CS Keys and GMG: Whats the downside?

So im going over my wishlist for upcoming games over the next 6 months and its looking pretty costly!

I see lots of chatter here about GMG and CD Keys. I have read many of the posts and no-one seems to ever have any issues getting keys etc.

There doesn’t seem to be a downside to saving roughly $20 CAD a game.

So what am I missing here. Why are we all not doing this? :)

I have 3 main concerns.

  1. Am I taking $ away from the developer? A lot of the time I jump in full price is to support the games I love, so they make more of them.
  2. Am I messing up future DLC purchases?
  3. How do returns work? Has anyone tried it?

Any help here would be greatly appreciated.

I buy most of my games through Greenman. They seem to be pretty legit and I have never had a problem with them. I guess they are kind of gray market, thought. I have bought maybe five or six games from cdkeys.com with no problems at all either. The main difference is that cdkeys sends me a picture of the key which looks like it was taken from a box or some kind of insert. It makes me wonder where they are getting these keys and they seem a bit more gray than GMG. I only buy games from them that I’d be willing to lose if the key were invalid for some reason (which has not happened to me).

Your questions:

1: I don’t really know. I’d say in the case of cdkeys I have no idea where they came from. I assume the dev got paid somewhere along the line but I don’t really know.

2: I don’t think so. Once you’ve registered a game through Steam you own that game. It shouldn’t matter at all where it came from for purposes of DLC.

3: Haven’t tried it but I’d be surprised if they allow returns.

I mean, yeah, of course you are to some degree, right? Those keys were sold somewhere for less than CDKeys or whoever paid for them. So when you’re getting them cheaper than you otherwise would, the dev is getting less. The question is: Would you have bought the game for a higher price if GMG or CDK hadn’t had such a low price? If not, then maybe you’ve helped the dev with a few pennies he wouldn’t otherwise have.

Personally, I don’t patronize organizations that look shady to me, so I don’t use either of these sites. At the end of the day, they’re probably basically legitimate, but if it doesn’t look like the developer has enough control over the prices or whether to be on that platform in the first place, then I’m not putting my dollars there. I would bet devs get a worse cut of the profits on all these discount platforms. They seem to be somehow exploiting international sales.

Admittedly, Green Man Gaming is a little more above board than other sites; they show the source of their keys when it’s not the dev/publisher themselves. But all they say is “Authorized Dealer,” which doesn’t mean a whole lot.

About four or five months ago I decided to give CDKeys a try. I’d bought but sold back the ps4 version of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, but wanted to have it on PC for keepsies.

They sent me a key for the game and a piece of DLC that was included.

The DLC was fine when I registered it to my Uplay account.

The code for the game proper didn’t take at all.

So I contacted UBI support first. Over online chat a rep told me that my code wasn’t good for the United States, that I was trying to use a region-locked code. Uh oh!

I contacted CDKeys about this. Sent them the screenshots of my online conversation with the UBI rep.

A week went by.

CDKeys just left my ticket open.

So I contacted them a few more times. Each time ended with a canned response that they were investigating my claim.

So I went back to UBI. This time a much more helpful rep gave me the real lowdown: the key I was trying to redeem wasn’t a game key at all. It was not in their computers as existing as a key for anything. He verified that for me.

So…back to CDKeys. They said they’d investigate that.

I contacted them back and told them what I believed had happened: CDKeys doesn’t send you a little smudgy scan of the actual game key from a box. They actually transcribe the numbers. And, whomever transcribed them for my key very likely mis-typed or transposed a letter or set of numbers. But hey! Should be easy to figure out, I told them. Find the game code that’s paired with my working DLC key (which I gave them) and you’ll see the CD key that likely got transposed.

Yes, thank you, said CDKeys. Then nothing two weeks went by.

So, I initiated a claim with Paypal. The first part of that claim is just paypal telling the merchant there’s a dispute. It’s all friendly like, all “Hey send him his stuff.”


So, I escalated my claim to a reversal of payment. I also started bombing their Facebook and Twitter feeds with nagging them about my transaction

And then, THEN I finally got a non-canned response from CDKeys. They apologized for the problem, and returned my payment in full.

Lesson learned.

Never again.

That sucks, but on the other hand (and not to devalue your experience) i’ve bought about 5 games from them and everything has been fine. They are also frequently faster at delivering keys during pre-load periods than GMG.

GMG is just a normal reseller so their sales (while better than steam who rarely tries anymore) are worse than cdkeys.

I don’t have any sympathy for Publishers/Devs when it comes to people shopping around to get the lowest price. They do the exact same thing to us and digital sales have allowed it to be even easier for them. Sometimes when you try too much to max out your gains, you go overboard and cause losses.

I don’t have any sympathy for Publishers/Devs when it comes to people shopping around to get the lowest price.

Funny, I didn’t think “shopping around” meant “knowingly or recklessly purchasing out-of-region CD keys in violation of two separate end user license agreements.” I don’t have any sympathy with people who get banned using these keys.

They do the exact same thing to us and digital sales have allowed it to be even easier for them.

Holy false equivalency. Last time I checked, publishers can choose to sell to whomever they want, and segregate prices by region if they want to, because they made the game. Attaching certain conditions to sale is entirely their prerogative. Doing “the same thing to us” would be forcing us to sell our product to them at the same price in every region.

