Let’s Talk About Key Resellers

This is a new series of articles that I will be occasionally writing. Lets Talk About is currently a working title.

For ethical reasons I will not list any unauthorised resellers in this article.

Many gamers whether they are hardcore or casual will know what Steam is. Steam is the magical oasis of cheap games twice a year and occasionally every few weekends. Steam will be a subject of one of these posts in the future so I will end discussion of it at that.

Not all gamers know what a Steam key is so I will describe it for you now. A Steam key or more accurately a CD key is a relic of what PC gaming DRM was. In the past few years CD keys have adapted into a way for developers and publishers to sell a game license to a customer that can be redeemed in a download client such as Steam or Origin. They are usually a 16 – 24 digit string of alphanumerical characters.

These days as a lot of PC gamers buy directly from Steam as they either don’t care about or they aren’t aware of CD key resellers. A reseller is “a company that buys products from manufacturers and sells them to customers” (Cambridge Dictionary 2014) this is the Cambridge Dictionary definition of the word. I like this definition for three reasons.

It describes exactly what a reseller is.
It describes what a reseller should be.
It is a simple and easy to understand definition.

As you can probably understand from that definition of the word a reseller must abide by these rules; the goods must be purchased from the manufacturer, the goods must be sold directly to the consumer. This is easy to understand as a consumer. When you pop into Argos or John Lewis and buy a toaster from Philips you know that the only middle man between you and Philips was the shop you bought it from.

When buying a new product at retail you will almost always find two types of shop. A reseller or a direct seller, A good example of a direct seller would be The Lego Store, they are part of the Lego Group and are operated as a way to directly sell to the consumer without the need for another company. This differs immensely from the way that digital goods (games in particular) are sold.

There are several ways to purchase a digital game on PC. You can buy directly from the developer or publishers store (direct sale) you can purchase the game from a digital distributor such as Steam (reseller) or you can buy from what we gamers and industry enthusiasts know as unauthorised resellers. An unauthorised reseller is a company that has illegitimately or illegally acquired CD keys for games. They usually sell these for a significant discount compared to legitimate resellers.

In the UK (and many other EU countries) you are not the legal owner of stolen goods that you have purchased. “if you buy stolen goods, the general rule is that you are not the legal owner.” (Citizens Advice Bureau 2014) This rule has come to apply to digital goods as well. In order to fight against these unauthorised CD key resellers and to protect their brand and revenue developers and publishers now have the tools to revoke these CD keys so that they cannot be redeemed on Steam or similar clients. They also have the right to revoke these keys after they have been redeemed, meaning that if you have purchased a game from one of these sites they have the legal right to take the game away from your account.

To protect your self from these malicious companies that illegally sell stolen or unauthorised keys you should only ever buy from trusted and licensed resellers. Not all resellers tell you if they are licensed to sell the CD key for the game but a good way to check is to get in touch with them or the developer using social media or to research the developer’s website for sales partners. A good rule to follow when you are unsure if a company is licensed to sell a specific game is to check if they are licensed to sell another game from that developer or publisher.

To keep our beloved games industry (especially the PC gaming part) you should only ever buy games from legitimate CD key resellers, retailers and directly from the developer if that option is available to you.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this article, all criticism and praise is welcome in the notes or you can contact me on twitter @Mojomancer

I will provide a list below of all known, trusted and legitimate CD key resellers to save you the trouble of having to research every time you buy a game.

The following are all legitimate resellers that can be trusted with some relevant information about each of them.

  • BundleStars (Owned by Focus Home Interactive.)
  • Chrono.gg (One game on sale per day with discount.)
  • Humble Bundle (Pay what you want video game bundles.)
  • GamersGate (Owned by Paradox Entertainment.)
  • GOG (Owned by CD Projekt / All DRM free.)
  • GreenManGaming (UK based company, frequent discounts.)
  • Origin (EA’s digital distribution platform.)
  • Steam (Largest digital distributor of games.)


References in order of appearance:

Cambridge University Press. (2014). English definition of “reseller” . Available: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/business-english/reseller. Last accessed 11th November 2014.

Citizens Advice Bureau. (2014). Stolen goods. Available: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/nireland/consumer_ni/consumer_common_problems_with_products_e/consumer_lost_found_and_uncollected_goods_e/stolen_goods.htm. Last accessed 11th November 2014.

Note: I no longer wish to update this article, my opinion on this matter has changed slightly however I believe that the information in this post is still relevant to some people. (The list of confirmed authorised key-sellers for example). List has been updated to remove storefronts that no longer exist and to add newer and more relevant ones.

About Mojomancer 37 Articles
Site Administrator
I write reviews and critique the games industry. I cover a variety of topics including business models, game mechanics and user interface design.


  1. You wrote this in 2014 long before all the big YouTubers and blogs touched on it, I though it was a recent problem but I guess it has gotten out of hand over the last two years.

    • It has gotten way out of hand recently, but this article doesn’t really address ways to fix it or why it is hurtful, it was really just to inform people that they need to be careful when buying keys from illegal key sites. I may write a new article to address the issues that have come up recently.

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