Guide: How to Recognize a Review Key Scammer

To start with some background: we receive requests for review keys from scammers nigh daily, especially around new releases, so I figure there has to be a pretty substantial industry revolving around it. With hundreds if not thousands of small developers on PC, and more appearing all the time, there is probably always new prey to be found. As such, I figured sharing our experiences might help someone out, especially on the long term.

Why would anyone want to bother scamming a key from us?

I’ve often seen the opinion “the benefit of getting a review from a legit source outweigh the risk that it’s a scam” or “if someone goes to all that trouble just to get a free game, let them have it“. I’m here to show you otherwise.

It’s my belief that this attitude is exactly why the scammers are so abundant. Their motivation shouldn’t be underestimated, since most of them aren’t looking for “free games” for themselves, but rather money, plain and simple. One scammer often operates several fake accounts, and every key they receive (possibly from the same dev) will turn into real currency on the P2P key marked. I don’t have any estimates for how much money they are actually making off this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some were making more than a good living wage off it.

A real jackpot for them would be something like 4 review keys for an unreleased game, and being added on your reviewer mailing list to receive all of your future games too.

But I’m not getting fake review key requests,” you say? This may change very quickly. Or perhaps after reading to the end you realize that you have, in fact, been getting those already.

If you give a scammer a key, you may first realize you made a mistake when you almost immediately receive half a dozen similar requests from other fishy accounts. (If it’s a Steam key, I recommend revoking it at this point – this has recently been made possible in SteamWorks). You’ll however almost certainly stay on scammer hotlists ever after (and these lists are quite possibly shared/sold between scammers) and be subject to every new type of scam they come up with.

So, let’s get to the real meat of the topic.

How do you recognize a review key scammer?

If you were hoping for a simple mistake that marks all scam emails, I’m sorry to disappoint. However, there are a number of clear warning signals that you can evaluate. When in doubt, I would recommend taking an extra step to verify their business, or if you don’t have the time for that, just ignore them. If you’re a small developer, and not a full-time PR person, you should have better things to spend your time on. I’ll go into ways you can verify their identity later.

Tip #1, which will get you most of the way, is to have a healthy dose of skepticism. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If something looks a little fishy, it probably doesn’t stand the light of day.We all get these mails. There are countless variants depending on how brazen/stupid the scammer is, and some of them have enough effort to look legit. Some things to look out for:

They tell you they are sure to give you a very positive review. Read no further. A legitimate reviewer would never tell you this. Whether the contact is real or not, you don’t want anything to do with them.

They advertise in the mail how many subscribers they have. A real channel typically wouldn’t be so crass about it. They’re just trying to establish their importance and make it look like they’re doing you a favor by taking some keys off your hands.

You got several similar mails in a short period of time. This usually doesn’t mean you suddenly got popular. It means a single person entered your email onto their list and activated the automated scam accounts they operate. The emails may not be same word for word, but their structure (greeting, body, signature) is very similar, including how they for example link their channel and twitter account at the end of the mail.

Some text appears in a different font in the email. Usually your company’s name / game name. This doesn’t necessarily mean the email is a scam, but it does show it’s a copy-paste job at best, not someone writing you a personal email in their own words.

They have 3 million subscribers. These guys wouldn’t email you for a review copy. No harm in checking their contact info of course, but I’d put the odds any such mail is legit at roughly around zero.

They are requesting multiple keys for their “friends” to help review the game, or for “promotion”. Especially for streamers, unless you personally know the other party, you can just write all of these off as scammers. Legit review sites may occasionally ask for additional keys for giveaways, but they would never present it as a condition for reviewing the game.

The channel they are linking to doesn’t list a contact email and the email doesn’t provide any other way to verify it’s their channel. How convenient. Don’t take a leap of faith, either ignore or take an extra step to verify (see later section). Any legit YouTuber who would take it upon themselves to email developers for keys ought to have their contact info on their channel’s ‘about’ page.

The linked channel’s ‘about’ page actually mentions that they will never mail you for a review key. This is because they’ve gotten contacts from other devs who were targeted, so it means someone is posing as this channel. It may even explicitly mention the fake email the scammer uses. Always worth reading the ‘about’ page.

The YouTube channel’s contact info matches the email, and their videos have a nice amount of views. This is where things start to get more interesting, let’s take it up a notch.

Tip #2 – A mail from a “YouTuber” requesting a key has a 90% chance to be a scam (not an actual statistic, but it doesn’t hurt to think so). Bear this in mind, and you may realize that the channel that looked OK at first glance has some glaring issues.

