Ubisoft and Genba Pursue Silent Key Activation in Effort to “Kill Grey Market” Key Sellers

The two companies say this will lead to less abuse of the system.

Posted By | On 03rd, May. 2019 Under News

As we’ve written here several times, the state of PC gaming right now can be summed up in one word: disruption. Mainly this is fueled by Epic Games and their aggressive approach to buying exclusives for their store. It seems like not a week goes by, at this point, where a story doesn’t break about it. But it’s not just Epic, as Ubisoft is demonstrating in a partnership with UK based tech firm Genba. The two companies are working on a process called SKA (silent key activation) that is specifically aimed at killing off the “grey” key reselling market.

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Genba CEO Matt Murphy detailed the process. Instead of giving keys directly to sellers, the keys would stay at Genba. So instead of you receiving a code when buying from a site like, for example, Fanatical or Humble Bundle (two of the largest digital key sellers) the purchase would take you directly to Ubisoft’s PC storefront/launcher, UPlay.

“If someone goes on a website like Fanatical and buys a Ubisoft product, it will take them through the checkout process, then ask you to enter your UPlay account — if you don’t have one, it asks you to set one up,” said Murphy. “The game is then automatically activated in UPlay. Fanatical doesn’t get a key, and neither does the player. They just log into UPlay and the game is there, as if they bought it from the UPlay Store.”

Murphy also isn’t shy about why the process is being created. It’s to kill the “grey market,” of key reselling, he said, a term used for key sellers who abuse the current system of digital key distribution to sell keys at a cheaper rate.

“In the old days it was open to abuse — it still is if there’s no technology managing that process,” he says. “You could be sitting on 1,000 keycodes for a product, the publisher then tells you it’s on sale for the next 24 hours at a reduced price, and it’s down to you to declare when you sold those products. You could say you sold them all at promotion, but actually sell them at full price outside the sale. That’s the grey market, people blending discount rates. Genba tries to kill that, by saying it’s the price you sold it for at the time you sold it. And then [silent key activation] goes another step in that there isn’t even a key so it can’t be resold.”

He says that Ubisoft will not only adopt the method, but will not sell on any market that does not utilize the SKA method. There are a lot of retailers who get keys through shady means, but this will undoubtedly have some effect on the digital key selling market as a whole as it will effectively put complete control over things like pricing, sales, and gifting in the publisher’s hand.

No word yet on when Ubisoft plans to utilize this. We’ll keep you updated.

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