Steam Devs Move Into Collector Scams

Be aware of these.

If you’ve read this website or keep track on the Steam community, then you probably already know about Steam’s many underground markets and the various criminal activities that go on within them. You have black market gambling rings, entire economies built around scrap metal in Team Fortress 2, the defunct fraud economy built around Counter Strike: Global Offensive keys, money laundering using the item marketplace, money laundering using the games themselves, apps set up for covert porn distribution, and I think you get the point.

The newish scam economy I’d like to talk about and warn our viewers about is the playtest scam app economy. This was brought to my attention recently and I’d like to use it as a warning to our viewers and anyone who might stumble upon this getting shared around (hello Hacker News). I know some of you out there are hardcore collectors of delisted Steam games, but you need to exercise extreme caution when buying copies of delisted games as they may be fake Steam listings.

And I know what you’re thinking; Connor, how can a game officially listed on Steam be fake? Thanks to Valve’s lack of oversight on Steam developers, very very easily.

The game I specifically want to highlight today is called Deserted Island. Now Deserted Island looks like a normal Steam game, a very uninteresting looking sandbox title from Moteli Games. It has a couple of reviews and runs for $5. But what you wouldn’t know looking at the game’s store page is that the developer is running a scam using Valve’s Steam tools to screw unsuspecting collectors.

Because a look at the SteamDB listing ties this game to a playtest branch that makes the scam immediately clear. The playtest branch of Deserted Island has gone under a couple of names over the past few days. First Cum, which is completely irrelevant to our discussion but I thought it was funny. On January 25 and 26 however the developer slowly changes the name of the playtest app to Deadpool, inserting the logo of the game and executable.

Since this is the playtest app, there is no public facing store page nor would you find it in a search on the Steam store. However the dev can distribute keys to the app, and for those on the receiving end on Steam’s system it looks exactly like the Deadpool app. And here’s where we get into the scam.

Deadpool is stupidly expensive to find a valid Steam key for online, as the game was pulled off of Steam years ago and unused keys are expectedly getting harder to come by. There’s a whole world of hoarders who consider themselves collectors of delisted Steam games who are willing to buy up such titles for a premium. I’m just kidding about the hoarder thing, please don’t smash my mailbox again.

For example:

On January 27 the app gets updated again, now with the Rocket League name and executable and icon.

Rocket League was pulled off of Steam in 2021 after Epic bought up developer Psionix. Since then, Steam copies of the now free to play game have blown up in value and if you want a US copy you’re going to be looking at paying at least $400 upwards of a full grand for the privilege. Why would anyone do this? Great question, but not our topic of interest.

It’s very clear what the dude running the Deserted Island app is doing, using the playtest to covertly rip people off selling counterfeit copies of delisted games. Illegal? Absolutely. Against Steam’s terms of service? You betcha. A damning example of Valve’s lack of oversight on their own store? For sure. Something the collector community should be keeping an eye on? Definitely.

Credit goes to to the folks at the Removed Game Collectors group for bringing this to my attention.

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