Kinguin.net, in simple terms, is a marketplace reseller of software and digital in-game content, referred to as ‘keys’, trading mainly in video games at generously discounted prices. However, this very exact low-cost craze results in some controversy around the legitimacy and safety of the product.
In this guide you will find out if Kinguin is legitimate, safe, why the prices can be so low, and most importantly, how you can stay safe as a consumer in the process.
However, if buying games is not your thing and you prefer to try free ones, we have compiled for you a list of the best free esports games of 2021!
How does Kinguin work?
The important thing to first understand is that Kinguin is very much like a digital, large-scale shopping centre. None of the products on the site are sold by Kinguin itself, but rather by the various merchants who sign up for a seller account. These are either developer-partnered retail merchants, or everyday users who have excess copies of certain software i.e. unwanted gifts.
Kinguin then displays to you the product and acts as a means to make the sale, but does not own it or hold direct rights to it, or its pricing. The platform allows for both digital and physical copies of products to be sold, as the trading product itself is activation keys, which for physical products are found inside the box. It is also possible to trade keys for any platform, so regardless of what device you game on, you will find the games for it on Kinguin.
This process means that the game keys are always generated at the core, by the developer or publisher of the software. The makers of the products are not affected by how it ends up on Kinguin, as they have already been paid for them at the start of the distribution process, either by a retail or wholesale merchant.
There is another type of seller on the site, however, and that is where uncertainty may lie for some. Kinguin allows gamers, not affiliated with any merchant companies, to sell game keys on the marketplace too. While there are some points of concern around this process, this can be fully legitimate, and the company claims that 90% of the keys on the site are being distributed by ‘professional store owners’.
As mentioned, most of these unaffiliated sellers are ordinary people with excess copies of a certain game, and Kinguin provides them with a place to sell the product key of such, providing it is unredeemed.
Unfortunately, it does not seem like there is any set process for screening a new seller (nor the state of their product) to the site, which leaves it up to the buyer to often take a gamble on a seller for a possible cheaper price, or settle with a more expensive one from a trusted seller with many visible positive reviews. Another critical discussion point arises from this too, as Kinguin does provide a ‘Kinguin Buyer Protection’ (KPB) at checkout, the terms of which will be covered further in the guide.
Is Kinguin legit and safe?
There is a very specific reason this guide approaches the matter by separating these two criteria. Is it legit? Yes, the process is a very common business practice all around the world, perhaps even more often than we notice it. The reselling of a product is something most of us will do at least once in our lives.
For instance, if you receive a gift from a family member i.e. a computer mouse, but you already have one and prefer to keep yours, you may wish to sell the gifted, unused mouse somewhere online. Now imagine you have to design an online store, promote it, take care of all the expense costs, answer all the questions about the item, all when you just want to simply sell the mouse. There are various marketplace listing websites that help you out with this and do it for you, and Kinguin is one of them.
Verdict: Kinguin is legit.
If it is safe, however, is a whole other question, but we can also answer that in this guide, or at least discuss some steps you can take as a consumer to maximise your security while using Kinguin.
Let’s have a look at the first couple of steps of the seller process.
Initially, the seeming lack of seller validation process is a worrying part, as it is almost too easy to put a key up for sale on the site. In fact, it only took us a few minutes to set up an account using the most basic of information, and a (fake) name, email address and password later, we were greeted with a joyous penguin showing us the rules of the land, as below:
It is great to see that these appear before a seller can list the product they wish to sell, however it is entirely possible to just instantly click the ‘Start Selling’ button. Perhaps the most notable point is right above that very button, in small fine print text. If the seller is not a registered merchant, any earned balance from sales can only be spent back in the Kinguin marketplace, and not transferred out to the seller’s bank account.
This may be fine and convenient for most casual sellers, but it is key to note that this essentially means the money stays with Kinguin. So, you could get a game for free from a friend, ‘sell’ it on Kinguin, meaning they get a cut of the sale for processing your transaction, and then you can only use the remaining funds to buy something on Kinguin, where they get a cut of money again. This model is what makes the platform sustainable, and can also be thought of as a scammer-prevention method, as the funds of a sale can only be withdrawn if a seller passes the second registration check, which is not so quick and not so easy as the initial one we did for this test.
So, if a seller cannot instantly make money from a sale if they are not a registered merchant, it means that everyone can be trusted, right?
That would be the case in a perfect world indeed, but even the Kinguin.net credits may be motive enough for some to act with malicious intent, and put up product keys that are fake or may have already been used. Also, human error is a very real thing, and some sellers which do get verified with Kinguin may still belong to the dark side.
Although, this does not have to mean the platform is unsafe, and it is notable to go back to the Kinguin claim that 90% of their sellers are genuine merchants. The issues that arise with this third-party marketplace system are also not unique to the platform especially, and there are measures you can take as a user to maximise your success at using the platform. We will go through some of these later.
