Fallout 3 Steam Keys Run Out, Keeps On Selling Anyway - UPDATED

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Fallout 3 Steam Keys Run Out, Keeps On Selling Anyway - UPDATED

Fallout 3 Test Card

A Fallout 3 weekend sale on Steam has caused a kerfuffle, as Steam keys ran out and many people who bought the game can't actually play it.

QuakeCon went down this past weekend, as you may have heard, and as part of the "Woo it's a party!" festivities, Bethesda put the Fallout 3 Game of the Year Edition - the one with all the DLC - on sale on Steam for a measly $5. That's a heck of a deal, but something, somewhere seems to have gone wrong: Steam ran out of keys for the game but kept on selling it, meaning that an awful lot of people who bought it can't actually play it.

"We have recently ran out of CD keys for this product," a notice on the Fallout 3 GOTY Steam page warns. "As soon as we receive more from the publisher a key will be granted to new owners."

But there's nothing preventing you from actually purchasing the game, even though you won't be able to play it if you do. A handful of people have reported the issue on the Steam forums but the actual number of affected users is unknown, as is a time-frame for getting keys into the hands of people who didn't get one. It appears on the surface to be a Steam problem but the general consensus is that Bethesda is at fault for not supplying sufficient keys to cover the weekend demand; whatever the case, it's an odd and awkward situation, and one that doesn't shine an entirely flattering light on anyone.

UPDATE: The Steam key truck has pulled into the dock, and Fallout 3 is now back on the shelves.

Source: Steam, via GamesReviews

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And here I thought digital content couldn't be sold out, because it's not finite.

Well, only the amount of keys are finite.

Paperwork, bane of good ideas.
The accountants must be made to suffer for this one.

Probably because Fallout 3 uses GFWL, which uses CD keys for the game and DLC's and stuff. Because even though you bought it, they still want you to prove you bought it, because you could be a dirty no-good pirate.

Man I hate GFWL.

Old news. the 75% off sale has long since ended and the Quakecon sale has ended just this minute. Besides, big whoop. People have to wait a while for the game with 100+ hours of content that they get delivered right to their computer without having to get up from their seat.

LTK_70:
Old news. the 75% off sale has long since ended and the Quakecon sale has ended just this minute. Besides, big whoop. People have to wait a while for the game with 100+ hours of content that they get delivered right to their computer without having to get up from their seat.

Why hate it? It's probably the least intrusive and least limiting DRM.

Whoatemysupper:
Why hate it? It's probably the least intrusive and least limiting DRM.

CD Projekt might have an argument with that point.

Whoatemysupper:

LTK_70:
Old news. the 75% off sale has long since ended and the Quakecon sale has ended just this minute. Besides, big whoop. People have to wait a while for the game with 100+ hours of content that they get delivered right to their computer without having to get up from their seat.

Why hate it? It's probably the least intrusive and least limiting DRM.

I think you quoted the wrong person.
I'll assume you're referring to GFWL, and trust me, it's not. Steam is the least limiting and least intrusive. Some games on GFWL won't even let you save unless your logged in, which makes it all the worse when it inevitably fucks up and won't connect, then won't install the update, then won't log in, etc.

I have had so many problems with GFWL, just trying to get games to run, admittedly it has improved, but not by much, it's still unintuitive and intrusive as all hell compared to pretty much any PC DRM I can think of.

Whatever i'm sure people can wait a few days, as long as they get there game at the price listed.

This is good PR to some degree showing you the demand on the steam service is high and alive, good for both componies as they're raking in the cash :D and good for everyone who loves the little known RPG Fallout.

4RM3D:
And here I thought digital content couldn't be sold out, because it's not finite.

Well, only the amount of keys are finite.

This is fairly standard stuff and has been going on periodically for years. I had a similar problem with Batman Arkham City (I think it was AC).

It's an absurd system put into place by control freak content holders who make things more difficult than need be.