How someone can play and enjoy developers’ hard work and yet advocate this flagrant disrespect for their contractual and intellectual property rights saddens me.

Thanks guys. Lots to think about for sure.

Our exchange rate here is terrible, so games like CIV 6 are 79.99 Canadian. Perhaps ill give it a try and see how I like it.

If GMG is a problem for publishers they can just refuse to honor/sell keys on the service. There’s a reason those keys are there.

I always assume it’s because GMG takes lower profit margins.

Murbella – I’m sorry but I can’t untangle your logic. If customers find ways to get products without their developers getting fair payment for them, it’s because developers are always looking for their own ways to gouge players?

Alstein – Actually, CD Projekt and Ubisoft in the past have refused to sell on GMG, and then GMG has gone to other key sellers to get their keys for those games. So apparently you can’t just say “No, I don’t want to be on GMG” exactly.

I got tired of waiting for a Xcom 2 sale and bought the game via CDKeys yesterday. Processed the purchase as a guest, they sent me an email with a link, clicked it, new webpage wanted a phone # or SMS, my phone rang with a verification code, plugged that in and a new page loaded with the actual license key that worked fine with Steam.

I couldn’t image if any of that went south though.

Why on earth would they need SMS verification on a guest checkout purchase? That in itself is highly suspect. Are they trying to confirm working phone numbers to sell them to third parties? The only need for SMS verification is if you have an established account.

Unless you have proof that GMG or Cd keys are actively stealing keys from the developers, i’d say they got their fair pay.

What i have issue with is developers/publishers having special offers/prices and then complaining when someone resells them. As gamers we already have to deal with a boatload of region related problems that has only become worse with the popularization of digital distribution. The bar has shifted too far in the direction of the publisher/developer when it comes to control of purchased video games.

The games aren’t purchased, they’re licensed (which is what distinguishes this from the first-sale doctrine, which generally permits people who own copyrighted goods to sell them wherever they want). This is why you can’t turn around and sell MP3’s you download from Amazon, even though you could turn around and sell a toaster you got from them in the mail. Maybe you don’t like the terms of the license, but (a) no one is forcing you to accept them and (b) it’s obvious by buying from these sites, you are violating those terms and, at least in the US, the law. You claim the developers are getting their “fair pay” only because you are benefiting from this arrangement, which is disturbing.

I used GMG once and it was fine (other than that “where’s my key?” stress right before the games release). My problem is the one time I used them, it was a game I would have returned otherwise. Still, I really don’t want to pay $60 for Civ VI, so I might use them again.

GMG is legit. There was some furor over grey-market keys last year, but they shut that down by removing those vendors.

Other sites like CDkeys, G2A, and Kinguin are buyer-beware. They are all grey-market keys at best, from different regions. Many are re-sold keys bundled with hardware, or even free keys given for review purposes being resold. That said, I’ve never had a problem purchasing from Kinguin-- you pay the extra buck for buyer protection and if you run into any problems they will refund your money.

This has been looked into recently by myself and others (Rachel was of great assistance, as well).

Apparently, this is how it goes:
The publisher (or developer if it’s independent) give Steam the ability to create Steam keys for sale (normally a pre-determined amount, hence the rare message that they’re out of keys). When sold, these provide a certain return to the publisher.
Unless barred by agreement, Valve may also sell these Steam keys to other vendors. They will be sold for more than whatever needs to be returned to the publisher, of course. And those are in turn sold but slightly more than that so the new vendor gets some profit from the effort. These can then be resold to the end user, or again passed along to yet another vendor (and so on and so on).

Issues may arise at any step along that process, and the more steps involved the more risky it is for the consumer. However, a sold key is a sold key, and the publisher gets money for it (barring refunds).

I have not yet had an issue with GMG, but I have used them only sparingly (maybe five purchases? I think that’s about right). I’ve heard too many horror stories to trust a purchase through CD Keys (not that they’re bad, just that there seem to be more sources from which they get their keys than GMG, creating more potential points of failure). When it comes to GMG, I have not received keys in time for any kind of pre-load, but I honestly couldn’t care less about that.

I’ve bought ~15 games from Kinguin and cdkeys combined - 0 issues so far knocks on wood. Once I requested a refund (for AC: Unity, which got terrible reviews) and got my money back within 10 minutes of opening a support ticket (that was on Kinguin).

Two good articles on how these marketplaces operate:

Indie developer Paul Kilduff-Taylor (Mode7 – Frozen Synapse guy) on Gamasutra – I think this was posted in another thread in the past?

Polygon investigative piece

I have 59 purchases from GMG and 11 from Kinguin. Never had an issue from any of them.

Out of my 673 games on steam, steam still gets most of my buys.

I see no problems with my purchasing history. I spread my money around as I see fit and I don’t do piracy. Personally I don’t think anything more can be asked.

Only in the video games industry are customers expected to think of the seller/maker before themselves.

No, i’m not happy with the way video games are going, with less and less rights given to customers. And no, i don’t give a damn about honoring an EULA beyond what i’m absolutely required to do by the law.

I generally try to do right by developers (from my point of view), but i do not see buying a resold key as immoral or illegal. Things would be different if both parties could still use the key (ie if you share a mp3 with all of your buddies), but in this case we’re talking about a single use key.