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Valve suspends 20,000 Steam accounts for attempted piracy

Half-Life 2 developer Valve has indefinitely suspended 20,000 accounts on its Steam digital distribution system, having linked them to fraudulent attempts to acquire the recently released Half-Life 2 without paying for it.

Half-Life 2 developer Valve has indefinitely suspended 20,000 accounts on its Steam digital distribution system, having linked them to fraudulent attempts to acquire the recently released Half-Life 2 without paying for it.

The company has been quietly suspending accounts which were used for blatant fraud or attempted piracy for some time, but this week's crackdown is the biggest yet - catching pirates, users of fraudulent credit cards and a host of others in the net.

The suspension of the accounts will be a major blow to efforts to pirate the hugely popular game - and it was "extremely easy" to do, according to the developer, which has denied reports that it deliberately put a pirate-trapping version of Half-Life 2 out onto popular file sharing systems.

"The method used was extremely easy for Valve to trace and confirm, and so there is no question that the accounts disabled were used to try and illegally obtain Half-Life 2," the firm said in a statement. "Valve did not put out any kind of fake key or fake warez or hack instructions to trap people. The hack came from the 'community' as do they all."

"Accounts also may be closed due to fraudulent activity in an attempt to obtain additional products for your Steam Account," the statement continued. "This includes Credit Card fraud, theft of accounts you do not own and using cracked versions of Valve games."

While a significant number of users have reported that problems with the Steam system made it difficult for them to authorise the game and play it after its launch, the system has by and large been a huge success for Valve.

The use of Steam for authorisation purposes prevented Half-Life 2 from being pirated before it was released, an exceptionally rare thing for a PC game, and has subsequently allowed Valve to thwart the efforts of pirates to provide cracked versions of the game - although it's not clear whether other, working pirated versions are still in circulation.

Valve also enjoys a far larger revenue share from copies of the game sold directly over Steam, but the knock-on effect for retail may have been serious - Half-Life 2 debuted at number three in the UK sales charts this week, behind Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Need for Speed Underground 2, a lower than expected chart position which may reflect artificially low retail sales due to gamers pre-ordering the title on Steam rather than opting for a boxed copy.

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Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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