Ubisoft has defended its decision to cancel numerous Far Cry 4 keys from users' accounts, claiming that third-party sellers had been passing on stolen keys to their unwitting customers.
Since broadband internet became a thing, digital distribution of games has been big business. For companies, there's an overwhelming advantage: no need to pay for physical product to be printed, pressed, stored and shipped, no massive cut to a traditional retailer, no fighting your competitors for hotly-contested shelf space, no overproduction that leaves you with a warehouse filled with discs nobody wants, no underproduction that means you can't meet demand, and no lost sales to the second-hand market. It also, however, means that a 'game' becomes little more than a string of numbers and letters to be typed into a digital distribution client to unlock the title - making the grey-market stronger than ever.
In recent years a trend has emerged for cut-price resellers to pick up cheap copies of games overseas and sell the codes on to markets where the recommended retail price is significantly higher. Some sellers, however, have been accused of going a step further and selling on illegitimate keys. Some of these keys are generated by taking advantage of flaws in pseudorandom number generators, others by purchasing them direct using stolen credit cards, while still more are taken directly from users' accounts using phished login details. These keys, costing the reseller nothing but time, can be provided extremely cheaply - but are stolen goods, and to be treated as such.
Ubisoft claims it is the latest victim of this practice, responding to reports that it had begun deleting copies of Far Cry 4 from the UPlay accounts of numerous users. The owners of said copies are, naturally, up in arms, but Ubisoft says they are simply deleting fraudulent keys. 'We regularly deactivate keys that were fraudulently obtained and resold. In this case, we are currently investigating the origin of the fraud, and will update customers as soon as we have more information to share,
' the company claimed in a statement to trade press outlet MCV
. 'In the meantime, customers should contact the vendor from whom they purchased the key.
While vendors who have been playing the grey market might be willing to refund in these cases, if Ubisoft's claims of outright fraud ring true then it's unlikely that those who have lost out will be receiving refunds or replacement keys any time soon.