Wait, why do you need a CD key on Steam? The only time I've had to use a code is to get my grubby hands on Humble Bundle games, every other game I've bought just goes on to your account or in your inventory as a gift.

I'm confused why they didn't preemptively get more codes...

Anyways, the solution would be for Steam to contact Bethesda so they can contact Microsoft for codes so that they can give them to Steam so Steam can hand it over to its users so they can proceed to download the game and give that code back to Microsoft so they can enjoy a game they already purchased.

DRM like this is so inefficient.

Well the game doesn't seem to work on windows 7 or at least my copy didn't until I changed some files, so it might not have worked for a lot of people anyway.

CriticalMiss:
Wait, why do you need a CD key on Steam? The only time I've had to use a code is to get my grubby hands on Humble Bundle games, every other game I've bought just goes on to your account or in your inventory as a gift.

Fallout 3 uses GFWL.

OT: I don't see this as something THAT terrible though. Hey, I've worked with merchandise retail at live concert events, and it's happened before that a customer has paid me, and as I go to collect the t-shirt, someone else snags the last one. Yes, Steam shouldn't really be able to sell more than they've got, but people get Fallout 3 with all DLC for 5$. I bet you after a few days or weeks everyone will be happily playing their own copy hassle free (excluding GFWL).

Also: Since it's GFWL or some entity at Bethesda that is supplying the keys, how the hell are Steam supposed to know the exact number of keys left? Fallout 3 was published way before every game out there came with Steamworks integrated, so whatever CD-key system they're using, it wasn't made for Steam to begin with. Now that Bethesda has moved over to publish all their new games with Steamworks integrated, they're not gonna bother with backporting whatever old platform was used for Fallout 3 and integrating it with Steam. The problem here is not Steam itself, but an old and abandonded system trying to work with today's digital distribution.

And finally: Customers get a great game for cheap money. If they've managed to not NOT own Fallout 3 until now, they can wait a week or two before the new CD-keys arrive.

EDIT:

themilo504:
Well the game doesn't seem to work on windows 7 or at least my copy didn't until I changed some files, so it might not have worked for a lot of people anyway.

Aaaaand it works flawlessly on my Windows 7 machine, and so have many others reported. And you said yourself it worked after changing certain things. Yes it may not work 100% flawlessly for everyone, but people find ways around. And don't forget the game is 5 years old and was released before Windows 7. It even says on the store page:

Notice: Fallout 3 is not optimized for Windows 7

You don't need a CD key to play Fallout 3, so... what is the actual issue? The article says steam keys, but the quote says CD.

CriticalMiss:
Wait, why do you need a CD key on Steam? The only time I've had to use a code is to get my grubby hands on Humble Bundle games, every other game I've bought just goes on to your account or in your inventory as a gift.

Due to legal constraints or oddities in contract law, sometimes you have to buy 'non-native' apps through steam, or the company in question wants to do their own thing that means tracking the codes. The quirk here seems to come from FO3's initial appearance on GFWL (from here on out referred to as "Satan"). Satan demanded CD keys, so it's more of an artifact on the steam side of things.

However, don't yell too much about Steam Keys, as they are often handed out gratis when you direct purchase a game, usually indie, from the dev's website. Steam doesn't get anything except another attraction for the customer to use the service later, you get to use steam for the game if you want to.

edit- short version: It's a curse from a Satanic Artifact.

i got doom 3 bfg edition from the quakecon sales and only the doom 1 and 2 part work the rest (doom 3 and any dlc parts) does not and still waiting on steam support or Bethesda to reply. not surprised fallout 3 keys no work games old heck its a chore just to get my hard disk copy to load up and hope it does not crash because of freaking windows live.

The tl;dr of what's actually happening:

Steam ran out of unique identifiers. Bethesda needs to make more and give them to Steam, which takes a fair bit of paperwork and a few days of time. In two weeks everyone is able to play and this will be forgotten.

