Are Gray Market Game Key Sites Legitimate?

So you’re going to be buying a game from one of those no-good gray market key sites like G2A, right? Well, we have your IP address and are already on the phone with Interpol. Was just a joke. The reason you’re really here is because you want to know if important gray market websites are legitimate.

Here is the short answer: Yes, in the sense that you can get a key for less than full price, however No in the sense that they are not endorsed by game developers – and gray market websites may not endorse game developers either.

Legit in the sense that you can get a key

Sites like G2A are legitimate in the sense that you pay less for games and get a working key that you can use on services like Steam. Most of these sites have some form of purchase protection that gives you a refund if you don’t get a key. However, this protection typically costs a dollar or two more during the checkout process.

Buying games through websites like G2A, Green Man Gaming or Kinguin is “legitimate”, but it can be less convenient than official shops. Due to the fact that stolen keys are widely used on gray market pages, some of them require you to verify your identity before you can place an order. And in my experience, their payment processors sometimes refuse a purchase for no apparent reason.

However, I always received a key after paying. Maybe I had to wait a couple of hours or I had to click through more menus than I would have preferred to get this key, but the key always arrived – and almost always at a greatly discounted price. That’s pretty legitimate if you ask me.

The developer’s perspective

Asking certain developers they will be asked to only pirate the game rather than sponsor sites like G2A.

Game keys sold on gray market key websites can sometimes come from a stolen or hacked source. Worse, people often buy games from sites like G2A with stolen credit cards, and the resulting chargeback can ultimately cost the developer money. Not to mention the potential of problematic sales to increase support costs for a game developer – a real problem for small businesses.

As explained in a 2016 blog post by Lars Doucet from Level Up Labs, the developer behind Defender’s Quest:

“I never thought the day would come when I would argue passionately that fans should pirate my game instead of paying for it, but here we are …

… When you buy a key from G2A, you often buy a Steam Key that someone bought with a stolen credit card. If the cardholder inevitably finds out, they’ll issue a chargeback and the credit card company will refund it, take the money out of business (plus a fee) and give it to the fraud victim. This means that the store (or developer, if selling direct) made negative money selling this key, as TinyBuild and IndieGameStand have detailed. The thief was paid anyway. And so is G2A. So do it again. And again.”

The player’s perspective

People who buy discounted games from gray market websites are often unwilling (or unable) to purchase the game at full price. And who could blame them? High budget games tend to be semi-developed bloatware with microtransactions that you pay full beta test price for.

At the very least, most AAA titles have some kind of in-game monetization scheme that allows you to purchase additional content. And when you know you’re likely to get out of your pocket for the same game, it makes even more sense that you want to pay as little as possible for the basic installation.

Nor is it that sites like gray market pages have anticipated super-cheap games – it’s more the result of Steam sales, Humble Bundles, and so on. Also, the keys that merchants sell on gray market sites sometimes come from those sales, which is why some old games on gray market sites are sometimes offered at Steam’s discounted prices.

It may be interesting to note that a lot of the reasons for using key sites in the gray market are similar to the old pirated argument – mostly that people wouldn’t buy the game anyway or would buy the game at full price anyway. The advent of game torrents and now sites like G2A are more the result of a decade-long transition to digital content distribution than anything, and the burden of that transition rests more on game developers than on buyers.

Buying game keys through gray market pages is safer than pirating a game because you get an official download and not one that may be infected or disabled in any way. You will also receive official updates, and at least you will be playing on an official channel so others on that platform are more likely to buy the game – maybe even at full price. One of the incentives for developers to participate in Steam sales is that the influx of new customers often continues after the discount ends due to purchases from Steam friends, etc.

Get games at the best possible price

In general, the newer and more popular a game, the lower the discount you can expect on gray market sites. Typically you save just a few bucks on big new releases like Hitman 3, which is currently available for $ 44.99 through Epic Games and $ 37.80 for the best price we can find on a gray market key website .

Games that have been around for a while (6 months to 1 year or more) are usually available for a higher discount on gray market sites. For example, Cyberpunk 2077 currently costs $ 47.99 on Steam and is available for around $ 25 on various gray market pages.

Older games that have been sold many times, however, cost significantly less on gray market pages. Some examples: BioShock Infinite costs $ 29.99 on Steam and around $ 4 on the gray market. Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain costs $ 19.99 on Steam versus $ 2.50 on gray market pages. Dying Light and Skyrim are priced at $ 39.99 versus $ 6.

These gray market entries are generally lower than the best prices ever on Steam, with the only exception of Skyrim, which was previously on sale for $ 5.

MGS V was as low as $ 5 on big sales, but that’s still double the current gray market price, while Dying Light was only $ 13.59 and BioShock Infinite during Steam’s epic sales on 7 . $ 49 fell.

Such huge savings are a breeze when you are low on cash. For older games, you can often buy the base installation with all of the DLC through a gray market page for significantly less than just the base game at an official store. You don’t have to monitor websites like that Wait for a huge discount and you will often pay less on gray market pages even when there is a great sale.

To buy or not to buy, that is the question

Do you get the game key you buy on a gray market page? Almost certainly – and you will likely pay a lot less if this game isn’t currently available through official stores. Are you helping developers less by ordering from sites like G2A? Sometimes.

If the key you bought was originally bought by someone through an official channel and resold on a gray market page, the developer cut the first sale.

As Lars Doucet said, “To be very clear, I don’t really mind third party key resellers who don’t deal in stolen goods. If they’re just taking advantage of arbitrage, I got paid for that first sale and a key can only be redeemed once anyway, so I don’t really care. But fraud, theft, and chargebacks are important to me. “

The real problem is that stolen or fraudulently purchased keys are being sold through gray market sites, although G2A has historically determined that “only one percent of transactions are problematic” and gray market sites have taken steps to find dodgy keys to eliminate.

Will a game developer fill up because you ordered from a key site with a gray market? Would you have paid them full price anyway? Gray market pages may not be perfect, but they are a cheaper option if you can’t save the asking price for a game on Steam or other digital stores.

Masthead credit: Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock

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