Over the past few years, game bundles have risen to become one of the most popular ways that games are purchased digitally. “Pay what you want for X-amount of games for a super discounted price” is a particularly popular practice throughout the indie game scene, as it offers developers a great way to get their games in front of a massive amount of buyers. Humble Bundle, Indie Royale, Groupees, and Bundle Stars are all popular game bundling brands that promote both games and developers while (typically) allowing the buyer to select a price-point.
A few sites are taking ethically-questionable advantage of these deals, buying keys in bulk and then selling them at a later date for a profit. While initially it sounds illegal, there is no concrete court ruling that says it is, in fact, illegal. The closest court case found in the United States was a 2008 ruling that selling "not-for-resale" promotional CDs is legal. In 2012, the European Court of Justice ruled that the first-sale doctrine does apply to digital games, and individuals can resell their lawfully purchased property without penalty.
So lawfully buying bundles of keys, and then selling them at a later date, is considered akin to selling a book bought at a book store, later on at a garage sale. There is no definite ruling in the United States, like there was with the European Court of Justice, but it certainly is only a matter of time until a similar ruling makes its way to the US.
The real debate boils down to the ethics of it all. Especially concerning the profits, or lack thereof, collected by indie game developers. Read more »