Irridium:
Probably because Fallout 3 uses GFWL, which uses CD keys for the game and DLC's and stuff. Because even though you bought it, they still want you to prove you bought it, because you could be a dirty no-good pirate.

Man I hate GFWL.

Came here to say that. Also: There's a way to remove GFWL from the game, and it doesn't affect the .exe so it should work with the Steam version - http://fallout3.nexusmods.com/mods/1086/? . I recommend it for everyone who can't get their copy to work.

Easton Dark:
You don't need a CD key to play Fallout 3, so... what is the actual issue? The article says steam keys, but the quote says CD.

Unless something has changed very recently, Fallout 3 on PC uses Games For Windows Live. Of which requires it's own system of CD key activations. So, though Valve is very unlikely to have "run out" of serial keys for their own platform, they need a different set of keys from Bethesda for GFWL.

But of course this won't stop people from jumping on the "See?! Steam and Valve are evil!" train.

The wording in the article doesn't help either.

I'd rather they keep selling at sale price and catch up eventually than stop selling and have people miss the sale. Amazon had Dark Souls at $7.50 during their summer sale but you couldn't even reverse one once they sold out, you just had to wait. I think they did get more before the sale ended, but it was a close run thing.

Irridium:
Probably because Fallout 3 uses GFWL, which uses CD keys for the game and DLC's and stuff. Because even though you bought it, they still want you to prove you bought it, because you could be a dirty no-good pirate.

Man I hate GFWL.

Good thing there is a mod that removes. GFWL. :D

OT: Glad that I got my game early on then, although I remember one of my friends constantly bellowing about how digital sales are infinite, when obviously in this case the GFWL keys are finite, but then again I love avoiding that terrible online "service" with a passion. Still gonna rub it in his face like a little prick, especially since he gives me crap for playing console games. >:D

Falterfire:
I'd rather they keep selling at sale price and catch up eventually than stop selling and have people miss the sale. Amazon had Dark Souls at $7.50 during their summer sale but you couldn't even reverse one once they sold out, you just had to wait. I think they did get more before the sale ended, but it was a close run thing.

Thats because its illegal to keep selling the game if they dont have the cd keys. They can get in a whole lot of shit because of it. While they eventually put up a message saying they were out of keys that did not happen right away. Steam actually committed fraud for every single sale they made after they ran out of keys but before they updated the page.

insanelich:
The tl;dr of what's actually happening:

Steam ran out of unique identifiers. Bethesda needs to make more and give them to Steam, which takes a fair bit of paperwork and a few days of time. In two weeks everyone is able to play and this will be forgotten.

Depending on their algorithm for generating keys, it may require a fair bit of reprogramming. Let me sum up:
Let's take a hypothetical product whose CD key is a 10-character hexadecimal string[1] (like 13CE454ACE). There are 16^9*15, or 1,030,792,151,040 possible keys (I'm assuming a key can't start with 0, because that would make the rest of these calculations much harder than they need to be). That's more than there are people in the world, so we should be all set, right? Wrong. If every possible key was valid, someone with a bootleg copy could just make one up and play, defeating the entire purpose. Now, remember that CD keys as a form of copy protection predate the internet, so there must be a way for the program itself to test if the key it was given is valid rather than asking a remote server, which means every key must have a common element. As a simple example, let's say each valid key, treated as a number, must be a multiple of some constant, such as DEADBEEF (that's 3,735,928,559 in decimal). Now the smallest factor to yield a 25-digit string is 13 (that's 19 in decimal) and the largest is 126 (that's 294 in decimal). That gives us only 275 possible keys, so the 276th buyer will be in a bit of trouble. Obviously, the algorithm used to generate CD keys in a real-world program would be much more complex and have many more possible codes, but the point is that it's still a finite amount and once that's exceeded it will be rather tricky to compensate. The simplest method is to alter the checking algorithm so that it accepts more keys while still recognizing ones generated by the old method (in our example, it could be modified to accept any key that's either a multiple of DEADBEEF or 12345678, more than doubling the number of possible keys). Of course, making even the slightest change to a program as nightmarishly complex as a AAA game will require a massive amount of testing to make sure they haven't accidentally broken anything else, so it could be a while before this gets sorted out.

