Reports have spread today that Valve is clamping down on large requests for Steam keys, preventing developers from shifting their game in bulk, and the company has now clarified its position.
The news stems from a tweet by Steam Spy, claiming that: "Valve will no longer automatically fulfill key requests from the developers to combat game sales outside of Steam."
This in itself was prompted by a forum post by Valve engineer Sean Jenkin, responding to a developer that if the company is denying further keys it is "likely because your Steam sales don't reflect a need for as many keys as you're distributing."
Developers such as Rob Fearon have pointed out that this has a long-running policy at Valve and not necessarily a new development. It's also worth noting that Jenkin was referring to "normal size batches" of keys, rather than larger batches as seems to have been reported elsewhere.
Gamasutra managed to get a response from Valve that aims to clear up the confusion.
In the statement, a Valve spokesperson clarified that Steam keys are always available to partners for free if it helps them sell the game at physical retail or indeed on other digital stores. All the Valve requests is that Steam customers are offered "a fair deal", i.e. keys sold through other marketplaces aren't priced significantly lower. This policy, the firm stresses, will not change.
However, changes to Steam over the years have affected how keys are being used, creating new issues such as the farming of Steam Trading Cards. While Valve has been able to clamp down on this, the company reports "there are still a lot of games and game-shaped objects using Steam keys as a way to manipulate [our] systems."
The statement continues: "As a result, we're trying to look more closely at extreme examples of products on Steam that don't seem to be providing actual value as playable games - for instance, when a game has sold 100 units, has mostly negative reviews, but requests 500,000 Steam keys. We're not interested in supporting trading card farming or bot networks at the expense of being able to provide value and service for players.
"It's completely OK for partners to sell their games on other sites via Steam keys, and run discounts or bundles on other stores, and we'll continue granting free keys to help partners do those things. But it's not OK to negatively impact our customers by manipulating our store and features."