Up For Debate - Grey Market CD Key Reselling

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Nov 21, 2015 4:00 PM

Established digital distributor GreenManGaming sparked a bit of a storm this week following a disagreement with subreddit /GameDeals. The Reddit group, which is focused on digital sales tracking, had banned users from sharing GreenManGaming deals because it alleged that GreenManGaming was using unauthorised CD keys.

The stickler for GreenManGaming is, they make a pretty big deal about being an official partner to plenty of game publishers. Scroll on down to the bottom of the site and you can see the likes of Bethesda, Warner Bros, and Valve listed as official retail partners. This means they claim they get their supply of key codes from official supply chains, namely the publishers, and then sell them on.

Earlier this week, a moderator for the /GameDeals subreddit wrote "It has now come to our attention that GreenManGaming's library of unauthorized game sales has expanded, or this library has just now come to light. You may have noticed recently some 'too good to be true' deals on GreenManGaming.

"We received a few modmails/emails on the subject so we investigated. From what we have been told by the publishers, GreenManGaming is not authorized to sell Activision or Ubisoft titles, as well as CDProjektRED's The Witcher 3."

We know about the last one already, because GMG had a bit of a public falling out with CD Projekt RED, who outright said during The Witcher 3’s launch not to buy from GMG because it didn't know the origin of its keys. 

Defending the claims from /GameDeals, GMG said "Let’s be clear here; there is a difference between being an authorised retailer for some titles, and being a retailer selling keys that have been sourced responsibly through authorised third parties with revenue going back to the publisher. If a key unlocks, it is an authentic key. This isn’t a perfect science as human error can affect the supply chain. Where possible, we work directly with publishers and distributors to make sure customers have the very best experience with us."

The first thing that needs to be highlighted is where these keys come from. The reselling of game codes is a notoriously murky market, but ultimately the key codes are generated by the publishers themselves. They then find their way onto the market. They are typically sold in bulk to different stores like Uplay, GOG, Humble and GMG, as well as to different territories. But equally they could be obtained from cheap bundles. Or gifted from cheaper territories. Or ripped out of cheap boxed copies. These are all valid enough ways to obtain a game, and the publisher's ultimately being compensated in the end. 

Take Star Wars Battlefront as an example. Here in the UK it costs us £50 to buy it from the Origin Store. It costs $40 on Origin Mexico however, equivalent to just £26, almost half the price. Fair enough, that’s the way things work.

EA’s marketing team however, will probably be tasked with shifting a set amount of keys in each territory. Eventually this could result in them selling cheap stock in bulk to a Mexican store. Then if another store were to be in contact with the recipient, they could buy the keys for a drastically discounted price, and then offer a knock-on cheaper price here in the UK than EA itself is offering on Origin. The keys are still being bought from EA and sold to the customer, but the stores are circumventing territory pricing restrictions to deliver better deals.

Now GMG, up until now, wouldn’t divulge where its keys were coming from. It said it had hundreds of partners and contracts which it cannot divulge for legal reasons. GMG’s argument is that if the game codes work, they are legit and they have come from the publisher, even if in a roundabout way. It’s since changed how it operates and now tells you where the keys have come from and when they will arrive.

This is just a small slice of the so called ‘grey market’, and GreenManGaming is still a trusted source for game keys, for me personally, among an ocean of shadier sellers. I think we’ve all found our way onto dodgy key sites at one time or another, with deals that look too good to be true. Most of the time you get the key and it works, and you don’t even think where it came from.

There’s plenty of reports that stolen credit cards are used to buy legit game codes at full price, before being sold on at a major discount. We saw this earlier this when Ubisoft revoked access to Far Cry 4 for some users who’d redeemed codes obtained via Origin. Ubisoft said they were bought using stolen credit cards, but has since reinstated the game to users’ libraries.  

When sites like G2A and Kinguin offer paid buyer protection policies in case the keys they sell don’t work, you can’t help but raise an eyebrow to where they came from. If even they themselves are not 100% sure the codes will work, why would you feel safe buying it?

The CD key grey market is a murky one then, so where do you stand? Are you well within your rights to search out for the cheapest deal available? Or is it wrong to buy game codes from unverified sources?

Are you bothered where a game key came from?

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17:49 Nov-25-2015

Is there a list anywhere of definitely trusted sellers? As in a list of retailers who have officially been given the green light to sell keys? That'd be really useful.

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18:57 Nov-25-2015

allkeyshop.com has the most reliable sites sorted by price, but there is never a 100% guarntee that you will NOT get ripped off, but you can always get your money back, through the sites or through your back(or paypal if you have an acc).

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16:27 Nov-23-2015

My buddies have a VG podcast and they're part of an affiliate referral program with cdkeys [dot com]. I might as well help out my friends and get a (1/2)

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16:29 Nov-23-2015

better deal at the same time. The only issue is that I won't be able to get the refund on Arkham Knight. Oh well. I got it for only $30 anyways. haha (2/2)

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07:12 Nov-23-2015

hmmm i can get Star Wars Battlefront for 3499 pkr which is = 33.17 usd lol wow thats good

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09:19 Nov-25-2015

Damn, that currency difference :D

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06:56 Nov-23-2015

Fallout is R800 on Steam add another R400 for DLC, that's more then half of what i take home after paying for college/medical aid etc. If i buy retail its R565. Where is the sense in that?

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01:51 Nov-23-2015

With steam and origin charging 59,99€ for a game, is just absurd. I only buy from steam during sales, otherwise I spend my money on other cheap resellers.

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16:38 Nov-22-2015

I buy from G2play regularly, because I find that games on pc should be less expensive, if i'd wanted expensive games, I'd get a console.

