Every industry is different, but the fundamentals are the same.
The gaming industry is not some special industry that should be given carte blanche to do as they please.
The reason behind them doing this has nothing to do with importing and exporting being different for video games. It's because unlike every other industry, the gaming industry has the means to try and dictate how a product is used even after purchase. Which is my problem. Consumers shouldn't be cheering that any industry has decided that it is okay to control, and in this case disable, legitimately purchased merchandise, simply because the technology exist to do so.

It's not just the technology that allows it, its the classification of the game as a license you purchase to play the game, not the game itself. That gives them a ton of legal leeway. Court cases to challenge this idea have come up and sometimes they side with the consumer and sometimes they don't... until the inevitable day when the idea is directly challenged no one can really say what their future legal boundries will be.

Right now though you buy a license to play the game, and if you buy the license from someone not authorized to sell it to you, well, you paid a lot for nothing.
 
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73. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 11:22 DG
 
It's called price discrimination.  
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72. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 08:37 everyone
 
You can't email a statue, or a car, or a lounge chair. You're being ignorant here, either purposely or legitimately. You can email a game, it is just a keycode and a license in this case. His entire point, which I fully agree with, is that in the Internet age and with the game being just a license which the key unlocks, you have the option of local pricing in countries with lower cost of living and enforcing region restrictions or you can charge everyone the same price and then completely shaft the people in those lower income countries so they can't buy the game at all.

The internet makes us feel like we are one world, one people, the choirs singing, but we're not... there are fundemental economic differences which force regional pricing. People can't seem to grasp this idea, but it is very true. This regional pricing therefore results in the need to enforce that pricing.

Every industry is different, but the fundamentals are the same.
The gaming industry is not some special industry that should be given carte blanche to do as they please.
The reason behind them doing this has nothing to do with importing and exporting being different for video games. It's because unlike every other industry, the gaming industry has the means to try and dictate how a product is used even after purchase. Which is my problem. Consumers shouldn't be cheering that any industry has decided that it is okay to control, and in this case disable, legitimately purchased merchandise, simply because the technology exist to do so.
 
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71. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 08:08 StingingVelvet
 
The other guy is arguing better than I am so I will leave it to him to reply, but I wanted to respond to this sentence...

Global trade isn't some new problem that is only plaguing the gaming industry. People import and export things from all over the world. Video games aren't some special category of item.

You can't email a statue, or a car, or a lounge chair. You're being ignorant here, either purposely or legitimately. You can email a game, it is just a keycode and a license in this case. His entire point, which I fully agree with, is that in the Internet age and with the game being just a license which the key unlocks, you have the option of local pricing in countries with lower cost of living and enforcing region restrictions or you can charge everyone the same price and then completely shaft the people in those lower income countries so they can't buy the game at all.

The internet makes us feel like we are one world, one people, the choirs singing, but we're not... there are fundemental economic differences which force regional pricing. People can't seem to grasp this idea, but it is very true. This regional pricing therefore results in the need to enforce that pricing.

This comment was edited on Nov 22, 2009, 08:09.
 
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70. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 02:00 everyone
 
This is the crux of the problem; if it's one person that travels over there, spending $500 on airfare to save $10 on a game, then it's not a big deal. In the internet age, though, one person there can quite easily buy 10,000 copies and re-sell them to individuals in the US, then it becomes a major problem. It's the problem of having a digital good - there's zero transportation cost involved in selling across borders

Look, there's really only two possibilities here - either
1) The game is sold at the exact same price globally, at a price point which maximizes the revenue for the company (which basically means the US/Euro price), which means the price is vastly out of proportion to income in developing areas (which then means that they'll sell basically zero non-pirated copies in those areas)
2) The game is sold at a cost somewhat relative to (a) the wealth of that country, such that it's actually reasonable to ask people in developing countries to legally purchase it, which requires some sort of control on the good to restrict it to that region, and (b) the nature of the organization purchasing it, such that a cyber cafe / whatever can be encouraged to legally purchase a number of licenses instead of pirating the game, which also requires controlling the ability of those licenses to be spread outside that industry

Global trade isn't some new problem that is only plaguing the gaming industry. People import and export things from all over the world. Video games aren't some special category of item.

Many industries try to limit sales outside an intended market for various reasons, but this is done through the distribution/retailer side of the business. They would never try to go after end-users, they would have no legal standing to do so, and it would be counter productive to alienate customers who want to purchase your product.

To go back to someone else's example - it's the exact same situation as Microsoft selling corporate windows licenses. It makes perfect sense to sell one giant corporate license to a company, both for cost and for ease of use (not having to keep tract of tens of thousands of windows licenses), but if companies start reselling them it would destroy the value of the individual licenses

This is nothing like the Microsoft example. if a corporate key is issued, it would be copyright infringement (aka pirating) to install or resell said licenses outside of the company that purchased the licenses.
No copyright infringement takes place when importing a video game.

Now, if you want to argue that Valve should pro-actively create different types of key #'s, such that it's obvious that they're region restricted / etc, I might not disagree with you... but again, it's probably the case that Valve really doesn't generally want to bother with this (as long as it doesn't become a major problem), and it's only when they start seeing a fairly large # of people taking advantage of the loophole that they need to take action

If they deem it a serious problem, than they should be proactively policing their international resellers.

