A number of Steam curator groups have been removed from the platform after a developer managed to figure out they were in fact scammers.
BROK the InvestiGator, developed by solo indie dev Cowcat Games, released on 26th August on Steam and GOG. On Steam, Cowcat noted that BROK had received mostly positive reviews from players, gaming sites and curators alike.
Two days later, Cowcat posted a Twitter thread regarding some unusual behaviour from curators.
"BROK is currently being mass targetted [sic] by Steam curators sending negative reviews," they tweeted, beginning a thread to explain what was happening.
BROK is currently being mass targetted by Steam curators sending negative reviews 😶— BROK 🐊 OUT NOW! (@COWCATGames) August 28, 2022
⬇️ THREAD ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/ae0L24ei3H
A lot of curators that had previously given BROK a recommendation to their followers had changed their review to "Not Recommended" instead. Cowcat had suspicions about what had caused this, however.
In their thread, they explain they had received numerous emails from people claiming to be curators on Steam. These people asked for a key for BROK, which they said would be used to play and review the game. Cowcat however, was aware of previous indie devs warning others to be wary of scammers posing as curators, and so devised a plan to separate out the actual curators.
It is very easy to figure out they are almost all scammers who attempt to steal keys from devs to resell them.— BROK 🐊 OUT NOW! (@COWCATGames) August 28, 2022
Here's a thread that explains it.https://t.co/L8vzvfOAGs
Cowcat decided to send all the curators a key to BROK the InvestiGator - Prologue, a free demo available on Steam. They figured that any legit curators would get back in touch to ask why they weren't sent a key for the full game. According to Cowcat, "very few actually did!"
Very few actually did!— BROK 🐊 OUT NOW! (@COWCATGames) August 28, 2022
Confirming that most of those emails are from scammers who did not even activate those keys on their account before posting a review
Cowcat believes the fake curators that got in touch with them were actually key resellers that had sold the Prologue key they had been sent on grey marketplaces like G2A, and whoever the key had been sold to had not been happy about paying for a free demo that was already available on Steam. The key resellers, in turn, changed their positive reviews to negative in retaliation.
Cowcat reported the curators to Steam whilst their thread was reported on and discussed. An in-depth timeline of the situation was posted on Reddit, with screenshots of the involved curator groups, which caught the attention of Cowcat. The original poster from Reddit has since added an update, stating that the nine curator groups which posted negative reviews of BROK have been removed by Steam. Any groups managed by an owner of any of those initial nine groups have also been removed.
Cowcat said they aren't concerned about the impact of the negative reviews on BROK. "I'm not at all concerned," they wrote both on Twitter and Reddit. They said they made the thread to spread awareness of the techniques scammers use, and ended by asking people to avoid using grey marketplaces to buy games. Cowcat also echoed a sentiment that many indie devs share - they'd rather you pirate their game than buy it from someone shady.
Woke up and...wow. For the first time there's so many messages I can't even reply to everyone 😅— BROK 🐊 OUT NOW! (@COWCATGames) August 29, 2022
I'm not at all concerned, I just wanted to spread the info on how those scams work.
Thanks everyone for your support! 👍
Like many other devs, I actually prefer players pirating my game than giving money to crooks.— BROK 🐊 OUT NOW! (@COWCATGames) August 29, 2022
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