Editorial: Used Games

Used games are set to make GameStop $2 billion in the fiscal year 2009. Most game developers and publishers would like to see the end of the used game market. They say that they do not see any money from used game sales. This is of course true, but only to a certain extent.

How many gamers have had the experience of trading in three or four games to get the latest title? I know I have. Even now when I have more money to spend on new games, £40 is still too much. Trading unwanted games in for credit makes it possible for me to get the latest title; nine out of ten times, I will pick up a new copy.

Taking away the used game market would be a bad move for the industry. What about the older titles which are hard to buy new? Looking on eBay, it is clear that there is a large demand for older titles which are now impossible to buy in stores.  Services such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Network try to solve the problem by offering older titles to download.

The solution seems clear to me: offer every game as a downloadable. The technology is there for such a service–perhaps not yet for Blu-Ray titles, but for everything up to DVD titles it should be possible. Would you like to see a service which offers the ability to download every PS2 title? Would you pay a subscription for this service? It is possible that a streaming service much like Netflix might exist for games in the coming years.


  1. I almost never buy used games, but I often trade in my old games to buy new ones. If I couldn’t do this I wouldn’t buy so many new games. If the ability to buy used games was suddenly removed, that wouldn’t automaticly mean that consumers will buy a new copy instead. There is a market for new games and their is a market for used games, if people such as myself couldn’t trade unwanted games then it is possible that less new copies of a game would sell (especially in their first week). Game publishers shouldn’t be looking to put an end to this market, rather they should be trying to figure out how they can get a slice of the used-game pie.

  2. I neither buy used (unless that’s my only option), nor do I trade games. However, I think the problem with trying to put an end to the used game market is that it would put an end to game specialty chains, which get very little out of new purchases. If game-specialty shops go, expect most niche titles to go with them. You’re not going to find Persona 4 at Wal-Mart, I assure you. Also, in removing the used market, many kids who don’t have the money for new games are removed from the industry entirely. If it’s hard for US to scrounge up the money, what do you think a 10-year-old is having to endure. If they couldn’t buy used, they simply couldn’t buy.

    Of course, offering digital alternatives is fine, but that doesn’t help people in areas where broadband isn’t easily obtained (like much of the US outside the coasts), and it’s not as appealing when you take into account overzealous ISPs throttling or metering bandwidth. Not only that, but there are no doubt publishers who’d love to go digital only, which has the unfortunate effect of making the product invisible to all but the most dedicated gamers.

    The solution to this “problem” isn’t to try to put GameStop out of business. It’s to lower prices, lengthen production runs, and give retailers more money on new game sales to give retailers an incentive to focus on new rather than used.

  3. I don’t buy used on games that I have the option of buying new. And since Gamestop doesn’t sell anything older than PS2, I don’t buy much them.

    I go to Games Plus. Its a brand new gaming store, only about a year old. They are spreading across the US now. They sell everything, You can buy Atari 2600 games from them. They kick ass is what I’m saying. They are aiming to be in direct competition with Gamestop.

  4. Because I know every GameStop employee in the district, and because some of them are my good friends, I buy used at every opportunity. With my ‘Edge’ card, I save another 10% off the used price.

    Now, it should be said that this is because they never sell me something that is in less than pristine condition. In fact, they know my particularities by now: no ‘greatest hits’, must have the manual, no scratches, &c. In a few cases where rare games are available but manuals are missing, &c., they’ve been good enough to track down a manual for me.

    I trade in games where the trade-in value is similar to what I would get on Amazon/eBay after fees. Otherwise, I list it on Amazon. Surprisingly, I have traded in rather a lot of games recently. Though others (Soul Calibur IV, for example) are better to Amazon/eBay away.

    When I move to Chicago, I probably won’t be used as much, if at all, unless I get to know the local Gamestop employees pretty well. I’ve been very lucky to know all the guys here–having worked with a few of them helps, and being friends with them helps too. Considering how much money I spend on video games, it’s been a positive boon.

  5. I love when people say they don’t buy used games, because 99% of the time those same people buy used CDs, books, or movies and it’s the exact same deal.

  6. Bup – Actually, there aren’t really any good places in my neighborhood to buy used CDs, books or movies. If I’m doing that, it’s Amazon or eBay, and even then I do it sparingly because bad experiences have taught me that used = scratched to hell.

  7. A benefit to used game sales is that it can potentially get a person into a series.
    I bought the first Kingdom Hearts used because I was skeptical, and only willing to pay less than used for it.
    Now I love the series, bought KH2 on day one, and will continue to purchase every entry new on day of release.

  8. I buy used everything: Games, Clothes, Books, Movies, Music, if I can find it used, I’ll buy it used. Why would I pay $50 for a new game that I’m not even sure I will like, when I can get it for half that used?

    That isn’t to say I don’t buy new games, but when I do buy new games much of the money comes from trading in old games that I’ve finished or didn’t particularly like.

    I rather like the idea of downloading games and such, but I think I would miss the thrill of being able to hold a game in my hands. So, I don’t know.

  9. If only it were half, Thea. It’s usually just $5 less on anything remotely current. Fuck that, I’d rather pay the extra $5 to make sure my game is pristine.

  10. Master Chef, you are in the minority. For a lot of people, especially in this economic climate, five dollars is money they could be spending on food.

  11. I’m with MC on this one. The difference between new and used is useually only about 5 dollars. I’m not going to take the chance on a refurbished disc not working.

  12. …And if $5 is the line for starving and eating, they should not be buying games in the first place. They need to get their priorities strait.

  13. Do game shops in the states not guarantee discs? In England if a used disc does not work you can simply take it back and they will give you a replacement. If they don’t have a replacement you can just ask for your money back.

  14. Oyashiro, I’ve had people buy things from my store using the money they should be spending on food.

    Lee, GameStop guarantees used games for 30 days in case of defects and there’s also a seven day thing where if you don’t like the game, you can return it for another game or your money back. New games only have the 30 day guarantee.

  15. I feel Tim Schafer put it best when he was on 1up FM a few months back when someone asked him how people can support Psychonauts. The extent of his answer was “Buy a used copy of Psychonauts or buy it from the XBox store and then go to our website and buy two t-shirts.”

  16. Lee- Yeah, they guarantee the disc, but it means little if you wanna play that particular game and that’s the only copy the store has.

  17. Master Chief I understand what you are saying. I had the same problem with Metal Gear Solid 3. The store only had one used copy, you can guess what happened next…..

    The copy did not work, but it is impossible to get a retail copy of MGS3 anymore heck I can not even find games released last year in the shops.

    Used games are needed until a solution to this problem is found.

  18. @Lee: Yeah they guarantee that they will replace the disc if it does not work. Your out of luck if that was the only used copy. And the fact you wast about $5 in gas driving back and forth. I’d rather not wast my time on that.

    @Bup: The next time you see a person about to collapse from starvation but buying a used version of MGS3. Just remember to keep your pimp hand strong!