There is a very real chance that you are overpaying for games. The price cycle for PC games is well known. Rare are the games that will keep their $59.99 price tag for longer than few months after their original release. A year after release you can probably already find the game on a 50 percent discount, after some digging around. A few years after their release, you can find most AAA games for a fraction of their original price. Even during pre-order or immediately before lunch, you can still buy games on the cheap. I got Cyberpunk 2077 for $39.99 (from $59.99) two weeks before the game was released to the public. How? Read on…
Price Cycles of AAA PC Titles
Red Dead Redemption 2 for $30, The Witcher III Game of the Year Edition for $5, Star Wars Squadrons for $17.60 and Civilization VI with ALL expansions and scenarios for $20 were just some of the deals that we’ve done the past year. Not to mention the dozens of free games from the Epic Games Store. All it really takes is a few minutes of your time to find the best current deal for the game you want to buy. Or if you are OK with waiting, you can even get the best deal that game was sold for up to now.
First of all, PC games have a life and a price cycle. You should never pay full price for an AAA title that is a few years long in the tooth, unless you want to support the developer/publisher. After development is finished and all the expansions & DLCs done, most single player games lose their base of players fairly quickly. After this phase, the game will get a big discount in order to attract new players. The older the title, the bigger the discount. So patience is one way to save on PC games.
This does not mean that you cannot buy new games or pre-order unreleased games on the cheap. The logistics of developing/producing AAA titles are huge and there are many entities involved. Oftentimes third parties that assisted the development or marketing of a game will get game keys as a compensation. The game keys are then sold on various platforms, usually cheaper than the full game price.
For example, I mentioned we paid $39.99 for Cyberpunk 2077 on a game keys selling platform. When I got the key and added it to my GoG library, there was a note: CYBERPUNK FOR EPICSOFT ZH (RETAIL CODES). Epicsoft is the appointed distribution partner of CD Projekt Red in the Southeast Asia region. That means that our game key was given to Epicsolf by CD Project Red, which they subsequently sold to us through a mediating platform.
A good example of this business practice and a place where you can shop game keys on discount is the website CDKeys. You can find most popular PC games on CDKeys on huge discounts. In November, 2020, we bought HITMAN (2016) – Game of The Year Edition for $7.39 (down from $60), and HITMAN 2 (2018) – Gold Edition for $13.39 (originally listed for $90).
Speaking of game keys, you should be aware that NOT all stores are transparent with their game keys origin and some of them might have been acquired in an illegal way.
Official Stores VS Keyshops
Official stores, like Steam, GoG, Epic, Humble, Fanatical Games etc., are obviously official resellers, given products and authorized by the game publisher to sell on their platforms. When you buy a game from an official store, your proceeds go to the game publisher with a fee paid to the platform/service provider.
Keyshops are third-party stores that sell game keys that can be activated on an official platform like Steam, GoG, Epic, Origin etc., and which are not themselves authorized by the game publisher to sell their games.
Since they are not authorized to sell the games, they usually act as mediators between other parties which have official game keys and customers who want to buy games. When you buy a game key from a keyshop, the proceeds do not go to the game publisher, but to the party that sold you the game key. However, that party did originally had to pay or somehow acquire the key from the publisher. So while not directly profiting from your purchase, the publisher did profit from it in the past.
Because of this, what I’ve noticed some people do is buy games from official shops from publishers they want to support, while going to keyshops for publishers they like to shun.
Buying from keyshops is also usually cheaper with many bargains to be found. However, it can also be more risky.
The Risks of Buying Games Through Keyshops
While some, like CDKeys and HRK, seem to be a real stores, meaning you buy directly from them, most other keystores (Gamivo, Kinguin, G2A, Eneba and more) just mediate between game key suppliers and buyers.
This means that due diligence is necessary. It’s kind of like buying from eBay – you have to check seller’s feedback and scores. Buying from sellers with sales in the thousands and with more the 99 percent positive feedback is always the way to go. If the seller has a high percentage of negative feedback simply check a different store.
In my personal experience, after some 50-60 transactions with keyshops, I’ve only had problems three times. Twice it was because of a region mismatch and I was refunded few emails and few days later.
The third problem was more serious. Two to three weeks after I bought a game I got an email from Steam saying that my game key was canceled. After contacting the seller through the key shop I found out that the seller got the keys from a different party and it turned out they were bought with a stolen credit card. The card was killed by the bank and the game keys got canceled. However, even in this case the seller was apologetic and I was offered a choice between 10 other games and a refund.
Except those three cases, all other transactions went smoothly. Maybe a bigger risk/problem with buying from keyshops are the hidden fees and processing costs.
How to Avoid Hidden Fees
Adding a game that cost $5 to your cart in keyshops that work with third-party resellers might sometimes cost you closer to $10 than $5. Processing fees, transactions fees, PayPal or credit card fees – it’s all added at the checkout. This can all make it very messy to find out which shop offers your game cheaper.
The only solution I’ve found is to use price comparison websites which list or calculate the processing fees involved. From all the price comparison websites, my favorite is GGDeals.
This website has a very clear distinction between official stores and keyshops when comparing prices, has all processing fees already calculated in the prices and even lists all the risks a particular keyshop might pose. You can also see a price history of the game and rest assured you are getting the best price it can be found at.
There is another reason why I like GGDeals – you can wishlist games and set up email alerts for specific price points. Let’s say you only want to buy Cyberpunk 2077 at $20 and not a cent more. Just set up an alert with GGDeals and you’ll get notified when Cyberpunk 2077 is offered for $20 or less on any platform from any official store. I just wish this alert system included keyshops, too.
GGDeals’s homepage also lists any free games currently being offered as well as a ranking of the best deals you can currently find on the net. I really came to appreciate having all the free games we were offered this year, from every platform, shown in one place. Some of those games were free only for 24-hours and many were easy to miss out on. I know many people who just by grabbing all the freebies (from Epic, Steam, Sega, etc.) have amassed game libraries that will keep them occupied throughout 2021.
You can save hundreds of dollars on PC games by searching for deals through price comparison websites and including keyshops in your search. Sure, shopping through keyshops presents some risks, but the few times I have had problems I was quickly refunded.
While you might want to consider paying a full price to support indie developers, I see no reason to do the same with most AAA publishers. Unfinished games full of bugs with expensive DLCs that should have been part of the game from the start are just some of the dishes we are being served from AAA publishers at the moment, so excuse me if I don’t feel particularly generous.