The channel’s last video is from a year ago. Probably not the original owner of the account, or even if they are, this channel is now only used for scamming devs.

The channel displays videos with a massive amount of views, but their more recent videos have only a handful of views. Something sketchy in the channel history. Maybe a few videos’ views were boosted with bots to make the channel appear more popular, but it doesn’t actually have any human subscribers.

The channel’s front page isn’t actually listing their own videos but favorites or some such. Just trying to bait people who only give it a cursory look.

The channel seems relatively active, but all the videos are F2P games / FPS footage / MOD reviews (and this has nothing to do with my game’s genre). Uploading generic videos to give the appearance of activity, possibly with views boosted by botnets.

The videos have 50k views but no comments. This isn’t normal activity. Probably a bot channel.

The email came from [channelname]@yahoo/hotmail/gmail.com. Just a statistical factor, most scammers use something like this for their email address. Exhibit more caution.

The channel’s in a non-English language. Obviously not exactly a sign in itself, but a very high number of these scammers use non-English channels to make it harder to look up information on the channel and get an idea of what it’s about. Usually combines with the features above, and is just an extra reason to discount the mail.

The channel doesn’t list an email address, how can I verify the mailer’s identity?

If the channel itself looks real and relevant enough that you’d want to be featured there, but you can’t verify the email address of the person who contacted you, and you want to go the extra mile to make sure, there are a few things you can do.

Use a social media profile for verifying them. If their ‘about’ page doesn’t list an email address, but does link to social media like Twitter, Facebook etc, and you have an account on one of those, email them back and tell them that to verify their identity you need them to follow your account on chosen social media with the associated official account. If they’re for real, they should have no problem doing this.

Use a 3rd party review key distributor. There are services such as Keymailer that do their own screening of streamers, and you need to only add your keys and send them to people requesting them at will. When in doubt, you can tell the person that you hand out review keys through this service, and direct them to the relevant page to request a key there. You will see whether the streamer they are claiming to be appears on the list. This saves you a lot of headache (and also allows you to reach other actual streamers).

Well, this section was mostly about streamers requesting keys, but what about review sites? Much of the same critical evaluation applies, but here are a few specific points to consider:

Recognizing a fake game review site

There are 2 general types of scammers, those impersonating a representative of an established site, and those faking the site itself.

It’s an established review site. Verify the email address from their contact information. Even if there isn’t an email listed, they should at least have a contact form where you can ask if this person really works for them. A larger site’s email address is unlikely to be “sitename@gmail.com” and more likely to have the same domain as the site itself.

It’s an unknown review site. Again, this is where things get juicier. The site may list a contact email that matches the one that approaches you, so it should be legit, right? Well, most likely it isn’t. Check against the following criteria:

The review site is based on a blog platform. You can tell these apart pretty easily by the simple scrolling design. Though this may change in the future, at the moment most fake review sites are built like this. Of course there are perfectly OK review sites that are hosted on blog platforms, but this is a strong warning sign.

There is no user interaction. The site doesn’t feature any kind of forums, and has no comments or other interaction on any of its articles.

The review articles are ripped off other review sites. Copy paste a bit from the middle of a review on the site into Google, and see if the same review pops up on an established review site. You might be surprised.

The site is in a foreign language. This is a pretty devious variation of the above. The whole site and reviews have been google translated into language X. If you speak that language, you will be able to tell right away, otherwise you can ask a friend who speaks that language. They will almost certainly tell you that the text is google translated. Of course there are review sites in all languages, but this is a very popular scamming tool since it obfuscates your attempts to verify the legitimacy of the site. When combined with other warning signs (especially getting several similar review requests for similar blog-hosted “review sites” in different languages within a day), you may just ignore these with a good conscience.

An example:

or…

The site actually posts unique reviews, but they are completely generic. This final point is a bit tricky and somewhat a gray area. The site may have real interaction with you, and they will write a review for the game, but when you read it, it only uses stock screenshots, and only speaks in generalities, without citing any detail that wouldn’t be obvious from a few minutes of research into the game. In other words, it does not appear they used the review key you sent for writing the article. I’m not sure if I should include this as a scam, but beyond lazy writing it’s possible they do not act honestly either. The end-game for them may be to give you a review that will satisfy you, and be included on your reviewer mailing lists to receive all of your future games. They will keep writing generic reviews to avoid suspicion, all the while selling your review keys. This behavior can be hard to even identify, but if you suspect this is happening, you can try to track the activation of the review key you sent from SteamWorks (if it’s a Steam key, obviously).

