There was an interesting little moment this week which once again sparked the debate over grey market CD key retailers such as G2A. Mike Rose, head of the publisher No More Robots, noted on Twitter that searching for one of his titles (Descenders) brought up sponsored ads for the G2A version of the game

To put this into context - adverts for G2A copies of Descenders were appearing above the links for legitimate copies. Just to make matters worse, when he tried to turn the odds off the setting appeared to be permanently locked on.

Now, you may be wondering why any of this means anything. I mean, a sale’s a sale, right? Well, Rose claims he makes zero money from a sale through G2A, even going so far as to recommend users pirate the games instead. “Please, if you’re going to buy a game from G2A, just pirate it instead! Genuinely!” said Rose. “Devs don’t see a penny either way, so we’d much rather G2A didn’t see money either”

The issue isn’t specifically related to G2A.com but they’re certainly one of the biggest grey market retailers in the business, and so generate much of the attention. The problem with some grey market retailers is that not only is there potentially zero money going to the devs and publishers themselves for their game sales, but that the entire farce can actually end up costing the devs money and reputation.

As an example, credit card details are often stolen, used to purchase legitimate keys, and then these are resold on the grey market. The perpetrator gets some quick cash, banks the profit to a completely different account, and then they’re outta there. Meanwhile, you’ve got folks angry that their credit card details have been stolen and used illegally, rightly demanding their money back from the banks, who then in turn level chargebacks (that cost the devs money) for the games purchased, and the stolen keys potentially being revoked (causing more angry customers to pile their upset onto the dev).

And the grey market retailer just sits there as an independent middleman, scoops up its percentage of a sale for using its services from the dodgy dealings and can wash its hands of any of the illegality.

For those reasons, it’s pretty evident to see why Rose would rather fans pirate the games than purchasing them from a grey market retailer. After all, if your hard-earned money is only going to line the likes of G2A or a criminal’s pockets, rather than the developers who actually created the game, why bother at all? It’s what’s ultimately led to Ubisoft moving to keyless sales, a trend which we expect to gather pace going forward. 

The obvious counterpoint to all of this is that sites such as Kinguin and G2A offer up cheap keys. If you want a PC game, they’re often the cheapest sites you can visit. As a grey market, it is pseudo-legitimate ownership linked to your account, albeit at risk of being revoked. Quite simply, good deals are difficult to resist. Those shopping for the best buys will inevitably end up on sites such as G2A once in a while.

So then, I think we can probably all agree that stealing credit cards and using them to buy games is a bad thing. But, has this prevented you from using grey market key resellers, or you still just hunt for the cheapest bargain? Secondly, can you even tell whether a site is a legitimate retailer or not, or should this be more obvious? Let us know your thoughts below!

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"I buy from GOG, Steam, or Amazon, in that order. If I find a good deal at the local Best Buy, Target, or heave forbid Walmart I might pick up a box copy."