There are, on this big wide Internet, shadowy sites which sell game keys a fair bit cheaper than other stores. While some seem legitimate-ish in a 'grey area' sort of way, apparently reselling keys from regions where games are cheaper, others are downright illegal.
Natural Selection 2 developer Unknown Worlds has cancelled 1,341 NS2 keys and eaten around $30,000 in charge-back costs after keys were bought with stolen credit cards then resold. A mite displeased, it's warned people off buying keys from strange places.
Unknown Worlds got Valve to kill the Steamworks game's 'bad' keys after the credit cards' owners disputed charges, and people who used them will find their Steam option to "Play" NS2 is now "Buy Again." Which leaves both UW and the thrifty players out of pocket.
"In total, we lose ~$45 per transaction of this kind, due to the charge-back fee (~$22 fee + $25 game price)," Unknown Worlds wrote in a blog post. "Meanwhile, the unauthorized key reseller kept the money from the player who ultimately received the bad key."
The developer has temporarily shut down its Humble Store, so you'll need to buy it from Steam if you want it. "If you see Natural Selection 2 available anywhere else - like the many sites out there that sell Steam keys at a discount--then you are not buying it from us and there is no way to know if that key is legitimate," UW said. "As as result, we strongly discourage purchasing from these sites."
Even reselling keys from other regions is a sticky issue at best. Publishers discount games in certain countries because everything's cheaper there or because piracy's so common that it's better to get something rather than nothing, and count upon 'full-price' sales from other regions.
Publishers are increasingly trying to block cheap keys being used in other regions, enabled by all this fancy online activation we do nowadays. People who buy foreign keys may be forced to use a foreign-language version of the game, stuck on foreign servers, or unable to play the game at all. Even using software to make your connection appear to be in Russia may not go smoothly.
The major sticking point is whether you're paying for an actual copy of the game or for a license to play the game under terms dictated by the publisher. Software companies insist it's the latter, while consumers prefer the former. It's all one big legal mess which has yet to be fully resolved, though things are going the way of Big Software so far. The EFF fights on.
But I digress: people trying to save a few bucks by shopping somewhere shifty landed a small indie studio with $30,000 in charges, and didn't even get the game. That's a thing that happened.