In my explorations through the dark backwaters of the Google web I’ve stumbled across these websites that offer games at a dramatically-reduced price.
Here are some example websites so you know what I’m talking about:
- CD Keys and Steam Keys Price Comparison, Save Money !
- Instant-Gaming.com - Your favorites PC/MAC games up to 70% off! Digital games, Instant Delivery, 24/7!
I do not support or condone these sites, and I believe in rewarding developers fairly for their hard work; I’m not trying to advertise these people, I’m just intrigued by it. What do you think, have you tried it? Or is this a clever scam or something? Or is this morally objectionable and pretty much just plain old piracy? Let me know what you think.
This topic is actually a little more complex than the brief summary above. I wrote this additional info to further explore the issue, but I guess it’s optional reading if you’re uninterested in the deeper machinations of this mysterious phenomenon:
So: the idea is that you buy a “worldwide unlocked” steam key from these nefarious websites (with PayPal or a range of payment options), and then they email you the key, and then you enter it into steam and hey presto, you suddenly have your fresh copy of Fallout 4 for $25 instead of the RRP of $99.95.
I do not support or condone these sites, and definitely I believe in rewarding developers fairly for their hard work; I’m not trying to advertise these site, I’m just intrigued by it. What do you think, have you tried it? Or is this a clever scam or something? Or is this morally objectionable and pretty much just plain old piracy?
The answer is not clear. I believe these websites work like this: in some countries (like perhaps Russia or Indonesia or China) Steams charges much less for games due to the different economy/relative currency value. So it’s like buying a (legitimate) copy of a game cheaply while on a holiday to China, and then using it when you return home. It may seem like piracy, but on the other hand, is it really fair that these companies are charging differing prices for their products depending on the country?
I know this is a big problem in my country (Australia) where software and hardware is given a huge (often 200%) mark-up for no apparent reason, other than the fact that they know they can get away with it; there’s no competition and the companies simply “guess” a price based on how much the maximum amount a person (from that country) will be willing to spend on the product. Is this fair? Should “wealthier” nations pay more? (Even though there’s obviously huge variation in wealth of individuals within those countries).
GOG has actually tried to address this problem (gosh, I kind of love GOG, always leading the way with fair business practices). I believe they now have incorporated a system to compensate people who get screwed over by this region price-hiking nonsense. Australia Included In GOG's Regional Pricing For Games From 'Fantastic Bigger Studios' | Kotaku Australia
Also take note: this whole bunch of websites might simply be a clever trap for silly westerners run from a nigerian/russian mafia internet cafe. If you try to buy one of these “steam keys” it might never arrive, or perhaps they’re using software to generate fake ones, or hacking them from steam’s servers… or perhaps they just take the money and run. I don’t know, so I’m not recommending that you necessarily give these people your credit card info.