The Double-Edged Sword of the Used Game Debate

We’ve seen a lot of talk over the past few months about the future of used games, especially when it comes to the next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft. There has been widespread speculation that either one or both of the upcoming consoles could be blocking the usage of used games, binding games to the primary user of said game. We now live in a digital age and we’ve seen time and time again that older titles can be re-released by the publisher via digital download for a fraction of the cost of publishing it on a wider scale and still make good money. On top of that we’ve also seen the rise of “HD Collections” for games, which sees a bunch of games with some minor graphical improvements tossed onto a disc and distributed for relatively cheap and selling rather well.

This newfound source of revenue in older games for publishers has really been one of the key factors for them to push for used games to fall to the wayside and it makes perfect sense. They’ve finally found inexpensive means to make money off of older titles that are on now-defunct consoles, where as the market for most of those games have been getting resold on the used market on places like eBay and GameStop. So in many ways, it makes sense for the companies behind the consoles, who make a percentage off of every game sold for their system, to want to see games being sold in this manner as opposed to being resold where they see zero of the profits.

Of course, from a consumer’s standpoint, unless the re-release is inherently cheaper than the original game and has more features, the value is just not there for them. For gamers, used games have been a way of life for as long as they have been selling games on the consumer market. If you didn’t like a game and a friend had a game that they didn’t like, you could just swap them out. If you had some old games laying around that you knew that you’d never play, it was easy to trade them in and pick up a new game with that money that you got for trading them in. It created a self-sustaining eco-system that we’ve seen companies like GameStop thrive upon and build up an empire for themselves.

It makes sense that GameStop is one of the biggest companies lobbying against this movement, as it would completely kill their business model. Sure, they sell new games, systems and accessories all of the time, but that isn’t where their profits come from. Hell no. You bring in an old game and they explain to you that it is worth only $2 only for them to turn around and sell it for $10 or more. That is an incredible mark-up and for a very small amount of work. In a way, I wouldn’t mind seeing GameStop put out of business as they are borderline predators within the industry, but that might just be me and my disdain for how pushy and insufferable some of their employees can come across.

I’m not sure that there is really a “right” answer when it comes to the used game market right now. Every medium out there has to deal with a secondary market for their goods and really should not see shutting it down as another way to bolster their sales, but we’ll continue to see this happen. It will turn off a lot of consumers, but for every one that it turns off we’ll see more simply not care and continue doing what they do.