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Always Do Your Research: What You Don't Know About Indie Bundles Might Hurt You

Ever since The Humble Indie Bundle hit the scene there have been a multitude of others trying to capitalize on this fantastic idea. If there's one thing gamers love more than a cheap game, it's a boatload of cheap games. Not only that, but most of the bundles out there donate some money (or all of it) to charities and developers. It's a great way to make us feel good about furthering our backlog. What could be bad about that?

With so many bundles out there, gamers seem willing to simply hand over their credit card information. Not only that, they rarely seem to question the ethics of the companies providing games. With the likes of The Humble Indie Bundle we've come to trust them. What about all these other bundles that crop up? Should we extend our trust to them simply because we've not had issues before? In the case of the Indie Face Kick Bundle you might want to hold onto your wallet until after reading this post.

First off, let's detail what this bundle is and what it includes. The bundle is being run by the site Gaming: All the Time (GATT) and currently has no release date although the pre-orders start today. The list of games has been announced. The included games are Avencast: Rise of the Mage, Booster Trooper, Dead Horde, Greed: Black Border, PAM - Post Apocalyptic Mayhem, Runespell: Overture, Sol Survivor, and Still Life 2. Eight games is a pretty sweet deal for any bundle out there. Pricing is set at $8 for pre-order and $10 for release. It's currently unknown how much developers will be able to receive for their participation but 20% of money generated is going to the Clean Water charity. Each title will come with Steam keys to make it easier for users to grab their games.


Here's the official bundle trailer

If that's all there were to it then the story would be over. Unfortunately, this isn't all. If you simply head to GATT's home page you may quickly spot something unusual. Right on the top bar of their website there was a link titled "Need Cheap Steam Keys?" (Since a post was made on The Backlog Journey pointing this out, GATT took the link down and responded - link since highly edited). Sure, everyone wants cheap games but what on Earth could they mean by "cheap" keys? Is there some actually providing keys that undersell Steam? Clicking the link brings users to GamerKeys. By simply looking at the hosting information of both sites it's easy to tell that the sites are not connected. So while GATT is not controlling the site they are indeed affiliates. There's certainly no shame in affiliating with other sites... unless they're involved in some seriously shady business.

It shouldn't be hard to realize that GamerKeys is most definitely doing something sketchy. How do I come to this conclusion? Just take a look at GamerKey's wares. Some of their games are priced about the same (or higher than) Steam, GamersGate, and Origin. However, some are noticeably lower. Take for example Mass Effect 3. On their site they are selling an Origin key of the game for $27.99. It's not exactly cheap but in comparison to Origin's store it is. To get the Origin download copy costs $59 through them. So how are they managing to do this? By simply looking at the aforementioned Mass Effect 3 page you'll quickly see what's going on.

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GamerKeys is totally professional too

A popup appears when you visit this title's page to warn you about something. The game has "special requirements" to play. Looking around a bit further you discover that the game copy provided is Russian. The special requirements are to get the game in English, which is what visitors to the site probably want. Now, why exactly does this prove something is off? For one it certainly isn't typical for English sites selling goods to offer up items from another region like this, unless they're an import shop. Digital downloads aren't exactly import goods but since this site is apparently a worldwide seller it makes a bit of sense.

The connection to Russian games seals the deal to me that some of GamerKey's items should not be purchased. In Russia, piracy is a really big problem. In order to try and fight against this, companies like Steam will sell their games at a cheaper price than in other regions. So, whoever has put together this store is most likely grabbing codes from Russian digital retailers (legally) and then selling them off to non-Russian customers. It might not be illegal, but it is definitely risky business. Owning games like this might even cause a bigger problem if you get caught. This sort of activity can get your account flagged or even closed. Just check out this part of GamerKey's FAQs. Yeah, in no way does running a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and going through a series of steps to register your game on Steam sound legitimate.