For now, time for our initial verdict: Kinguin is not 100% safe, but there are things you can do to minimise the risks.
Why can the price be so low?
Since the publisher has already been paid their desired price for the product before it ended up on Kinguin, the price the buyer pays on the platform can be set lower than you would expect. Also, sellers who distribute through Kinguin do not have to spend money on creating their own online stores, marketing them in Google, adverts, customer support and the like. This further contributes to lowering the overall cost process.
Also, it is important to remember that merchants of this kind often have special deals with the publishers, where they receive a substantial amount of product keys for a below-retail sum, which again enables the cost at the Kinguin-consumer end to be lower.
This very same principle already applies in a lot of the pricing we see every day, as said in the “How Kinguin works” blog found on their site. For instance, we are used to accepting that a bottle of cola in a corner store will cost less than a glass of coke at a restaurant, as the seller sets their own price. This is no different than how Kinguin operates, and the company promises that the publisher receives a fair price for their product, long before it reaches the virtual shelves of Kinguin.
What are grey market resellers?
The term sounds much more dramatic and worrying than its definition actually is. A grey market reseller is simply a part of the distribution chain which is not directly approved by or seen by the producing body, in this case the developer/publisher. So, in the previous Kinguin Distribution Chain image above, the way in which the retail merchant and the wholesale merchant acquire the product is not a grey market trade method, as they normally get the product directly from the publisher. They have a direct relationship with the developer, and the maker of the product can set terms and expectations in said trading process.
Grey market reselling, however, is what occurs when these very merchants then sell the product again. Contrary to the suggestion and name, this process is not actually illegal, but internet community speculation has definitely made it sound like it is. Moreover, this can be often frowned upon due to a process called ‘scalpering’, where someone buys a certain limited product at its retail price, and resells it for a much higher value, making a large profit purely out of the limited availability of the product.
Is Kinguin a grey market reseller?
To put it simply, yes and no. Kinguin itself is not a grey market reseller, as none of the products and stock on the website actually belong to Kinguin, but some of the merchants who trade there are. Therefore, it is simplest to say Kinguin is a grey marketplace, but it is crucial to remember this is not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the distributors are ordinary people, some are genuine merchants, but their trading of games through Kinguin may be considered a grey market trade indeed.
What should you look out for before you make a purchase on Kinguin?
While the nature of the marketplace means you can never be truly secure with your purchase, there are many steps you can take to come close to this, or at least be protected enough to get the good end of the deal even in an unfortunate, unpredicted circumstance.
For your convenience, we have compiled a checklist of steps to take to stay safe when purchasing on Kinguin.
The first thing you should do is check the licensing of the product. In its title or description, it will tell you which platform/s the key is for e.g. PS5, and some may also be locked to specific geographical regions e.g. Russia only. This is super important, as purchasing the wrong one can often be hard to resolve as this error on your part may cost you, at best, time with Kinguin support, or at worst, the entire cost of the game! Regional restrictions or other limitations on Kinguin products are usually in bold or red font on the product page, so keep an eye out for those.
Each key will have a list of sellers you can purchase it from, along with some basic stats like amount of transactions the seller has made, as well as a star rating for that merchant. Pick a seller with many transactions and a high star rating to minimise the chances of coming across a bad apple. This may sometimes mean that you do not snag the absolute cheapest price the product is listed for, but it will end up worth it once you get through the process hassle-free.
At check out, you will have the option of applying Kinguin Buyer Protection to your order. This will cost you some extra on top of the key price, but it is worth the additional money in order to ensure you have Kinguin’s full support if something goes wrong.
If you can, try to use your PayPal account when buying from Kinguin marketplace. PayPal has a pretty in-depth customer protection procedure, and if the goods you purchase are not to your expectations or requirements, the payments merchant is good at helping you get your money back.
What are Kinguin Terms and Conditions?
So, we know what steps a buyer can take to try and protect themselves, but what does Kinguin actually do and offer to support the customers? Let’s have a look at some of the terms, systems and conditions when buying from Kinguin marketplace.
Kinguin Buyer Protection
The most prominent step Kinguin takes to provide the buyers with some peace is the aforementioned Kinguin Buyer Protection (KBP) scheme that is offered at the purchase page. KBP clients have customer support priority, and, in case of a report of a faulty, used, or wrong key, Kinguin will, as they say, defend the purchase and solve the issue for the buyer. This sounds great, but comes with the caveat of extra cost to the buyer.
