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While searching for a deal on a game, chances are, you’ve stumbled upon a ridiculously low offer. We’re talking $11 for a copy of Fallout 4, or only $2 for Hyper Light Drifter.
Most of these rock-bottom prices come from third-party key resellers. Resellers like Kinguin, G2A, and CDKeys, might entice you with super-low prices, but is it really safe to buy from them?
What Is a Key Reseller?
Key resellers, also known as grey market sellers, are vendors that have no affiliation with game developers or publishers. While some grey market sites rely on individual users to sell off cheap game codes, other sites buy game codes in bulk, allowing them to resell keys for a lower price.
Either way, you don’t really know where the game code is coming from, or how it was originally purchased.
The Risks of Buying Games From the Grey Market
Finding a low price on a game might seem great, but you’re taking a risk if you’re buying it from a key reseller. Some key resellers have shady habits, making the game not even worth the price. Here are some of the potential dangers associated with grey markets.
1. You Might Be Buying a Stolen Game
In 2016, the 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. Unfortunately, scams like these aren’t too uncommon on key reselling sites.
Since there’s no way to find out where these game codes come from, the cheap key you’re about to buy might’ve been purchased with a stolen credit card. Not only do developers lose profit from these illegal purchases, but they’ll also get slammed with pricey chargeback fees from the stolen cards.
2. The Game Key Might Not Work
Key resellers can’t verify whether a game code is invalid or not. It’s not until you input the key that you’ll find out if it works.
Some key resellers offer “insurance” on game codes, which means that you’ll get a full refund on any non-working codes. Of course, this insurance doesn’t come free, so you’ll have to pay a few extra bucks for it. Without it, you’re basically out of luck if the game code is invalid.
3. Buying From Resellers Can Result in Region-Locked Games
Like I mentioned earlier, some resellers buy games in bulk and then sell them for low prices. This might seem normal, but it’s not as clear-cut as it sounds—key resellers actually buy games in bulk from regions where the game is sold at a lower price.
So, what’s wrong with taking advantage of lower prices? Supporting a seller that uses this tactic encourages publishers to put a region lock on games. Publishers obviously don’t want resellers to exploit a cheaper region-based price, so their only options are to jack up prices around the world or add a restrictive region lock.
4. It’s Unfair to Developers
In the end, buying a game from the grey market is unfair to developers. When a reseller buys games using a stolen credit card or takes advantage of a cheap game bundle, the developer just ends up getting ripped off. It’s an unethical practice that can result in a massive loss of profit for both AAA and indie developers.
Exercise Caution When Buying From a Key Reseller
You shouldn’t let buying game keys from the grey market become a habit. The cheap price doesn’t always pay off, as you’re likely to encounter invalid codes at some point.
If you’re on a tight budget and decide to buy from a key reseller, always exercise caution. Prices that are too good to be true might mean some shady business is going on behind the scenes.
Want to get cheap games in a more legit way? Check out the best ways to acquire free PC games.