Update from August 31st:
Cowcat reported via Twitter that the affected Steam curators have since been banned.
Original news from August 29th:
The indie developer Fabrice Breton recently launched his “punch-and-click-adventure” with his studio Cowcat Brok the Investigator released. The mixture of classic adventure game with a portion of brawling has been very well received by the players on Steam so far. But negative reviews suddenly rained down overnight.
What happened? Breton signed up for it Twitter and explained that he must have pissed off some key resellers. To do this, he first posted a screenshot from his inbox with a number of requests from “review sites” aimed at free Steam keys for his game:
I really get tons of these emails. All indie developers have to deal with this. Unfortunately, almost all of these are scammers trying to steal keys from developers to resell them.
He also points to one thread at Reddit, where you can find out more about it. However, Breton didn’t like the idea of ignoring the few honest requests because of scammers, so he came up with something to filter out the fake requests:
I started sending them free steam keys for the prologue instead of the full version. As far as I know, Steam keys are impossible to tell apart before activating them on an account.
And in fact, only very few inquirers have come back and asked for a full version key. Breton’s not unlikely assumption is that the other keys ended up on relevant key reseller sites. The buyers of the keys will probably not have been happy about this and will have complained to the resellers accordingly. Apparently “out of revenge” they rated the game badly on Steam. This is possible even if they don’t own the game – as long as they are registered as a Steam Curator.
Breton reported these curators to Steam and apparently the gaming platform reacted quickly and removed the negative reviews. This means that Brok the Investigator can keep his pristine white 100% positive vest for the time being. If you want to see the game for yourself, you can find the launch trailer right below this news.