Here’s a KBP pricing table (in euros, €), to let you know what sort of costs to expect in order to get full support from Kinguin on your purchase:
|Product price||KBP Fee (added to product cost)|
|0-5 €||20% (1 € at 5 € purchase)|
|5-15 €||2 €|
|15-20 €||17% (3.4 € at 20 € purchase)|
|20 € +||12% (min 2.4 € , 4.8 € on 40 € purchase)|
|Software i.e. Windows 10||5 €|
If the buyer does not opt into this, however, they are unprotected from any possible issues that may occur with the product, and not in a priority for customer support, so any help requests they do send over to Kinguin will be dealt with after those of KBP customers.
Now, the overall price of the purchase, even with the KPB applied, is still likely to be lower than that of the retail price somewhere else, but this very concept does speak a little to the morality basis of the process. In essence, if you do not give Kinguin extra money at purchase time, it seems like they will care little about you if you run into any issues. This is possibly the biggest issue with the platform, and the root of many scepticism among the community response to Kinguin- more on that later.
In their FAQ, Kinguin states that KBP customers can get a refund even on completed orders, providing the product has not been used. Non KBP customers, however, seem to only be limited to refunds on orders that do not fully complete (processing or pending payment stage). In this case, Kinguin does offer the option of reselling the product on their site, but the funds you may get for it are only usable in the Kinguin marketplace, and you cannot pay them out to your bank account.
The Kinguin customer support process seems pretty good at first glance. It shows you an FAQ of standard issues, which is normal procedure. Then, if you cannot find your answer in the suggested issues list, you can use the chatbot to try and get some help from it (it is an automated bot, again common customer support practice), and open a ticket to human customer support if your issue persists. At face value this seems great, and not in any way dissimilar to the practice of most other companies with a customer support option.
7.3 Each User/Seller recognises that they are fully aware of the risk related to buying and selling via the Sites and Services as well as that of claims or damage that might arise in connection with continuous online dealing.
In other words, Kinguin recognises some of the sellers have malicious intent, and may be selling fraudulent products, but expects the customer to be able to navigate the marketplace accordingly in such a way they do not buy from one of these. This supports our verdict, the marketplace is not totally safe.
What do consumers think of Kinguin?
In this part of the guide, we will have a look at some of the reviews about Kinguin’s service, which are out in the public eye right now.
The first area that we will examine is Trustpilot, a common site for user-submitted reviews of many companies around the entire world. At the time of writing, Kinguin has 28,249 reviews, with an overall rating of 3.7 stars out of 5. 70% of the reviews are positive, which is pretty good for such a substantial amount of reviews total. Kinguin support also seems to be responding actively to any negative reviews to try and help their customers out. It is worth noting that most of the negative reviews seem to be centered around slow customer service responses, but as covered above, we know that Kinguin Buyer Protection customers have priority with any support issues, and the coronavirus pandemic may also be affecting the speed/efficiency at which the employees can answer customer tickets.
Main discussion around the Kinguin product seems to occur on Trustpilot, but we have found a forum post on Tom’s Hardware. In this thread from September 2019, users discuss between themselves the legitimacy of Kinguin’s Windows keys. The general verdict matches the one we have made before: the site can be perfectly fine if you apply common sense principles and stay vigilant when purchasing. Users also suggested that the Kinguin Buyer Protection scheme is useful in case something goes wrong.
We also visited the /r/Kinguin subreddit. It seems to be used as another customer support method, even though the instructions on the site itself, honestly, should be straightforward for an everyday user. The pinned post is interesting, however, as it is a post from two years ago which outlines steps Kinguin are taking to improve the security of their service. At the time of writing, there were roughly 60 employees dedicated to fraud prevention on the site, and the company had partnered with Ravelin, a fraud detection platform.
This part of the guide helps us re-evaluate and answer a key question: is Kinguin safe? A supporting argument to say yes, it is, is that all the visible complaints seem to be around slow customer response time, as opposed to fraudulent sellers.
Kinguin Company Overview
The company itself is a European company with over 250 employees, with the majority of them (and founders) being Polish. Kinguin has offices in Poland and Bulgaria, but is headquartered in Hong Kong. The CEO of Kinguin is Viktor Romaniuk Wanli, and the website easily accumulates over 5 million visits a month (correct at March 28, 2021).
Kinguin’s main two competitors are CDKeys and G2A. Let’s have a look at some comparison points between these.
Kinguin vs CDKeys
CDKeys operates on a slightly different basis to Kinguin, as the marketplace is responsible for the keys themselves, and there are no merchant choices: all keys are supplied by CDKeys directly. They claim their products are cheap due to currency differences, and the lack of physical elements. The CDKeys team purchases a product at a certain price in a cheaper region in the world, meaning they can then sell it to any global buyer for a lower price than expected.
Admittedly, the CDKeys Trustpilot review domain looks a lot better than that of Kinguin, with 77,582 reviews and 4.7 stars. However, it is important to stay impartial and note that the way the service operates is different, and a lot of the issues that stem within Kinguin are mostly with the delays with support which can often be caused because of the additional feedback loop the distribution process possesses: Kinguin has to take most queries to the seller, then back to the buyer.
