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Steam Runs Out of Keys For A Game, Keeps Selling It Anyway

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The Splinter Cell series for PC went on sale this weekend on Steam. Every game was discounted at 75% off, including Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the most recent game which Kirk Hamilton called in his review a sort of “greatest hits” collection borrowing the most successful parts from each previous game.

There’s only one problem. Apparently Steam didn’t have enough game keys to satisfy the explosion in demand for Blacklist that occurred over the weekend thanks to the sale. While Steam sells the download for the game, players also need a special key to “unlock” it once installed. This how publishers keep track of how many copies of a game are sold digitally on platforms like Steam.


Without said key, the game simply doesn’t work. Earlier today I purchased Blacklist on Steam to see if the problem had been fixed. Customer complaints on this subject, littered across Reddit and the Steam community, go back to October 28 when the sale first started. Sure enough, after the game had downloaded and installed, I got the same error as everyone else.

When you try to run the game from the client, a message pops up for a split second saying “Requesting key...” Another message immediately follows saying “Failed to connect to server.” According to Lipntooth and other users on Steam who have requested support, additional keys were supposed to arrive at some point today. This has been an ongoing problem for the digital storefront, having occurred in the past around other large sales for popular games and holidays.


As of when this story went live, the game still wouldn’t start. While some users have successfully received refunds for the game, others it seems have decided to wait for Steam to fix the issue so that they don’t have to download the nearly 20GB file again or pay the regular price if they want to purchase it again later. The Splinter Cell sale is set to end tomorrow at 1:00PM EDT.

We have reached out to Steam for comment.