Video games are expensive, and there are so many great games to buy these days. We don't blame you if you want to spend as little as possible acquiring game keys.
So you look for game deals online—and you'll inevitably stumble across game key resellers like CDKeys, Kinguin, G2A, etc. You might even be enticed by their dirt-cheap prices, like $11 for a copy of Fallout 4 or $2 for Hyper Light Drifter.
Many of the rock-bottom game prices you find on these sites are sourced by third-party resellers. Are these game keys legit? What are the risks in buying them? Which sites are most reputable?
Don't become a victim to game key scams! Here's everything you need to know to buy discount game keys online safely.
What Is a Game Key Reseller?
Game key resellers (also known as grey market sellers) are individuals or organizations that sell game keys but have no official affiliation with game developers or game publishers.
There are legitimate reasons to sell game keys. For example, maybe you receive a digital Steam key for your birthday but you already own that game. Instead of letting it go to waste, you might choose to sell that game key online for a few bucks.
On a broader scale, some organizations are able to acquire digital game codes in bulk at far below market price, and they can resell those digital game codes at a discount while still earning a profit. This is legal and acceptable (for the most part).
But then there are shady folks who abuse the trust of users who shop for discount game codes. Because of these people, there are several risks involved when you use a grey market site.
Why Grey Market Game Keys Are Risky
Finding a low price on a game might seem great, but you're taking a risk if you're buying from a game key reseller. And even though there's a chance that the deal is legit, many gamers don't think the risk is worth it—no matter how much money you stand to save.
Here are some of the risks and dangers associated with grey market sites and video game key resellers.
1. You Might Be Buying a Stolen Game
In 2016, game publisher MangaGamer lost thousands of dollars to stolen game codes. A hacker reportedly bought dozens of games using stolen credit cards, and later sold them on G2A.
Since then, several other scam incidents have occurred across many game key reseller sites. Scams like this aren't commonplace, but they're far more common than we're comfortable with.
The problem is, there's no way for you—as the buyer—to know whether or not a particular digital game code is properly sourced. Maybe it's a duplicate game that the seller no longer needs, or maybe it was acquired with a stolen credit card.
Game developers lose money on these illegally-bought video games—not only because they don't actually get the money from purchases made with stolen credit cards, but they often get slammed with costly credit card chargeback fees as well.
2. Your Game Key Might Not Work
Game key resellers can't verify whether a digital game code is valid or invalid when a third-party seller puts it up for sale. It's only when you try to redeem the key that you'll find out if it works.
Some game key resellers now offer "insurance" on digital game codes, meaning they'll refund you on non-working game codes.
However, this insurance doesn't come free—you'll have to add a few extra bucks to your purchase. But if the total price is still insanely cheap, it might be worth the buy.
3. Grey Markets Encourage Region Locking
Earlier in this article, we mentioned how some organizations are able to get game codes in bulk at dirt-cheap prices, and then they can sell those at a discount while still turning a profit.
But how do these organizations acquire those game keys so cheaply? One common method is arbitrage, which means they buy game keys from cheaper regions of the world to sell in other regions where games are priced much higher.
Game publishers know this, which is why some of them have started region-locking their game codes. And if grey market sales continue to grow, other game publishers may follow.
Which Game Key Resellers Are Safe?
As of now, there's only one game key reseller we trust: CDKeys.
Why do we trust CDKeys over all other grey market sites? Because CDKeys maintains their own network of partners and suppliers from whom they receive their discount game codes.
Most other grey market sites are "marketplaces," which means anyone can sign up as sellers to sell their own game codes. This is the main reason why shopping on these sites is so risky.
In other words, CDKeys can validate every game code that's sold on their site using their own in-house vetting processes, while other game key marketplaces just can't do that at scale.
Be Cautious With Third-Party Game Codes
Buying game keys from grey market sites can be OK every once in a while, but we don't recommend making it a habit. The cheap price comes with risks and downsides.
But if you're on a tight budget and your only options are to buy from game key resellers or pirate your games, we encourage going with the legal option! Just make sure you exercise caution.