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Youtubers scamming free Steam keys from devs

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Youtubers are once again a problem, but this time it’s the developers that are taking the hit.

Regular listeners to the IncGamers Podcast will know that we occasionally talk about Youtubers and how they are affecting videogame coverage, most of the time the conversation isn’t exactly positive. With Youtubers taking money for positive coverage, we never thought about how they could be affecting the developers.

A very interesting post from Wasteland Interactive’s Leszek Lisowski, who created Worlds of Magic, took to Gamasutra to explain how developers are being scammed for free Steam keys by supposed and active Youtubers.

Indie developers have to work hard to get their games noticed, there just isn’t the budget to pull off big marketing campaigns, so when a site, caster, or Youtuber shows an interest in a game and requests a Steam key, it’s hard to turn them away,

Lisowski thought there was something afoot when he spotted World of Magic keys going up for resale on G2A for $15 and decided to purchase one of the keys. He subsequently discovered that the key that was for sale was one he had sent out to a Youtuber.

Now you’d think this would be just a fluke and that this wasn’t a widespread problem, but that’s not the case as Lisowski was about to find out.

Going undercover as supposed Youtuber, Lisowski decided to contact multiple devs and request Steam keys telling them he was a popular Youtuber with  50k subscribers.  According to Lisowski he actually received around $400 worth of Steam keys which he could have then gone on to resell at a reduced price.

The problem smaller developers are facing is testing the legitimacy of Youtubers and with a single free email Lisowski managed to scam 25% of all the developers he contacted of Steam keys. He admits himself that if he had spent more time creating a more valid looking email address and contacted more developers the results would have been even higher. To sum up, he adds:

“I allowed a handful of scumbags to rip us off. And, what’s worse, I did so with a smile on my face. The whole purpose of sending out all those requests for steam keys, my fellow developers, was to find out on just how large a scale we were being scammed and robbed.”

It must be a minefield for smaller developers who don’t have the PR/marketing support to deal with requests. Lisowski is convinced that if you’re and indie dev, the best way to deal with requests is to make Youtubers contact you through the Youtube messaging service so at least individuals can be checked.

With so many Youtubers now playing games for advertising money and deals where they can only talk positively about a game, it must be a nightmare to try and find out who is legitimate and at the same time try and get your game noticed.