I've purchased most of the AAA 360 titles over the past couple years, and I don't think I've paid less than 25% off the entire time. If you don't think a game has $60 worth of value to you, if you wait 3 months you can easily get it for $40 (and probably less), without resorting to buying from questionable sources or importing Chinese versions or whatever.

The problem is that most gamers want to have both - they want to not pay full price (generously), but they also NEED to have it the week that it comes out.

Value means something different than cost. A game can have lots of value at $60.00 or little value at $9.99. The point I was making, is that consumers demanding value for their dollar is a good thing for all consumers.There are plenty of examples of industries failing to give consumers the value they demanded, and failing because of it.
A good example in the video game industry would be the game crash of the 80's. Too much crap, not enough value. Many people stopped buying games, and because of that multiple companies went out of business. In their place new players such as Nintendo released products that once again captured consumers interest, and money.

I wonder if Valve and Activisions actions would hold up in court. Obviously no one is going to sue a multi-billion dollar company over a $40 game, but it would be interesting to see if they could get away with such heavy handed tactics legally.

This comment was edited on Nov 22, 2009, 02:18.
 
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69. Re: MW2 Key Bans Nov 22, 2009, 01:59 sfhand
 
I must say I don't understand the coporate defenders here. We live in an age of globalization where in my lifetime we've witnessed our manufacturing base shipped overseas for profit. The whole reason Japanese cars started selling in the US is because they were cheaper. Our manufacturing went over there because they work cheaper. And we, as consumers, pretty much go along with this because for us it's cheaper.

But some here would defend selling these products at lower prices there, or higher prices here. Why? What happened to market forces dictating prices? You send my job over there because that guy will work for less, and then you'll sell him the stuff cheaper than you'll sell it to me. But I better not ever look for the best deal because somehow that is unethical?

Just so you know, with the exception of Silent hunter games, the only steam games I've bought are made by Valve. I haven't and won't buy MW2 (unless/until they make it as functional as CoD4-and I'm not holding my breath)

But seriously, if it's okay to use the global market for labor costs why isn't it okay for consumers to use the global market to their advantage as well? If a company can afford to sell their wares at a lower cost to potentially hundreds of thousands of users what possible complaint can they offer when someone else wants the same deal? Charging someone more because they can afford to pay more is called price gouging and I'm pretty surprised to hear consumers speaking out in favor of it.
 
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68. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 01:22 zirik
 
you obviously have never ordered discounted games from gogamer.

Ever notice the little (I) after some titles on Gogamer? The last time I bought a game that said that it was from Europe, and it still worked fine. I've also seen (J), but I'm not sure what that means.

if you read my original post i specifically mentioned import edition. i guess gogamer knows they cant pull the discounted import stuff with an online activated game since they dont sell imported MW2. i always wondered how gogamer can sell imported games at discounted price when the price is the same if purchased at their intended regions.
 
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67. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 22, 2009, 01:07 Gdiguy
 
I think we are probably just going to go around in circles here, but the entire reason I have a problem with this is because, from all accounts, these are legit paid for keys. No different than if I took a trip to Japan, purchased a game and brought it home with me.

This is the crux of the problem; if it's one person that travels over there, spending $500 on airfare to save $10 on a game, then it's not a big deal. In the internet age, though, one person there can quite easily buy 10,000 copies and re-sell them to individuals in the US, then it becomes a major problem. It's the problem of having a digital good - there's zero transportation cost involved in selling across borders

Look, there's really only two possibilities here - either
1) The game is sold at the exact same price globally, at a price point which maximizes the revenue for the company (which basically means the US/Euro price), which means the price is vastly out of proportion to income in developing areas (which then means that they'll sell basically zero non-pirated copies in those areas)
2) The game is sold at a cost somewhat relative to (a) the wealth of that country, such that it's actually reasonable to ask people in developing countries to legally purchase it, which requires some sort of control on the good to restrict it to that region, and (b) the nature of the organization purchasing it, such that a cyber cafe / whatever can be encouraged to legally purchase a number of licenses instead of pirating the game, which also requires controlling the ability of those licenses to be spread outside that industry

To go back to someone else's example - it's the exact same situation as Microsoft selling corporate windows licenses. It makes perfect sense to sell one giant corporate license to a company, both for cost and for ease of use (not having to keep tract of tens of thousands of windows licenses), but if companies start reselling them it would destroy the value of the individual licenses

Now, if you want to argue that Valve should pro-actively create different types of key #'s, such that it's obvious that they're region restricted / etc, I might not disagree with you... but again, it's probably the case that Valve really doesn't generally want to bother with this (as long as it doesn't become a major problem), and it's only when they start seeing a fairly large # of people taking advantage of the loophole that they need to take action

Value conscience consumers incentivize companies to be more efficient and offer more value in their products. Which in turn benefits all consumers, even you.

I've purchased most of the AAA 360 titles over the past couple years, and I don't think I've paid less than 25% off the entire time. If you don't think a game has $60 worth of value to you, if you wait 3 months you can easily get it for $40 (and probably less), without resorting to buying from questionable sources or importing Chinese versions or whatever.

