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Buying "used" PC games on Ebay or Craigslist - what should I know?

Last response: in Video Games
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May 12, 2011 5:22:16 PM

Just got my new PC up and running. Obviously, I want to play some kick ass games on it. However, being a cheap bastard, I don't want to just run down to the nearest Fry's Electronics and start buying games, nor do I want to buy them on Steam if it isn't one of those amazing sales that they are having. Here are some of the games I'm interested in:

Mirror's Edge ----------------------- $19.99 (Steam)

Fallout 3 ----------------------------- $19.99 (Steam)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ---------$29.99 (Steam)

Darksiders------------------------------$19.99 (Steam)

Orange Box-----------------------------$19.99 (Steam)

Crysis 1 --------------------------------$29.99 (Steam)


While $19.99 isn't that much in the grand scheme of things, being the cheap bastard that I am, I would prefer to pay like 5 bucks or 7 bucks, or maybe 10 bucks for most of these games. All my money went into building the PC, so I don't have tons of cash left over for the games. I've seen some used PC games on my local Craigslist, and I've also seen used PC games on Ebay. Since, I'm a total newb when it comes to PC gaming, what do I need to know in terms of buying used PC games? I was orginially under the impression that there wasn't a used PC gaming market, because I thought that the game was tied to the original PC that it was installed on. Is this not the case? How do I make sure I don't get screwed?


On a side note, I'll definitely be buying my fair share of games off Steam and D2D and stuff like that, but I'm going to wait for the really good deals. In the meanwhile, I want to get a few cheap games to keep me busy.
May 12, 2011 5:30:05 PM

from my understanding many games are now tied to an account, example: if you buy a steam game that someone already registered with their steam account you'll have to through hoops to get that game under your account. The only way I believe you can do this is if you take a picture of the CD-KEY with your current email address. Still this is a headache compare to just waiting for the games to go on sale.
Other non-steam games have similar DRM tools that are tied to an account and you'll need to contact the that company to register your 2nd hand game.
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May 12, 2011 8:02:13 PM

Oldmangamer_73 said:
Craigslist and E-bay is also a good place to get scammed. I don't know how old you are, but Craigslist can be a little dangerous. If you are a minor get your parents help.

And +1 to what jgiron said.


Nah, I'm not a kid. I've bought and sold stuff on Craigslist all the time. Normally the people I meet on CL are very friendly, tech savvy type people. Maybe it's just the area I'm living (Northern California).



jgiron said:
from my understanding many games are now tied to an account, example: if you buy a steam game that someone already registered with their steam account you'll have to through hoops to get that game under your account. The only way I believe you can do this is if you take a picture of the CD-KEY with your current email address. Still this is a headache compare to just waiting for the games to go on sale.
Other non-steam games have similar DRM tools that are tied to an account and you'll need to contact the that company to register your 2nd hand game.



I'm talking about physical CD's or DVD's. Not Steam or any of the downloadable services. I thought I heard from somebody that on certain PC games, you can use the serial # on say 3 different PC's. So, I was figuring that these people selling used games maybe only used it on one PC, and it could still be put on another PC. I know that isn't the case with certain publishers, and it probably varies game to game.
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May 13, 2011 12:42:25 PM

LarryJones1,
Steam is not only a download service but also a DRM (digital rights management).
This is software that is embedded into the game that connects the serial number of a game to a steam account. So even if you bought a CD/DVD of a game, install it and enter the serial number you still won't be able to play it because that serial number is tied to the previous owners steam account. You will need to contact steam to have the serial number attached to your account.

There are other games that have DRM that prevents the game from installing on multiple machines.

If you decide to buy 2nd hand games you need to know what type of DRM comes with the game and how you will be able to play it.
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May 13, 2011 3:32:11 PM

^ yup. I liked the older days when you got your CD with serial key, as long as you didn't register it online, you could give that CD to any friend who would be able to install and play the game fine (given he didn't register it online either).

Now publishers come up with all these fancy DRM features. You'd have to find out what kind of DRM a game uses and if the previous user registered his serial number or not.
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May 15, 2011 10:39:58 AM

Mirrors Edge?????
I remember I got that game for $4 in Aussie at a GAME store

I also suggest just buying the game new because once they have registered the game onto steam there is no way to get the game back and sell it :( 

(thinks of Bulletstorm)
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May 15, 2011 10:55:17 AM

As long as you don't play online, you could get those disc's with CD Key fairly cheaply on ebay. Like CoD4 :Modern Warfare only requires CD Key for online and you could play offline once its installed. Its the newer fancy games like Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company which requires the fancy DRM.
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May 15, 2011 5:39:27 PM

MrDrift said:


I also suggest just buying the game new because once they have registered the game onto steam there is no way to get the game back and sell it :( 

(thinks of Bulletstorm)




Hmm. Yesterday, I bought two used PC games from this dude on Craiglist. Civilization 4, and Modern Warfare 2. I installed Civ 4, and it seems to be working just fine with no problems. I haven't played online against anybody yet, so I don't know if that will affect anything. As for Modern Warfare 2, the guy said that he had it linked to his Steam account, but that he un-installed it, and that I should be able to link it to my steam account. I went home and tried getting it to work, but Steam wouldn't let it work because of the duplicate CD key that was still tied to his account. I've tried emailing Steam support, taking a picture of the CD key, etc, etc, but haven't heard back yet.