Still, CDKeys seems like a great website to use, but does not provide software like Windows activation keys.
Kinguin vs G2A
This is where things get interesting. G2A is a direct competitor to Kinguin, as both operate on a marketplace seller-buyer relationship. There are various sellers on the site who can sell their products, and G2A provides them with a platform to do so, just like Kinguin.
When checking out the reviews on Trustpilot, we notice that G2A actually has the same rating (3.7), with 10x the reviews of Kinguin, at 280,415. Also, there are plenty of negative reviews which include the word ‘scam’, and seem to be full of dissatisfaction at not receiving the product at all, or being unable to process a refund.
So, if buying from Kinguin seems too much like a gamble for you, perhaps you would be instead interested in esports betting?
Kinguin Review FAQ Section
Is Kinguin Buyer Protection worth it?
The Buyer Protection adds an extra layer of security to your purchase, and puts you at the priority queue of support tickets if you do run into an issue. In current times, this is especially useful, so we would say to add it to your purchase just for this reason. It also helps you if you need a refund!
How do I get a refund from Kinguin?
If you need to return a product on an order that has already fully processed, first you have to make sure the product has not been used. Then, if you have purchased Kinguin Buyer Protection (KBP) with your order, you should be able to create a ticket and let Kinguin know you’d like a refund. Or, alternatively, if you did not add KBP to your order, you can file a support request and ask for resale of the item. This will result in the transaction funds returning to your Kinguin wallet.
How does Kinguin work?
Kinguin is a marketplace that connects sellers and buyers. It does not own or hold the rights to any of the products on the website, and anyone can sell on Kinguin. However, only registered sellers can withdraw funds to their bank accounts. This requires additional, more thorough checks than just making a simple seller profile with an email and password.
Is Kinguin a grey market reseller?
No, in fact Kinguin itself is not a reseller at all! The merchants which sell the products on their marketplace, however, can be considered grey market resellers.
Why are the prices on Kinguin so cheap?
Kinguin prices are low due to a variety of reasons. First, the lack of physical products reduces costs. Second, the sellers of the keys obtain them from the source, often at special rates, and can resell them cheaper through Kinguin as they use the existing store the marketplace possesses, and therefore do not have the normal costs the consumer normally has to make up for i.e. marketing and server support.
Do the developers of the games sold on Kinguin lose out on money?
No, the developers and publishers have been paid their determined price for their products long before it reaches the virtual shelves of Kinguin. It is also not Kinguin that buys these directly, it is publisher verified merchants that pay the original set price, using the relationship they have directly with each other.
Is Kinguin legit?
The Kinguin business model is a legitimate method, used in various common businesses. For example, your local corner store may outsource products directly from the manufacturer at a discounted rate, then be able to sell it for cheaper (or even more!) than if you were to buy it directly from the manufacturer. Kinguin works on a similar basis, without ever owning any of the products sold.
How do I reach Kinguin live chat?
In May 2019, Kinguin removed their live chat feature to replace it with a HelpBot system, which is an automated AI bot, coded to help customers solve their issues quickly. If the HelpBot cannot help a customer, there is always the option to submit a ticket.
Can I buy Minecraft on Kinguin?
Yes, there are various Minecraft keys for sale on Kinguin.
Where is Kinguin from?
Kinguin is registered in Hong Kong, but operates mostly out of Poland and Bulgaria, with some employees in the US as well.
Is Kinguin illegal?
The Kinguin business model is not illegal and is not uncommon, and the company claims to never have had any issues with the law since it was founded in 2013.
Does Kinguin refund?
The marketplace does refund, but has varying criteria for this based on if the customer used Kinguin Buyer Protection or not during the check-out process.
How do I sell on Kinguin?
After creating an account with Kinguin, you can press the ‘Start Selling Now’ button, which will take you to the selling menu. Good luck!
Can I buy Windows 10 on Kinguin?
Yes, there are various software purchase possibilities on Kinguin, and all sorts of versions of Windows.
Is Kinguin safe?
There are some risks when using any online marketplace, and you can never truly guarantee the legitimacy of the product, but if you follow our checklist for staying safe, you should see success.
Does Kinguin sell used keys?
In general, it is believed all keys are unique and not previously used. However, there has been some speculation that the ‘system glitches’ behind seemingly redeemed keys are not system glitches at all. However, it is possible that there are sometimes issues on the merchant side of things (remember, Kinguin does not actually have any of the keys it sells, they are sourced by the seller).
Is Kinguin better than G2A?
Both marketplaces operate on an identical basis and have the same Trustpilot rating, so it is up to the buyer to stay vigilant when using these sites, and it may simply come down to personal preference.