At an average of $60, brand new video games are typically expensive. If you’re a frequent gamer, that can quickly add up. So it’s no surprise when gamers look for a good deal to spend less. But buyer beware, buying Nintendo games from third-party sites could lead to a ban and loss of all your games. Unfortunately, where there’s a dollar to be saved, there’s a scam to be played.
What’s Going On?
As first reported by Vice, gamers in pursuit of discounted Nintendo games have found themselves banned and locked out from all their purchases. If you haven’t read the full story there, you should. But the short story goes like this: some gamers have turned to the GameFlip, an online market place, to buy games for cheap. But the codes turned out to be fraudulent, and Nintendo wasn’t too happy about it.
GameFlip works a lot like a Facebook Marketplace for game codes. You can buy and sell in-game digital items, unwanted gift cards, and even game codes. Gamers find a listing for a Nintendo game they like and buy it. The sale would usually go smoothly, and the game would work—at first. Eventually, the gamer would turn on their Switch to find their account banned, and all purchases—both legitimate and not—invalidated.
According to reports on Reddit and GameFlip’s forums, someone used stolen credit cards to purchase the codes. Eventually, the credit card owner disputed the charges, which nullified the game code. And Nintendo banned the user for breaking the company’s User Agreement.
Stolen cards and fake codes isn’t a problem confined to the GameFlip service. Fraud exists everywhere. But the outcome is heartbreaking for the innocent gamer who just wanted to save a few dollars.
A Mild Change of Heart
Thankfully, Nintendo had a change of heart, albeit not much of one. Going forward, when users accidentally buy stolen codes and find themselves banned Nintendo will unban the user. But only if they provide evidence of disputing the charge (through their bank, GameFlip, or otherwise).
Additionally, Nintendo is warning users that if it happens again, they will be permanently banned. That feels a lot like punishing the victim to prevent fraud, which is counterintuitive. For its part, GameFlip does verify the identity of sellers, and it has decided to suspend the sale of Nintendo game codes.
What You Can Do
If you want to avoid the possibility of a Nintendo ban and losing all your games, the answer is simple: buy your games from Nintendo. If not directly, then through a legitimate source like Best Buy, Target, or Amazon (and not an Amazon third-party reseller). You could also consider buying used cartridges from Game Stop to save money, but even then, be careful of scams.
Cartridges are also less convenient than a digital copy, so we don’t begrudge anyone who wants to skip the physical copy route. Hopefully, Nintendo will continue to finetune its policy regarding this situation. Until then, rely on the age-old advice: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.