So, you're saying that there is no way that I'm going to be able to play this Modern Warfare 2 game? Maybe you're right, I don't know cause I'm totally new to this. I guess I'll just have to wait for Steam Support to email me back and see what's what.
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May 16, 2011 10:43:12 AM

LarryJones1 said:
Hmm. Yesterday, I bought two used PC games from this dude on Craiglist. Civilization 4, and Modern Warfare 2. I installed Civ 4, and it seems to be working just fine with no problems. I haven't played online against anybody yet, so I don't know if that will affect anything. As for Modern Warfare 2, the guy said that he had it linked to his Steam account, but that he un-installed it, and that I should be able to link it to my steam account. I went home and tried getting it to work, but Steam wouldn't let it work because of the duplicate CD key that was still tied to his account. I've tried emailing Steam support, taking a picture of the CD key, etc, etc, but haven't heard back yet.

So, you're saying that there is no way that I'm going to be able to play this Modern Warfare 2 game? Maybe you're right, I don't know cause I'm totally new to this. I guess I'll just have to wait for Steam Support to email me back and see what's what.



Yes, there is nothing you can do to get MW2 to work with your Steam account Unless you buy a new key....
When the guy uninstalled it, he probably meant he uninstalled it from his computer but the CD-Key is still registered with his account.

He doesn't physically own the game anymore, but he still owns the key, which means he is able to download it from steam and still play it.

You can read about one guys problem here:
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1347888
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May 16, 2011 5:45:56 PM

I believe I read this on Steam somewhere but you can take a picture of your game, + cd key and your email address associated with Steam and email steam that you are the new owner. It is up to steam to transfer the license to your account.
Normally, once you buy the game through Steam it is forever attached to your account unless you but the game from steam as a gift and then you can give it to another person with a steam account.

Buying used games is not a good idea anymore because of the DRM issue as you are finding out now. It's best to wait for Steam deals and you can buy the games really cheap (like under $10) or you can goto GOG.com for much older games that don't have DRM. Online buying is safer than going through craigslist for used PC games.
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May 16, 2011 7:53:50 PM

MrDrift said:

He doesn't physically own the game anymore, but he still owns the key



If he still owns the key, then why can't he sell me the key, or transfer the key to me. Because the key is what it's all about right? I mean, having a physical game without a usable key, is like having a car with no engine inside it.
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May 17, 2011 1:57:06 PM

For your question you need to talk to Steam

http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/

"E. Restrictions.

Except as otherwise permitted under Section 2(C) with regard to the SDK, you may not, in whole or in part, copy, photocopy, reproduce, translate, reverse engineer, derive source code, modify, disassemble, decompile, create derivative works based on, or remove any proprietary notices or labels from the Software or any software accessed via Steam without the prior consent, in writing, of Valve.

You are entitled to use the Software for your own use, but you are not entitled to: (i) sell, grant a security interest in or transfer reproductions of the Software to other parties in any way, nor to rent, lease or license the Software to others without the prior written consent of Valve; (ii) host or provide matchmaking services for the Software or emulate or redirect the communication protocols used by Valve in any network feature of the Software, through protocol emulation, tunneling, modifying or adding components to the Software, use of a utility program or any other techniques now known or hereafter developed, for any purpose including, but not limited to network play over the Internet, network play utilizing commercial or non-commercial gaming networks or as part of content aggregation networks, without the prior written consent of Valve; or (iii) exploit the Software or any of its parts for any commercial purpose."
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March 21, 2012 2:27:15 AM

jgiron said:
from my understanding many games are now tied to an account, example: if you buy a steam game that someone already registered with their steam account you'll have to through hoops to get that game under your account. The only way I believe you can do this is if you take a picture of the CD-KEY with your current email address. Still this is a headache compare to just waiting for the games to go on sale.
Other non-steam games have similar DRM tools that are tied to an account and you'll need to contact the that company to register your 2nd hand game.


How do I do that btw? I just bought CoD2 and it's already registered. Could you explain to me which hoops I have to jump through?
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March 23, 2012 11:10:07 AM

Never buy used PC games or PC games from sources your unsure of.

Unlike console games its not the disc which matters, its the key. As soon as someone has seen the key its worthless to anyone bar that person.
Most game media can be legally downloaded, its the key which authenticates the purchase.

If you want cheap games wait for the Steam sales. Generally they have 2 big ones a year (summer and christmas) and its normally atleast 33% off every title and upto 90% of the daily specials.
Its also worth checking out Steam trading, generally people will sell or trade for games at less then Steam retail rates.
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March 23, 2012 4:40:47 PM

LarryJones1 said:
If he still owns the key, then why can't he sell me the key, or transfer the key to me. Because the key is what it's all about right? I mean, having a physical game without a usable key, is like having a car with no engine inside it.


Because that key is verified against a key/certificate server. The server is under the control of steam or the game developer. The server identifies that key with a specific account. Until steam or the developer updates the key server, the key is still associated with the old account. Just because he "sold" you the key doesn't mean steam or the developer is aware of this. This is why you need to contact steam or whoever and have them update the key server or issue you a new key.
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