What does this all have to do with the Indie Face Kick bundle though? Technically nothing, except you've got to wonder what kind of site would partner up with a site like GamerKeys. The company people keep is telling every so often. Small game sites need all the referrals they can get but they should try to retain some sense of decency. Because of GATT's (now over) affiliation you've got to wonder what their intentions with their upcoming bundle are. They are probably good and just an attempt to get more people checking out their site after they enjoy the games.

Maybe they have no idea what is going on with their GamerKeys affiliate. It turns out they were fully aware of their paid sponsor's existence. Their exact statement on the matter is that their sponsor is "is doing nothing illegal". Well, it probably does circumvent the specific Terms of Services for digital distributors. Sidestepping rules or finding loopholes isn't a wonderful thing to do though. Incredibly, thanks to one blogger's post GATT has apparently cut ties with GamerKeys. Was it because they had suddenly been made aware that it was actually not the most legitimate site? Naw, it was because people were "taking situations the wrong way". You'd think that if the site had such faith in GamerKeys they would simply reaffirm their affiliation instead of leaving them immediately.

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Here's one of GamerX's strongly worded comments - He later apologized (then erased all comments)

Assuming the best of an organization is fine but not so much where your money is involved. Supporting their bundle might have in turn supported GamerKeys (before ties were severed). Straight from the Editor in Chief of GATT, GamerX, it's stated that the bundle is receiving codes from developers. If however bundle purchasers had discovered GamerKeys through them it could be problematic. Of course, now that the link was taken down after being pointed out, this probably won't be the case. Strangely enough, there is there was still a semi-advertisement at the bottom of the website stating "Get Steam Keys for Dirt Cheap" which no doubt referenced the two sites' partnership. This was also removed to sever all ties with the other site. Covering your tracks doesn't absolve you of much though in this digital age.

GamerX has gone on to comment things about their advertisements being something beyond their control, like Google Ads. This does seem to conflict his earlier statement though about them being a specific paid partner. Beyond that, it seemed they were the main source of revenue since they had one prominent link at the top and other weird little link at the bottom. Usually in the case of Google (or other) ads they will cycle through multiple, not just be one link all the time. This is helped in part by the fact that GamerX later lamented in the comments of his own post about how GATT had a promotion going with GamerKeys to get site members a deal.

Now, it's important to look back over the whole situation. GATT themselves appear to have done nothing wrong on their own site besides being irresponsible. They were partners with a sketchy place but they themselves seem to be a reliable source for gaming news and even contests. If you look on their Steam page you will see a multitude of comments from users about getting game prizes. Things just seem a bit too murky for me to personally advocate or positively advertise this bundle like all the others that have come and gone. It doesn't seem like something that would sit well with my conscience. Always be wary of the things you buy online. It's so easy to enter your PayPal or credit card info, but please, take some time to do your own research and decide for yourself who and what you want to fund.

NOTE: Thanks to Colin Brown for pointing me toward the Face Kick Bundle and affiliated site to begin with.

Edit: Since this article was initially written (last evening) a whole lot has transpired. I attempted to continuously update, remove, and annotate to keep it consistent with the current state of affairs. As of now the post which accused a blogger of libel has since been updated and changed to be much calmer. Apparently those in control of the site probably realized it was doing them no favors for equally accusing someone back about their intentions.

Amusingly, although I took a great deal of screen captures once they removed the initial worrying link I never thought to take a clear shot of their response post. Either way, they mostly removed everything since last night. They also changed the title from "Spreading Rumors" to "The Truth Will Speak for Itself" and removed all comments. Certainly the latter is much more respectable. I'm glad they decided to remove the bulk of the post as initially it was written in a highly defensive fashion. Not only that, it was also accusatory (and threatening) against the person who initially brought questions up about the partnership. Their now heavily modified post also both denied and affirmed their connection to advertiser GamerKeys but anyone visiting the site now will never know.

