Fake YouTubers scam devs out of free game codes

YouTube Logo

A games developer discovers that not every game request he receives is legitimate, and his game was being sold online at a fraction of its price.

Famous youtubers are a big deal these days, with the likes of PewDiePie being the most subscribed content creator on YouTube with a current subscriber base of 31 million people. It's not hard to see why a games developer or publisher would want the likes of Pewds to feature their game(s) on his channel, or any other popular channels - it's basically free advertising. Well, it's come to light that there are a few people out there pretending to be youtubers in order to gain free copies of games, and subsequently sell them.

Over on Gamasutra a forum post from Leszek Lisowski, head of Wastelands Interactive, sheds light on this sneaky game code tactic. Lisowski describes their decision to bring their Worlds of Magic game to Steam Early Access, whilst it's still in development. He goes on to say that they 'encouraged journalists, editors, and youtubers to request a preview copy of the game,' which they hoped would help to spread the word about the game.

Lisowski began to receive many requests for preview copies from youtubers, 'some of them were pretty long, some rather short. Some were sent directly to me, some were sent via the contact form on our website. Some of them came from youtubers with an audience as small as 300 people and some of them from folks with more than 1 million. But they kept on flowing. We felt certain the game was going to be a success, so I was more than happy to send each one a key (or two or three),' he wrote.

Liswoski felt something wasn't right when he spotted a Steam forum post mentioning that his game was on sale for a mere $15 on G2A.com. So, he went to the store and bought the game, and when checking the Steam code he discovered it was one he had sent out to a YouTuber.

Going undercover, Liwoski posed as a youtuber himself, using the scam emails he'd received as a template, and took to Steam to check out what games were new or coming out soon. He sent 46 emails requesting free codes to various devs and publishers, and received 16 free keys for 15 games he says are worth $400.

Lowoski offers a word of warning to fellow devs that they should use YouTube's messaging system to receive requests directly from the youtubers' accounts in future. This way it takes away any doubt about the person you're dealing with.

It must be tough for smaller developers to keep tabs on who's who when receiving these requests. Especially if they don't have a big team, and they're also trying to finish the game at the same time. The moral is that it's probably worth taking that little bit of extra time to vet the requests they receive, otherwise it could end up lining somebody else's pockets.

Register for HITC Gaming Digest