A leaked picture from the private Steam forum for developers has emerged, that show Valve will in fact limit the amount of keys developers can generate if it isn't worth the cost to Valve.
Valve will no longer automatically fullfill key requests from the developers to combat game sales outside of Steam. pic.twitter.com/Gp1TyivEeO— Steam Spy (@Steam_Spy) August 17, 2017
In case the tweet vanishes, the image says this:
QuoteIf we are denying keys for normal size batches it's likely because your Steam sales don't reflect a need for as many keys as you're distributing, and you're probably asking for more keys because you're offering cheaper options off Steam and yet we are bearing the costs. So at some point we start deciding that the value you're bringing to Steam isn't worth the cost to us.
For example, say you've sold a few thousand copies on Steam but have requested / activated 500K keys, then we are going to take a deeper look at your games, your sales, your costs etc.
Right now you can buy games on Steam, or through a reseller like Humble and the vast amount of other stores. Developers also sell Steam keys directly at times, or give them away with purchases from stores like itch.io along with giving them a copy on their service.
I've seen quite a few people indicate that this is Valve being stricter on Steam, but I'm not so sure. The wording doesn't seem to indicate that it's a new rule they're imposing. It looks like they're simply explaining to a developer an existing rule after one was denied. I would be quite surprised if it was a new rule, because it would imply for a long time that Valve wasn't doing anything to limit keys for developers (which I'm sure would have caused more problems).
However, if this is Valve being stricter, then I see that as a good move. I've always found it extremely odd when I've been told developers can just grab as many Steam keys as they need. Key requests not being manually looked into will always be open to abuse.
Anyway, I've reached out to Valve to see if we can get any kind of clarification. Would be interesting to see if it's a response to Steam Direct, Kickstarter or abuse of some kind.