Over the last few years, there has been a number of occasions where we have seen publishers deactivating batches of game keys after being sold on ‘grey market' selling sites. The most recent example now comes to us from Deep Silver, which has deactivated a batch of Metro Exodus Steam keys, after they were stolen from a factory and sold on an unofficial key reselling site.
Up until around two weeks before release, Metro Exodus was set to launch on Steam. However, a hastily drawn exclusivity contract with the Epic Games Store put an unexpected end to that, which caused a number of complications. Aside from riling up a bunch of fans, this new deal also meant that previously created physical edition Steam keys had to be held back and replaced with Epic keys. Some of those early Steam keys made it out on to the web and were being sold on grey market websites.
According to Deep Silver, these Steam keys were obtained illegally and have since been deactivated. This means that Metro Exodus will be removed from the libraries of those unlucky enough to have purchased one of these keys and will no longer be able to download or activate the game.
“These keys have been obtained illegally from the factory where physical key printing had taken place prior to the announcement of exclusivity with Epic Games, due to the criminal nature of these keys, all unlicensed keys have been deactivated and activation / download of Metro Exodus without the executable file is no longer possible. In addition, the software will be removed from the Steam library of any players using an unauthorised code. The keys being sold on this platform are stolen goods, and are therefore illegal.”
Deep Silver recommends that those affected contact the seller and demand a refund, although we don't know if that will be possible at this point. How did the publisher find out that something fishy was going on? Well it turns out that these early Steam keys were already disabled in some fashion- while you could activate the key to add Metro Exodus to your Steam library, the game would not receive any patches or automatic updates. Once some players began complaining about patches not coming through, Deep Silver was able to put the puzzle pieces together.
Metro Exodus will remain exclusive to the Epic Games Store until February 2020, at which point the game will return to Steam once again.
KitGuru Says: There are some people that will only ever buy games for their Steam library. Those people essentially had the carpet pulled out from underneath them after the last minute exclusivity change. Still, buying from grey market key sites is always going to be a risk, as keys can be revoked at any time due to fraud or theft, which is why going through official sources is still the safest option.