Update, August 18: Valve have clarified that this policy will not impact the ability of its partners to seel keys via other sites.
In a statement issued to Gamasutra, a Valve employee has further clarified claims that the apparent changes to the way the company issues Steam keys is not changing, and that the company is simply cracking down on abuse of its store and features.
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The un-named Valve representative says "Steam keys have always been available for free to our partners to help them sell PC games at physical retail and on other digital stores. In return, we've asked that partners offer Steam customers a fair deal, similar to what they're offering on other stores. None of that is changing."
They go on to say that changes to the Steam store have enabled some users to manipulate the system. A prominent example of that is through trading card 'farming', which the company has talked about at length in the past.
At the end of the statement, the representative makes sure to say that this will not impact the way Valve works with its legitiamte partners, saying "It's completely OK for partners to sell their games on other sites via Steam keys, and run discounts or bundles on other stores, and we'll continue granting free keys to help partners do those things. But it's not OK to negatively impact our customers by manipulating our store and features."
Update, August 18: Valve are making no major changes to the way in which they issue Steam keys. According to a steam developer, the issue that prompted yesterday’s article actually stems from the increase in the number of keys being requested by developers.
According to game developer Rob Fearon, the ‘changes’ outlined by Valve in yesterday’s post are not changes at all. In a long Twitter thread about the way in which Valve handles key requests, Fearon says “Valve have been declining large key requests for a while now.”
The change, Fearon says, has actually come in the number of keys that people are requesting. He says that “there’s been an uptick in the number of people asking for huge amounts of keys,” suggesting that some developers have been asking for up to “half a million keys.”
As well as the change in the number of keys that developers are requesting, Fearon says there’s been “a slight shift in the way fold have been releasing games. As in bundle first or whatever.” He says that while this is a good way to get noticed, it’s not the best way to keep up “cordial relations with a storefront.”
As a point of reference, Fearon says that a good bundle deal will see Steam need to shift somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 keys, and that the largest number he’s ever seen was about triple that, for a charity bundle in 2016. So for people to be asking for “four or five times that” is a significant anomaly.
Fearon is keen to emphasize that yesterday’s post actually constitutes no real change to Valve policy. He states that “most requests will still go,” saying “this is 100% business as usual.” There’s a lot of extra context and information provided in the rest of Fearon’s Twitter thread.
Original Story, August 17: Valve has instated a new policy to control the number of Steam keys that will be available to developers. The change will mean that the number of keys a team can request for distribution purposes will be proportional to the sales of their game on the platform.
In a screenshot leaked to Reddit, allegedly from a private Steamworks group, Sean Jenkin, game and video development software engineer at Valve, suggests that Valve will start denying key requests to developers. While they’re keen not to “degrade tools that legitimate developers are using” to sell their games according to a blog post from May, Valve say they will now refuse to provide keys far in excess of the number of copies of their games that developers are actually selling.
Jenkin offers an example, saying “if we’re denying keys for normal size batches, it’s likely because your Steam sales don’t reflect a need for as many keys as you’re distributing, and you’re probably asking for more keys because you’re offering cheaper versions off Steam and yet we’re bearing the costs.”
“For example, say you’ve sold a few thousand copies on Steam but have requested/activated 500K keys, then we are going to take a deeper look at your games, you sales, your costs, etc.”
As this information has been posted to a private Steam group, we’ve not been able to verify it so far. These leaks have always proved accurate so far, however, and they fall in line with Valve’s previous attempts to crack down on illegitimate key sellers.