This turned into a longer article than I expected when I set out to write it, but I hope I was able to give you some good tools for recognizing scammers. I may update this later if I run into some especially interesting or innovative scam attempts. Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments.

If this article was able to turn your bubbling excitement over receiving a review request into brooding cynicism, good. Instead of hoping for reviewers and streamers to approach you, you need to actively look for new contacts yourself. Because all review requests you receive are more likely to be scams than not. Sad but true.

Eiyuu Senki European Conquest Date Revealed

Fruitbat Factory, Ltd. is happy to announce the release date for Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Fruitbat Factory will release Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest for PlayStation 3 on November 12th. North American release will follow shortly after.

Featuring over 70 characters by renowned artist Oyari Ashito and other industry stars, Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest was developed by TENCO and published on PlayStation 3 in Japan by MAGES. label 5pb.Games.

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In Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest, the player finds themselves in an alternate world populated with famous characters of history and legend – who also all happen to be beautiful maidens – and must fight their way to world domination.

“While playing this game, you should always keep this in mind: ‘All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.’ So sit back and enjoy a lot of coincidences.” comments Ozhan Sen, art lead.

Game features:

    • 70+ stunning heroines to lead your armies and quest with
    • 120+ cities to conquer across the world
    • Tactical turn based battles with countless skills, items and enemies to master
    • Fully Japanese story and battle voices by over 50 famous voice actors
    • An all-new battle voice display to show character commentary in English

“The character commentary, including their battle voices, is something we put a lot of effort into. We wanted to preserve the original voices while letting everyone enjoy the banter without having to understand Japanese. I’m proud of how it turned out and hope the fans will enjoy it as well.” says Jakke Elonen, project lead.

Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest will be available for purchase via PlayStation Network for €39.99.

The homepage for the game has been updated with information on the game’s story and characters, including voice samples for them: http://fruitbatfactory.com/eiyuusenki/.

For more information, business inquiries  and to be included in the press release and review mailing lists, contact Fruitbat Factory at info@fruitbatfactory.com.

Download Press Kit with screenshots here

ManaCollect Is Coming to Steam!

ManaCollect---Cover
Download Press Kit with screenshots hereMarch 17, 2015– Independent game publisher Fruitbat Factory is proud to announce their next release, developer Tazigen Clock’s Action/Puzzle game ManaCollect is coming soon to Steam and other distributors.

ManaCollect is an action packed take on the classic game of Minesweeper. Two contestants compete on a grid based arena to collect hidden mana by following numbered hints and unleash special attacks to drain their opponents mana.

We love games with a unique tactical twist. When we saw ManaCollect, we thought this game is right up our alley. We’re happy to have a chance to bring this cute but intensive game to players worldwide.says Jakke Elonen, Project Lead.

Game features:

  • 4-chapter single player storyline
  • 10 playable characters
  • 4 difficulty settings
  • 2-Player local multiplayer
  • Dungeon and Tournament modes

ManaCollect will come priced at $6.99. The game will include Steam Trading Cards, Achievements and other Steam features. Game trailer can be seen on the Steam page.

“I see ManaCollect as an interesting mix of Minesweeper and fighting games. Instead of casually figuring out the locations of mana spots, now you have to run through the numbers as fast as you can before your opponents gets ahead and gathers enough mana to unleash her devastating attacks.” adds Ozhan Sen, Art Lead.

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For more information, business enquiries  and to be included in the press release and review mailing lists, contact Fruitbat Factory at info@fruitbatfactory.com.

Fruitbat Factory, Ltd
English version developer (Homepage, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Youtube)
Fruitbat Factory is an independent localisation house focusing on bringing interesting Japanese games to English-speaking audiences.

Tazigen Clock
Developer of original Japanese version (Homepage)
Tazigen Clock is an independent Japanese game developer. ManaCollect is their first release.

SOURCE:  Fruitbat Factory

99 Spirits – Weeping Demon’s Bell Now on Steam!

Download Press Kit with screenshots here

99 Spirits - Weeping Demon's BellFebruary 24, 2015. Fruitbat Factory is happy to announce the release of our third and final DLC for 99 Spirits: 99 Spirits – Weeping Demon’s Bell. The game is available today.

Weeping Demon’s Bell is the second side story for 99 Spirits, told in the Visual Novel style, similar to Cage of Night.

As our first Steam release, 99 Spirits has a special place in our hearts. We are happy to have had the rare chance to localise all the available bonus content for the game as well. With Weeping Demon’s Bell, the 99 Spirits collection is now truly complete. ” says Jakke Elonen, Project Lead.

