"I have the benefit of working for a lot of different indie devs, so I notice patterns that a developer who’s only putting out their one game wouldn’t seeâAU."
- Emily Morganti speaking to Kotaku about key scammers trying to take advantage of independent developers.
Before a game is launched, it's likely that a strange email address requesting a free copy for review purposes will show up in the inbox of an unsuspecting indie dev.
Key scammers utilize this method constantly, and it's no secret that it's an issue within the industry.
In a recent interview with Kotaku, Emily Morganti, who handles PR for adventure games, discusses how key scammers continue to be a problem for indie devs trying to market their titles without being conned.
Morganti explains the subtleties that lie in every odd request, which takes the form of misleading email addresses and copy that seems off.
"Some of these people email about every game that comes out, using the same copy-and-paste email. Some people do a blanket request for multiple games on the same day—so multiple developers are getting the exact same email about how excited someone is to stream their game," she explains.
"There was one guy a few years ago with a long sob story about how he’d lost his job and had a big tax bill to pay and couldn’t afford games but a free copy of [insert game name here] would make his life complete."
Despite sharing a few similarities, every scammer works differently when it comes to execution. The last notable scammer Morganti encountered made waves, as he reached out to many devs for free codes.
Going by the name Dmitry Tseptsov, he sent several emails to Morganti asking for codes, explaining that he operated a coffee shop in Ukraine where he’d give out video games as prizes for trivia. Unsurprisingly, the request turned out to be a ploy for free codes despite the cafe being a legitimate business.
Morganti admits that its becoming difficult to parse which review requests are honest and which ones are malicious. She recalls an instance where an editor for a publication reached out for a code the same time a scammer (who was impersonating the editor) did as well.
"I heard from the editor first and added him to my list for a review copy, and then I heard from the scammer on the day we got keys, and I sent it to him thinking it was the same person," she says. "A few days after that, the real editor emailed me to ask where his key was, and we pieced it together."
"I’ve been doing PR since 2006 and always had a policy of sending a key to anyone who asked for one, no matter how small the site, but I’m a lot more suspicious now," Morganti continues.
"The work involved in vetting people to figure out if they’re legit or not isn’t worth the effort and I think writers from smaller sites and freelancers are paying the price."
She was speaking as part of a longer discussion around scammers trying to take advantage of independent developers and how it affects smaller contet creators, so be sure to read the entire piece over at Kotaku.