The problem is that most gamers want to have both - they want to not pay full price (generously), but they also NEED to have it the week that it comes out.

This comment was edited on Nov 22, 2009, 01:14.
 
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66. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 21, 2009, 23:48 everyone
 
Everyone supports consumer rights to a point, but there is a level upon which you are blindly siding with ignorant consumers in a fight they should lose. At the end of the day it is very clear that these key shops are not legit, are treated as such on Steam, and the people who bought it took a chance to save a few bucks. They lost, and I have no pity for them, end of story.

I think we are probably just going to go around in circles here, but the entire reason I have a problem with this is because, from all accounts, these are legit paid for keys. No different than if I took a trip to Japan, purchased a game and brought it home with me.

The free market works because companies make things people want and are willing to pay for. Trying to save money at all costs, like buying used games or importing from countries with much lower standards of living is trying to go around the system, not helping the system.

It's not a hard concept... game developer makes game, game publisher sells game, consumer buys game if he considers it worth the money. If he doesn't, he waits, or never buys it at all. All the talk of piracy, used sales, resellers and such is just bullshit cheap-ass crap from people who want to save a buck at all cost, period. If you like games, support developers and publishers.

Value conscience consumers incentivize companies to be more efficient and offer more value in their products. Which in turn benefits all consumers, even you.

This I agree with, no other industry than PC gaming treats its customers to such high level restrictions. I assume this is directly related to the insane level of whining, thieving and sense of entitlement PC gamers tend to display. I say that as a life-long PC gamer who has never pirated anything you can buy. I go to a lot of forums and read a lot of news comments and the average PC gamer seems to be a pissy little brat who also happens to be old and stuck in his ways who thinks all payments for products should be under the honor system.

My guess would be that the reason they have implemented "high level restrictions", is because many game buyers have rolled over and accepted it.
A perfect example is one you mentioned, used games.
The secondary market is a well established fact for every other industry on the planet, yet game publishers make statements about how they are looking at ways to eliminate the used market for video games and many gamers applaud.
There seems to be no realization on the part of many gamers, that regardless of whether you personally buy/sell/trade used games. That by eliminating the used game market, it vastly decreases the value of the new product you are buying.

 
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65. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 21, 2009, 22:07 StingingVelvet
 
I too want a strong gaming industry, but not at the expense of the consumer. Unfortunately, I think we would disagree about whether instances such as this, make the industry stronger or weaker. I see a situation that will almost assuredly encourage additional piracy and create more hesitancy for some consumers (such as myself) to embrace digital distribution.

Everyone supports consumer rights to a point, but there is a level upon which you are blindly siding with ignorant consumers in a fight they should lose. At the end of the day it is very clear that these key shops are not legit, are treated as such on Steam, and the people who bought it took a chance to save a few bucks. They lost, and I have no pity for them, end of story.

The free market works by companies trying to make as much money as possible, and consumers trying to get as much value as possible. A balance is created by the two opposing forces.

The free market works because companies make things people want and are willing to pay for. Trying to save money at all costs, like buying used games or importing from countries with much lower standards of living is trying to go around the system, not helping the system.

It's not a hard concept... game developer makes game, game publisher sells game, consumer buys game if he considers it worth the money. If he doesn't, he waits, or never buys it at all. All the talk of piracy, used sales, resellers and such is just bullshit cheap-ass crap from people who want to save a buck at all cost, period. If you like games, support developers and publishers.

No other industry would go after their end-users for problems in their distribution chain. Which is actually the crux of the matter, no other industry could. Too much power has been taken by the gaming industry in the form of DRM and digital distribution to dictate terms, even after a sale has been completed. It's ironic really, because unlike almost every other industry, the gaming industry has to contend with the reality that people can easily obtain their product free of charge at any time. They should be working to create additional customer loyalty, not squandering what little they have left on small potatoes like this situation.

This I agree with, no other industry than PC gaming treats its customers to such high level restrictions. I assume this is directly related to the insane level of whining, thieving and sense of entitlement PC gamers tend to display. I say that as a life-long PC gamer who has never pirated anything you can buy. I go to a lot of forums and read a lot of news comments and the average PC gamer seems to be a pissy little brat who also happens to be old and stuck in his ways who thinks all payments for products should be under the honor system.
 
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64. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 21, 2009, 21:57 StingingVelvet
 
The sole purpose of the consumer class is to enrich the capitalist class. Getting good deals outside of the sanctioned channels (e.g. Walmart) goes strictly against your purpose and is deserving of ridicule and shame.

Oh God, a Marxist manifesto.

One could say the whole reason the "capitalist class" exist is to provide salaries for the working class. It's all linked, Activision only has as much power as consumers give them. If everyone stopped buying Activision games because of this then they would never do it again, but they won't Why? I am sure you will say "because consumers are stupid!" but the real reason is because the large majority of them do not find this that abhorrent.
 
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63. Re: Steam Bans Grey Market MW2 Keys Nov 21, 2009, 20:59 Drayth
 
*sniff*

..smells Riley good in here...


 
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