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14:43 Nov-22-2015

In our country new games are available very cheap mgsv tpp for just 15$

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15:44 Nov-22-2015

Yeah, because in India 15$ isn't considered cheap. I suppose Indian key resellers make tons of profit from selling in Europe and NA.

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12:28 Nov-22-2015
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15:53 Nov-22-2015

Is this legit ? 'Cuz I saw a game for free "Knight Shift"...I had the original game on a CD but now the CD is broken...it's not a fantastic game, but I liked it when I was little :))

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19:09 Nov-22-2015

Epicbundle site is quite legit, it's more like game deal tracker. I used it quite often since my country blocked reddit site :\

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11:05 Nov-22-2015

If anything, this is a message of warning to publishers to stop putting prices so big on titles. People are sick of paying 60€ for a buggy, incomplete mess that is bound to be followed up by DLC. People would be happy to pay full price for the game if publishers actually delivered what they promised.

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11:43 Nov-22-2015

This indeed is a issue that has at least impacted my way of buying games.

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10:52 Nov-22-2015

The only "issue" I've ever had with unofficial sellers was when I bought the GTA V Preorder key for Steam and a few days before the launch I received a message that the key would not be possible to activate on Steam due to Rockstar changing something (I forgot what it was exactly), and they offered me a refund or a key for Rockstar's official site to download the game. I chose the key and it activated without problems. Every other purchase from such sellers went smoothly. That's why I have no intention of paying too expensive prices on Steam & Origin.

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10:52 Nov-22-2015

The only reason why I wouldn't ever buy a CD Key, is because if I already spend money on a game, I'd like to have a physical copy of it. It just feels really really good, to open it and see the contents, that scent of fresh printed game-manuals, that CD and plastic smell. It's awesome. :D

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08:31 Nov-22-2015

I will do everyting for ubisoft, if you get the nudge xD

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03:25 Nov-22-2015

G2a is love, G2a is life

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09:51 Nov-22-2015

Indeed it is :D

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11:38 Nov-22-2015

Once bought Shadow of Mordor on G2a. Key didn't work. Over a month and a PayPal dispute later and I finally got a refund, and that was with buyer protection. There's shady and then there's SHADY, and G2a is a grove of palm trees, friend.

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11:53 Nov-22-2015

well you should check if the key was out of stock. If so you had to write to them.

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14:10 Nov-22-2015

That's what I don't like about G2A, you shouldn't have to buy "protection".

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00:45 Nov-22-2015

It really depends... I aim for the cheapest but also for the most trustworthy deal. I haven't bought game from steam in ages... I use humble bundle deals and G2A, which has been quite useful with only few problems(key revoking...), but in time you'll know what deals are good and what are bad when you get hang of it.

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22:45 Nov-21-2015

Personaly,I don't think I would from GMG by myself.I only bought The elder scrolls Online when GD said there was a deal,and i trust GD.But I do buy from sources other than Steam,it can sometimes be just too expensive.

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22:55 Nov-21-2015

Meh, don't even bother with GMG. There are far better and cheaper places to buy than there. Their prices are like 2 euro less than on steam -.-.... useless.

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09:45 Nov-22-2015

Yeah,they're not among my first choices,but TES:O was a great deal for 75% off.Take the oppoortunuty when you have it. :)

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21:58 Nov-21-2015

I used to buy things on steam, but then everything became expensive in Canada, so I decided to buy keys from different marketplaces.

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21:54 Nov-21-2015

Okay, for users who prefer to buy from Steam but can't due to high price there is a simple trick i use. The game price differ with regions so choose some other country. I use VPN not on this Pc but the one from which i buy and it helps.

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21:56 Nov-21-2015

I usually use regions like South Africa and India which are cheap than most European and American countries. Witcher is like $18 without any discount and i bought it for $12, Shadow of Mordor got it for $5

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22:45 Nov-21-2015

Curious how that works, you do it on the web or direct on the steam app?

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00:30 Nov-22-2015

I do it on the steam client. When a new location is detected, you will have the option to change currency in your wallet, make sure to use all available funds before you add funds in another currency

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00:35 Nov-22-2015

That can you (temporarily) banned from Steam though. In case you wonder why services like G2a/Kinguin can offer such low prices; They do exactly the same.


Altough the risk then lies with G2a/Kinguin, and in the worst case your Steam key won't work, but your account is perfectly safe.


I actually got a warning form Steam when i came back from a Winter Holiday in Austria. Since i purchased two games their.


Now Austria shouldn't be in a "lower price zone" then the Netherlands but that's a different discussion :P

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00:44 Nov-22-2015

I had no problem so far, no warning, just an confirmation e-mail. Also i never set my currency back to dollars (no use in it). If you are so worried create one for each currency, buy the game as a gift and gift it to your main account.

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20:38 Nov-21-2015

I always buy from Steam. I had disc versions that I eventually bought on steam because the games are always there and they run with no problems and I don't have to worry about broken disc wearing out my bluray drive etc.

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20:34 Nov-21-2015

never tried gmg.the only places where i buy games from(other than origin,steam etc)are g2a and kinguin.never disappointed but i still get the shield,just in case

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20:06 Nov-21-2015

all of my friends use g2a and never have a problem but evey time i have used it i get issue, tried to buy gta 5 off of it and it took my money and never sent a key. Took a week to get my money back. Bought guild wars 2 and got an invalid code. Took a few days for someone to respond saying "sorry, sent the wrong code" and a few more stories. Ill just stick to steam origin, uplay, an amazon from now on

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08:01 Nov-22-2015

use cdkeyhouse.com remeber that they have a tax for some games. If it says 22 EU u need to pay smth like 23,24 etc but it is a lot cheaper than steam and gives your cdkey immediatly if they have the game in stock.

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