Believe it or not, even digital game stores can be wiped clean of their inventory. That's exactly what happened over the weekend on Steam, where a sale on the popular Splinter Cell series caused publisher Ubisoft to run out of game keys — even for paying customers.
The game in question is Splinter Cell: Blacklist, one of the better-received titles in Ubisoft's stealth-action series that's available for just $7.49 until today (Oct. 31) at 1 p.m. ET. But that price has turned out to be too good to be true for many gamers, who took to the Steam forums to report a "failed to connect to key server" error even after purchasing the game.
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"While we do our best to anticipate demand from our users, occasionally we may run out of keys to provide for your purchase," reads Steam's support page, which notes that these errors tend to happen during sales or new releases. "When we are out of keys, this error will appear. You will be issued a key as soon as we have been given more by the game's publisher."
If you bought Splinter Cell: Blacklist and are getting the key server error, Steam is essentially waiting for Ubisoft to provide it with more keys to "unlock" the title for those who purchased it. As Kotaku points out, publishers need to provide marketplaces like Steam with validation keys in order to track digital purchases.
Ubisoft reportedly promised that more keys would come on Oct. 30, and, according to this forum post, it looks like many (but not all) locked-out players finally got access to their game. If your game still isn't validated and you don't feel like waiting, you can always request a refund.
While it looks like Ubisoft is slowly getting keys to all paying customers, instances like this are reasons to be wary of certain Steam sales. You'll either get your game eventually or will qualify for a refund, despite the fact that buying a digital game should give you immediate access. You still have a few hours left to get Blacklist at its discount price (and boy, is it a great game), but based on how Ubisoft is handling the key situation, keep in mind that you're rolling the dice with your money.