[1] I don't know if that's the format for Fallout 3's keys or not, this is just an example

Another demonstration of the success of a Steam sale. I really wish other publishers like EA's Origins would get the message all ready.

CriticalMiss:
Wait, why do you need a CD key on Steam? The only time I've had to use a code is to get my grubby hands on Humble Bundle games, every other game I've bought just goes on to your account or in your inventory as a gift.

All steam games need cd keys. When you buy from the steam store, steam simply adds the key to your account instantly.

Andy Chalk:
Fallout 3 Steam Keys Run Out, Keeps On Selling Anyway

It appears on the surface to be a Steam problem but the general consensus is that Bethesda is at fault

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It seems that the responsibility should go to Steam. I find it unlikely that they were unaware they had a finite number of keys. Even if they get more asap they still took people's money under false pretenses.

Lot of people seem to be letting Valve off the hook for this problem. I wonder if they would be showing any leniency to Origin if the same thing happened over there.

Note: I'm not saying Valve is a failure for not seeing this coming. But to continue to sell the game after you run out of keys to actually allow the game to be played seems a bit...problematic.

Elberik:
It seems that the responsibility should go to Steam. I find it unlikely that they were unaware they had a finite number of keys. Even if they get more asap they still took people's money under false pretenses.

I doubt its a case of not knowing of the limited number of keys, rather a case of not anticipating the apparent sellout.

And what false pretense is there?

Theese people still own the game, and will be issued the CD keys when Bethesda wake up to what happened. Its just a minor delay, kin to a traffic jam or a train breaking down on the way home.

This isn't the first time it has happened on Steam. Prey ran out of keys back when it was being sold for $2.50 USD back during the 2009/10 Holiday Sale. The store page was removed, and... it's yet to come back.

Seeing how Beth now owns Human Head, chances are that Fallout 3 might not actually be resolved :/

I did not have to enter my CD key when I bought it a few weeks ago off Steam. It just worked. And Steam does not have to run when playing it. Couldn't tell you why, but I'm happy with the situation.

Looks like they have more keys.
http://store.steampowered.com/app/22370/

w00tage:
I did not have to enter my CD key when I bought it a few weeks ago off Steam. It just worked. And Steam does not have to run when playing it. Couldn't tell you why, but I'm happy with the situation.

That is because they game does not require steam OR a key to run. only GFWL needs the key(s)all you need to do if you cannot run the game through steam is to run the "fallout.exe" or w/e its called, and not the launcher.

I feel sorry for these people. Not only do they have to wait for their digital game to become available but anyone on Win7 running more than a single core (which is probably most gamers these days) are gonna have a frustrating time trying to get it to work.

I kind of figured they'd get one to me sooner or later. I saw no need to fly off the handle into gamer hysteria land.

I paid 5 bucks for ALL of Fallout 3 and it's extra goodies, and only had to wait one extra day.

I'm absolutely ecstatic.

CardinalPiggles:
I feel sorry for these people. Not only do they have to wait for their digital game to become available but anyone on Win7 running more than a single core (which is probably most gamers these days) are gonna have a frustrating time trying to get it to work.

I'm not sure about that part of your commenting on cores and such, but as for waiting, i remember this happened when BioShock came out for the PC. It's why I'm leery of Steam, GFWL, anything that uses a check-in or other DRM, digital or not. Hell, I installed Mirror's Edge on my laptop when I moved to a new state and even with a code I was unable to play the game without checking in, so I had to "wait" until I could find a place with free wifi before I could play a game I had the physical copy for.

This is why I hope someday companies like GOG will inherit the industry.

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