Synopsis
Rumors of someone collecting swords and kidnapping girls have reached the young blacksmith Kotetsu and his childhood friend Waka. A cryptic new Tsukumogami lurks in the night. Meanwhile, a darkness grows within Kotetsu as he is drawn into one battle after another.

When an invitation to entertain a nobleman arrives to Waka, the two are drawn into a test of their true nature. Can the two unveil the identity of their real enemy before it’s too late?

99 Spirits Drama Theater includes three bonus stories

Little Hanabusa: A story about Hanabusa, who turned back into a child from a little happening. While Komiya runs around trying to find a cure, Gijin happens across her. What will Gijin do, finding Hanabusa turned into a child?

Saki’s Present: The weasels have become upset because Saki seems to not be paying them much attention lately. She seems to be doing something in secret, but just what is the truth behind the matter?

Komiya’s Medicine Hunt: A story about Komiya trying to save Hanabusa after she suddenly collapses during an expedition. After learning of Hanabusa’s plight, the five gods pledge their support, but…

Demon’s Bell gave us a chance to explore Kotetsu, Waka and their relationship further and have new adventures as we bring our 99 Spirits journey to a conclusion. Hope you have enjoyed it as much as we did.“ says Ozhan Sen, Art Lead.

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The game is released on Steam and other leading digital distributors on February 23th. The retail price is $4.99, with a -10% launch week discount.  Additionally, a 99 Spirits – Complete Collection will be made available for $27.99, including 99 Spirits, Artbook & Soundtrack Pack, Cage of Night and Weeping Demon’s Bell.

For more information, business inquiries  and to be included in the press release and review mailing lists, contact Fruitbat Factory at info@fruitbatfactory.com.

Fruitbat Factory, Ltd.
English version developer (Homepage, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Youtube)
Fruitbat Factory is an independent localization house focusing on bringing interesting Japanese indie games to English-speaking audiences.

TORaIKI
Original Japanese version developer (Homepage)
TORaIKI is an independent Japanese game circle that aims to produce Windows PC titles suitable for gamers of all ages.

First Look into Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest!

February 3rd, 2015Fruitbat Factory, Ltd. is proud to present the first English screenshots for their upcoming PlayStation 3 release of Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest. Prepare to battle cute world leaders in this massive tactical RPG from Japan! Fruitbat Factory will release the game in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand in Summer 2015.

Featuring over 70 characters by renowned artist Oyari Ashito and other industry stars, Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest was developed by TENCO and published on PlayStation 3 in Japan by MAGES. label 5pb.Games.

“It’s been a fantastic journey to get this close to releasing Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest. As long-time fans of strategy games, we are all excited to bring this great game to fans around the world.” says Jakke Elonen, project lead.

Eiyuu Senki SS-01

In this fantastic adventure, the player finds themselves in an alternate world populated with famous characters of history and legend – who also all happen to be beautiful maidens – and must fight their way to world domination.

Game features:

  • 70+ stunning heroines to lead your armies and quest with
  • 120+ cities to conquer across the world
  • Tactical turn based battles with countless skills, items and enemies to master
  • Multiple endings to reach in a huge, branching campaign
Eiyuu Senki SS-02

Full Japanese story and battle voices by famous voice acting celebrities The three new screenshots showcase the game’s charming character art and dialogue, and give the first peek into the battle system.

“There is so much to do in Eiyuu Senki. Different paths to world domination to take on, countless quests and battles to pick from. So many choices, like whom to put in which squad, spend resources leveling, equip with legendary items, send on missions or keep in reserve for battles, makes for anything from 50 to maybe 100+ hours of gameplay for all but the fastest of players to see all the game offers.” comments Ozhan Sen, art lead.

Eiyuu Senki SS-03

For more information, business inquiries  and to be included in the press release and review mailing lists, contact Fruitbat Factory at info@fruitbatfactory.com.

Fruitbat Factory, Ltd.
English version developer (Homepage, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Youtube) Fruitbat Factory is an independent localization house focusing on bringing interesting Japanese indie games to English-speaking audiences.

MAGES. Inc. Publisher of original Japanese PS3 version (Homepage) Based in Tokyo Japan, MAGES, Inc. is a leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment on various platforms. MAGES, Inc. is most famous for its critically acclaimed ADV (Visual Novels) – Chaos;Head,  Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes from MAGES, Inc. main brands – ‘5pb.Games’ and ‘Science Adventure Team’.

Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest is (c)TENCO/ 2013-2015 MAGES./5pb. Licensed to and Published by Fruitbat Factory, Ltd.

