Ever since the online gaming community exploded thanks to platforms such as Steam, Origin and Blizzard, online gamer’s have been doing their best to try and seek out the cheapest and easiest means of purchasing the latest games available. Up until recently, if you were looking to purchase the latest release at a cheap price you’d have to wait for one of the above platforms to slash the cost in some promotional stunt.
However, since it’s launch back in 2013 we have quickly seen the rise of Kinguin marketplace which now boasts an impressive 4 million strong customer base Worldwide. For those that aren’t aware of what Kinguin provides as a service, in a nutshell, they offer a platform where sellers and buyers come together to trade game keys at cheap, affordable prices.
For example’s sake, Windows 10 is currently retailing on Amazon for roughly $88 whereas Kinguin currently offers the Windows 10 product key for a mere $26… I imagine that has got your attention. This being said, there is much speculation surrounding Kinguin and their product key legitimacy levels thanks to a publication that stated many of their game keys were purchased by hackers using stolen credit cards.
Before we go any further though, let’s have a look at exactly how Kinguin works from a buyers point of view.
I’m sure everyone has been there, a new game is released but you just haven’t got the spare cash to go out and buy it there and then. Well, it’s your lucky day, at Kinguin you can find all the latest AAA game titles at a fraction of the price thanks to the abundance of sellers currently using the marketplace to trade from. Whether it’s PubG or the latest Rage 2 code you’re after, Kinguin will surely offer a solution at a reasonable price.
It’s not just games that are being traded on Kinguin either, Windows 10, Office suite, Anti-virus software and other software options can all be purchased with a minimum of fuss. So, how do I get started?
Well, Kinguin has made that simple as well. You simply go to their website, type in the product you’re looking to acquire, say, Rage 2 for example. Click on the product to bring up an inventory of sellers and then click buy now. It’s that simple.
Once at the checkout you will be prompted to purchase Kinguin’s Buyers Protection, we’ll touch upon this shortly, after which you finalize the payment to complete the transaction.
After payment has been made you will be emailed your product key, along with some promotional rubbish which will surely have no impact on your life, which symbolizes the completion of your trade. Excellent.
Naturally, however, some of the more suspicious customers out there will probably be asking themselves whether or not Kinguin is safe? This is where things start to get a little bit more interesting…
It’s the million dollar question when something seems too good to be true, is this product legit!? Well, Kinguin has tried to address this issue by offering customers their, “superb”, Buyers Protection program which offers a complete money back guarantee if the product key doesn’t work. Ultimately saying, even if we’re not legit, you will still be covered.
However, as ‘good’ as this sounds, a plethora of forum discussions have been brought to light where different consumers have paid for product keys which are already in use or don’t work at all. In these scenarios, Kinguin has been less than sympathetic when addressing the situation giving both their customer service and buyers protection a little less credibility.
Furthermore, what does a buyers protection program actually say about your business? To me, in a business that relies heavily on trust, a buyers protection program basically decreases the overall credibility of your company. It’s effectively saying, we know there’s a high chance of you getting scammed so why not take out our protection insurance as a fallback. It’s not the kind of environment where individuals enjoy exchanging personal details. Especially with the news of hackers and fraudulent activity hanging over you.
So, where do these keys come from?
Before we discuss where Kinguin actually source their product keys from, we need to address the elephant in the room. The fraudulent activity that was in the headlines not so long ago.
So the story goes: Electronic Art’s Origin, a service similar to Steam and Blizzard, was used to purchase a considerable amount of game codes which were then moved onto Kinguin’s marketplace for further trading. All the codes were sold and all was well… or so it seemed.
Weeks later news had surfaced that the codes purchased on EA Origin then sold on Kinguin were originally sourced using stolen credit cards. Hackers were able to accumulate a number of stolen credit cards which they used to fund the purchase of the game keys.
After Ubisoft got wind of this they physically revoked the game keys rendering them completely useless and leaving thousands of innocent consumers with faulty goods. Kinguin came out saying that over 4,600 customers were affected in this scandal giving their credibility a real beating.
Since then Kinguin hasn’t really made a conscious effort to let the consuming public know they are actively working to deter this kind of activity on their site which feels extremely irresponsible.
When you buy a game key or product code from Kinguin you are literally buying off somebody who could be living anywhere, who’s gone through no real background check to make sure they are legit as a seller. In their buyer’s protection program they actually print – “By disabling it the customer takes the full responsibility for any potential issues.” This only adds to the dubious nature of the site.