Overall it just seemed like a rather immature initial response. Now, I'd be angry too if someone suggested my site was not completely "legit", but still, that's not grounds to threaten to call them out as jealous and then threaten to sue their blogging butt because their ideas hit a little too close to home. To me, there's nothing wrong with talking about something that was (until last night) in plain site of any of GATT's viewers. If the response hadn't been so startling this post would have been much shorter. Because of their actions it appears that they brought this drama and sponsorship loss upon themselves. The Backlog Journey is a nice little blog but doesn't have the massive reach of, say, Kotaku. Few people would have been aware of the post if GATT themselves didn't point it out to everyone. Now everyone who looks at the Indie Face Kick Bundle and visits their homepage will know.

Although this is just a gaming site, it's always important to be aware of those you are affiliated with. As any political campaign can tell you, it takes only one "bad" contribution to sully your campaign name. No, I'm not attempting to compare politics to gaming but that's not the only example of partnerships leaving a bad taste in people's mouths. By now though the two sites have parted ways. Although it probably hurts GATT in the short term, this will be much better for them in the future if they wish to be taken seriously.

It is entirely possible that if this post makes its way into GamerX's hands that he will respond similarly, but I don't think that will be the case now. He has already had to go through the tough stuff and leave GamerKeys behind. Beyond that, I feel this post is simply a recreation of the facts of the moment and what transpired since. It is an opinion piece - my own opinion - and no one else's when I say that I won't advocate the bundle. To me, their past connections and more recent immaturity turn me off. If every site were ganging up on them then I could see where this would be problematic, but not even our small pool of users are required to agree. Hopefully these events serve to better GATT as well as teach how not to handle a public response.

Here is GamerX's (really) final say on the matter:

"Either way, the sites gone now. Apologies to those whom were offended. Our bundle is 100% legit, I’ve worked day and night for nearly a month on it (it’s 3am here). I don’t want to have some stupid ad ruin the whole thing so it’s gone simple as that. Now you know for yourself that the bundle is real since you contacted developers. Link removed, problem solved. Just so you know only reason link was there to begin with is were getting contest codes for ENGLISH games there for our steam group. Let bygones bebygons, and lets move on from the misunderstanding."


I would like to make it clear that GamerKeys.net has never and will never use any customer information for anything beyond providing our service. Also, all games do not require any kind of work only a select few which are noted. This site is not illegitimate and does not condone any acts which are illegal in your territory.
Thanks for the heads-up, Marcus, it's always good to be cautious about who you're buying from. I know that I, for one, always check out a bundle site and read up on it before trusting them with my information, and definitely advise others to do so as well. The digital distribution market can be a very sketchy thing, especially when it comes down to games (or anything, for that matter) being offered cheaply. There are definitely sites that are responsible in that regard but it's definitely something to check up on.

I would like to make it clear that GamerKeys.net has never and will never use any customer information for anything beyond providing our service. Also, all games do not require any kind of work only a select few which are noted. This site is not illegitimate and does not condone any acts which are illegal in your territory.

Thanks for taking the time to register to respond. I don't believe my piece ever alluded to GamerKeys using customer information for nefarious purposes, but if I did, point it out and I'll remove it. Didn't mean to imply that was going on if so. I'm also aware that not every game on your digital storefront requires a series of steps to play. This is why I bolded "some" when referencing the titles that are worrying to me. Thank you for the further clarification, although I think in the best situation that none of the games available would require extraneous steps.

I find it interesting the way you phrased your last statement though. Your site is not "illegal in [my] territory." I don't even know much about the laws concerning this here, but is it the case that your site can't be used in some other territory? I guess it's all up to how strict the laws are on e-commerce and whatnot. Although it is not illegal and you are providing legitiamte keys it just seems to tread on morally dubious territory at times. I believe that's all I ever said, never went so far as to say something like the site is a big 'ol pirated goods shop that will blow up your Steam account instantaneously. I could have said that, but then I'd have been behaving mighty irresponsibly ;).




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