New Stories for 99 Spirits

Main capsule image
99 Spirits – Cage of Night is now available for the first time in English. It is the first of the two side stories to PC Puzzle RPG 99 Spirits, giving you a chance to know more of the fan favourite support characters. We are releasing Cage of Night directly on Steam as a DLC to 99 Spirits, and it includes both English and Japanese versions of the game.

The game stars fan-favorites Saki and Komiya, and adds brand new characters. A story of tragic love and foxes’ games told in visual novel style, the Cage of Night is set during the events of 99 Spirits storyline and is set in a darker mood than the main story.

Additionally, it features six Mini Scenarios with in-between scenes from 99 Spirits that will bring a smile to your face and a Developer Symposium with commentary by TORaIKI, 99 Spirits’ creators to tell you where and how this all started.

99 Spirits – Cage of Night was a successful stretch goal on the 99 Spirits IndieGoGo project.

99 Spirits – Cage of Night is available with a -10% launch discount on Steam

Fruitbat Factory Reveals Five New Games!

May 13, 2014Fruitbat Factory is happy to announce five new games to be released for English-speaking audiences worldwide on PC (Windows).

Download press release here

Human Tanks: ALTeR
The long-awaited sequel to the original strategy game War of the Human Tanks.

Human Tanks: Limited Operations
The third and final installment in the Human Tanks series with many new challenges.

QP Shooting – Dangerous!!
A bullet hell shooter starring the pudding-loving dog girl QP from 100% Orange Juice.

99 Spirits – Cage of Night
A new adventure starring Saki and Komiya from 99 Spirits alongside new faces.

99 Spirits – Weeping Demon’s Bell
Another 99 Spirits story featuring Waka and Kotetsu in a thrilling web of events.

Fruitbat Factory Reveals Five New Games!Human Tanks – ALTeR
is the much-awaited second installment of the Human Tanks, Charge! series, and sequel to War of the Human Tanks. This time you assume command of the enemy of the first game, the Royal Army, and fight back for all you hold dear!

Human Tanks – Limited Operations
is the last of the three games in the Human Tanks, Charge! series. In contrast to the first two games, Limited Operations has the player complete difficult missions with pre-assigned resources and face up against even harder opponents. War of the Human Tanks was localized by Fruitbat Factory and released worldwide September 2012. The Human Tanks, Charge! series is developed by Yakiniku Banzai!.

“We’ve had players asking for the sequels ever since we originally released War of the Human Tanks – our first game. We are really happy to finally be able to give a favorable response – yes, we will be bringing over the entire Human Tanks series! Many will also be interested to hear that the games will be available on Steam upon release.” says Jakke Elonen, project lead.

QP Shooting – Dangerous!!
is a bullet hell type shoot’em’up starring the pudding-loving dog girl QP, whom you might remember from 100% Orange Juice. Nothing can stand between QP and her pudding – not even difficulty options to reduce the experienced gamer to tears! QP Shooting – Dangerous!! is developed by Orange_Juice. 100% Orange Juice was developed by Orange_Juice and published by Fruitbat Factory in September 2013.

99 Spirits – Cage of Night
stars fan-favorites Saki and Komiya, and adds brand new characters. A story of tragic love and foxes’ games told in visual novel style, the Cage of Night takes place during the events of 99 Spirits storyline and is set in a darker mood than the main story.

99 Spirits – Weeping Demon’s Bell
is another new addition to the 99 Spirits storyline. Within it unfolds a new adventure for Kotetsu and Waka, where a duty Kotetsu undertakes turns out to have unforeseen and dangerous consequences. The two side stories are planned to be released as DLCs to 99 Spirits. 99 Spirits was originally developed by TORaIKI and published worldwide by Fruitbat Factory in May 2013.

We are releasing our third Steam game, 100% Orange Juice, in just a few days, and after that we’ll be putting on the finishing touches for Cage of Night’s release as a 99 Spirits DLC. We are also excited to bring over more of the adorable dog girl QP in the hellish shooter QP Shooting – Dangerous!!. Her quest for pudding seems to never end.” adds Ozhan Sen, graphics and marketing lead.

War of the Human Tanks and 99 Spirits are available on Steam for PC (Windows). The Steam version of 100% Orange Juice is hitting the shelves on May 16 with all-new online multiplayer, HD resolutions support, Steam achievements, stats and trading cards.

To add some music to the celebrations, Sound of the Human Tanks, music collection for the Human Tanks series, and 99 Spirits – Artbook & Soundtrack Pack can be found -50% off on Steam for the duration of this week.