All being said, the marketplace is open to all kinds of sellers so I presume a lot of what’s being traded on there is actually legitimate. Think about businesses that get discounted pre-release copies of games, people who no longer play a game due to completion or boredom, and regular trade deals. The ratio of legit/shady products on that site is yet to be measured so be aware if you are considering using their service.
If you’ve come this far, you’re probably wondering what would happen if you were to purchase a faulty product key and it didn’t work? Well, that all depends on the scenario and whether or not you decided to purchase the Buyers Protection Program.
With Buyers Protection Program
Kinguin says the safest way to use their service is in conjunction with their BPP (Buyers Protection Program) which offers a safety net if anything is to go wrong between yourself and the seller. Similar to what eBay and other services provide.
So, in the scenario where a consumer buys both a faulty key and Kinguin’s BPP, the consumer makes Kinguin aware of the situation and they, in turn, do an investigation after which a refund or new code is awarded. In real-world situations, this isn’t always the case as many will vouch for, but the idea is there.
Without Buyers Protection Program
As stated above, Kinguin print in their service guidelines that if you decide not to take out their BPP then any and all issues with purchases falls on you, the consumer. Nice!
For me, this all adds to the scammyness of the site. There are cases where BPP has not been purchased and after repeated customer service tickets were filed Kinguin did look into the issue, but I wouldn’t be hanging my hat on that happening every time.
So, what does that tell us as a consumer? It basically tells us that Kinguin is happy for you to purchase off dodgy sellers, then do absolutely nothing to rectify it if you didn’t purchase their premium rate protection service.
Cost of Buyers Protection Program
The cost of the BPP is circumstantial to the product that you buying. For example, if you’re looking to buy Windows 10 from Kinguin then the BPP is going to higher than if you were buying a PubG product key, for example.
Usually, you’re looking at an extra $5-7 for software and $3-4 for games making it fairly good value for money if you do decide to purchase anything from the site.
It still brings into question the ethical and legitimate efforts they make to deter this sort of activity but it’s a start I suppose.
Finally, we get to the big question, should you actually buy from Kinguin.
It’s a tough question to answer really and one that asks a lot of questions of you as an individual. With everything we know, it seems like Kinguin is a bit of a lottery on whether the seller is going to be legit or not.
One question that needs to be asked is whether your happy funding a business that has unwillingly allowed the use of illegal selling methods such as hacking and other means due to poor quality control practices?
If the answer to that question is yes, then the second question that needs asking is whether or not you’re willing to take the risk of buying a product that could potentially be broken, used or revoked by the provider down the road.
If you’re nodding your head in a positive manner then you’re only a few clicks away from a tonne of game and software sellers who are waiting to provide you with a bargain.
We decided to dive in and use the Kinguin service to see what the experience is like from a buyer’s point of view.
We decided to buy Shadow of the tomb raider to see how easy or complicated the process was. After creating an account we promptly found the game using the site’s search bar and chose our desired seller.
Once we had selected a suitable seller we went directly to our cart and then the checkout. Upon checkout, Kinguin diverts you to the terms of service page which asks you to agree to a tonne of rubbish that can be skipped easily. We signed up to the newsletter so any updates come directly to us.
The next step was to confirm the purchase by adding bank card details and finalizing the sale. All pretty straight forward. Not 30 seconds after the sale had gone through, my email notification popup let me know I had a new email from Kinguin: it was my product key. Wasting no time, I jumped straight onto steam and followed the relevant steps required to activate the key which would then allow me to download the game. Everything went through perfectly for me: no slip-ups, no complications.
So having learned about Kinguin, we’re ultimately left with a picture of a service that has both pros and cons.
On the one hand, this is a service that didn’t have the correct safeguarding in place which ultimately led to thousands of disgruntled consumers who may or may not have been reimbursed. Not to mention the endless list of forum discussions and youtube videos discussing bad practices.
On the other, the usefulness it provides in letting you snag some of the best deals you’re ever likely to see on new games cannot be denied.
Ultimately, services such as Kinguin do hold a place within today’s gaming community and offer decent deals respectively. However, with the unanswered questions around the site’s legitimacy, we’re not going to know whether or not our money has been well spent until we’ve actually spent it.