The ever-present allure of something for nothing makes a reappearance in the land of gaming, with a twist designed to get would-be winners sending messages to their online friends as fast as they possibly can.

The site we’re going to examine is located at

steamcode(dot)org

which claims they have $20 Steam Codes to give away, as the “We’re the people who give away free $20 Steam Codes!” makes clear on the frontpage.

We could have an interesting philosophical debate about when free means free, but we could also just chalk it up as “free, as long as you send some links and fill in a bunch of stuff”.

Here’s the nicely designed front page:

Reserve a code...

Clicking the button reveals two things – a tantalizing glimpse of half a code, and the reveal that you must share a link with 15 people in 45 minutes or else the code will expire. If you don’t have Under Pressure on your playlist, you might want to go dig it out now.

Half a code

Sites don’t normally place a timer on link sending, because not many people immediately whip out a list of likely candidates to start spamming when confronted with a rapidly diminishing timer. Indeed, start quick-firing identikit messages to all and sundry and you may find more than a few of them either think you’ve been hacked or turned into a spambot for the day.

Should the required amount of referrals be reached, the end result is a selection of survey pages for the would-be $20 code recipient:

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In the blink of an eye, we’ve gone from free game codes to prepaid sandwich visa cards. Depending on region, the destination could potentially ask for anything from email to home address, phone numbers and so on.

There’s no guarantee the full code will be released even with a completed survey – the only person who has anything to lose in this situation is the individual filling in whatever forms are presented, working on the basis that they’re simply hoping the website will hand over a code at the end of the process.

Freebie sites offering up items such as vouchers, gift cards and game codes typically resort to surveys at some point in the chain – it’s just how they roll. Displaying a portion of the code and adding in a time sensitive instruction to send URLs to all and sundry focuses on the “So near, yet so far” pressure point, and is a great way to ensure people desperate for free game codes start yelling “How high?” before jumping.

Christopher Boyd