If you saw a website offering heavily discounted activation keys for software, you’d be right to be suspicious. In this day and age it’s tricky to tell scams from legit businesses, and many people ask us whether it’s safe to buy games from G2A.com. So is G2A safe? Here’s what we know.
If you’re looking for other places to pick up PC games, you might also want to take a look at our round up of the best Steam alternatives out there.
Update 12 July 2016: G2A has just announced that it has added extra steps to prevent fraud. Sellers will now have to verify their social media details and phone numbers, and be limited to 10 transactions before having to provide extra verification. Its aim is to prevent dodgy sellers from scamming buyers with non-working game codes. G2A has been the subject of plenty of controversy – just check out the comments below this article – and seems to be working towards providing a better service for buyers.
How does G2A work?
G2A.com is a website that – like Gumtree or ebay – brings together buyers and sellers of grey-market game keys for PC games and activation codes for PSN and Xbox Live credit, as well as codes for other software.
To be clear, G2A itself does not sell these codes. It is purely a marketplace where people can sell game codes. What you do is buy your key, wait for it to be emailed to you, then head to the relevant platform: Ubisoft Uplay, Steam etc, log in and select the option to activate a game. You paste in your key and then download the game files from the platform’s servers: not G2A.
How, then, can the codes be so cheap, you ask. The answer lies in the fact that game prices vary from country to country, according to the average salaries. Sellers purchase activation codes in the cheapest regions with the aim of selling them to buyers in the most expensive. This makes them a profit, while gamers get to make a saving on the usual street price.
Who runs G2A?
G2A.co is the company’s corporate site which explains the business model in more detail. It was set up by a group of enthusiastic gamers in Hong Kong with the aim of “providing the best digital game licences and retail service to all our partners and customers”. Unlike some companies which hide their contact details, G2A is happy to publish phone numbers and addresses: they have their headquarters in Hong Kong and a support office in Poland.
The game keys are offered by ‘marketplace sellers’, i.e. third parties who have keys to sell. These could be private individuals who have bought a game, but decided not to activate their key, or businesses who have bought keys in bulk in regions where they’re cheaper.
G2A automatically adds ‘G2A Shield’ to your shopping cart when you being the purchase process. This is essentially insurance against a non-working key. It costs around 70p, so while some may object to paying it on the grounds that all keys should be legitimate, it means you are guaranteed a valid replacement key or a complete refund. That’s the theory, anyway. We’ve heard from plenty of irate buyers who have been refused a refund, despite paying for G2A Shield.