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Question of the Week: Do Games Industry Professionals Buy Their Games New or Used?
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Question of the Week: Do Games Industry Professionals Buy Their Games New or Used?

October 20, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

A tricky question. Not because I'm on the fence of it, but because it's bound to cause controversy. I do not go out of my way to buy new games if there are used versions available. I will buy a used game to save five bucks. Do I feel that I'm hurting the industry? No. I was once under the employ of Gamestop and I've seen how many used games go in and out of that place. I feel that experience has given me perspective on what games go "used" instead of "new".

There are a few groups of games that fill the majority of Gamestop's "Used Games" bin. -Bad games. -One Play Games. -Huge blockbuster games. -"Obsolete" games. These games are the ones that Gamestop probably sees the most profit from with the Trade-In system. I'll do my best to outline why I think they end up those "Used" bins. Bad Games: There are certain games that Gamestop offers $1 store credit for, and still have so many copies that they don't know what to do with them. Games that may've had a lot of hype, but didn't live up to it. Games that people *thought* were going to be good, and after playing through a dull 7 hours play, decided that they never needed to play it again.

My opinion on this kind of Gamestop clutter? I feel like the consumer is the one who was cheated. If a developer wants more revenue from their game in this case, maybe they should start by making their games fun. Making it an experience where consumers 8 years from now will look at their shelves and say "Hey, I should play that again". One Play Games: Perhaps the game was fun, but completely lacked replay value. People who enjoy games with replay value will continue playing them, and fewer will end up in the "Trade-in" bin. Consumers who want to play one of these games will find it harder to find used copies, and they'll buy new ones. If your game is only fun the first time you play it, then you shouldn't be surprised when you see it in the "Used" bin. Huge Blockbuster Games: These games have sold so many copies that just by sheer percentage, a huge amount of them end up in the "Used" pile. The makers of these games have probably already had their fair share and shouldn't be upset when somebody else wants to play the game "that everyone has already played", but they couldn't afford on launch day. "Obsolete" Games: Sequels that replace the original, or games with outdated technology also fill Gamestop "Used" bins. These games have had a good run, and for one reason or another, their original owners would rather see those games go toward the purchase of new and improved versions.

Developers should be happy, at this point, that people are still interested in the legacy their game has left, and the purchase of a used "Obsolete" game will likely lead to further consumer interest in the franchise. The biggest victim of "Obsolete" games are the yearly sports iterations. If I had a nickel for every used copy I saw of those... While these descriptions of standard "Used Bin" fare are an attempt to justify their place in the 2nd Hand line-up, ultimately it doesn't matter. Whether a game deserves to be in the 2nd Hand line-up or not doesn't really change the fact that the game maker already made their share off the original sale.

What the end user wants to do with their game isn't any of the game maker's business. The disc isn't their property any more, somebody else bought it already. It is certainly better for the game maker to sell a new copy of the game than a used copy. But if somebody decides they don't like your game anymore, I don't see why that means you deserve some more profit. Do Abercrombie and Fitch go around to Value Village stores, taking a cut for every one of their used pieces of clothing re-sold? How many times will can we re-sell a product before the original maker stops having ownership? Should this apply to Home sales? What about the Stock Market? Even if you did impose a system to profit game developers on second-hand goods at Gamestop, what about Ebay? Garage sales? Too much red-tape for my tastes. Besides, how much money do you think EA deserves for an old used copy of Madden 2005?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a game developer myself. I know how important it is for game makers to make a profit on their product. But I would not consider this a reasonable way to make that extra buck. Let's make our money the old fashioned way, by making a product that people want to buy. If Little Jimmy wants to then trade our product for a DVD copy of Red VS Blue, that's his decision.

Josiah Colborn, Novo Interactive

I always go for the new games. New as in "factory sealed". I take great care of my games and buying something that was tossed, dropped or sat on, no matter at how low a price, is simply disgusting to me. When I do buy used, it's really a last resort and I'm rarely satisfied with the physical integrity of what I buy. That said, I must admit I never reflected on the economical repercussions such aftermarkets have. In an ideal world, the developers would get their cut: they make the games after all. However, even if a legislation rules in favor of compensating the developers for second hand games sold in stores, people can always trade directly amongst themselves. You can't demand a percentage from a transaction that left no traces. A similar concern was raised (in a podcast called "developer rants", here on gamasutra) regarding the rental market and it's equal lack of retribution to the game industry. The response was something along the lines of "live with it". Blunt but lucid. That, I must deplore, reflects the present situation. We can only try to sensitize people to the ethical integrity and fairness of buying new, first hand games.

Pierre-Luc Lachance, Ubisoft

Since we're referring to the competition between new sales and used ones, I'll assume that we're analyzing relatively abundant stocks of video games. I, for one, find it discouraging that so few gamers are willing to view the larger scheme of video game retail sales. While it's certainly true that many some used sales are purchases that wouldn't have been made had the cost been higher, I find that the regularity of such purchases is drastically overstated. Am I to assume that forgoing a purchase of Super Mario Sunshine at $50.00 after removing the $35.00 used option means that the sum will be duly saved or invested? Of course not. That same money will likely be spent on video games, albeit a smaller amount of them.

However, the amount of new game purchases lost in this scenario is much fewer than that of the current one, in which gamers unconcerned about the quality of the game and its trappings nor the satisfaction of rewarding labor rack up dollars for middleman companies with their used game buys. I'm quite the free market capitalist, but used game purchases take advantage of the system at the expense of its ideals. Yes, we should reward those who price items lower or lower scarcity, but in the end, we seek to reward those who either produce a product or render a material usable for consumers. Used game retailers do neither, but undermine both the developers and producers of video games by siphoning away potential profits. This is not akin to generic food brands outselling higher-quality, pricier brands, because video games represent unique intellectual properties incredibly distinct from one another, unlike the relatively minor differences in food properties or quality. Instead, it's as if a bootlegger distributed massive quantities of a movie at 1/2 the price, utterly decimating legitimate retail sales for the film distributors and creators. For the sake of an industry already largely devoid of creativity, let's not willing strangle those dedicated to supplying us with a new favorite pastime.

Quinton Klabon, Dartmouth College

I NEVER buy used games, nor do I sell my old games. I am continually disappointed by the fact that I cannot convince many gamers to buy new. The age of hard copy is at an end. Digital distribution is coming and will be here to stay. Developers hands have been forced. Soon, small games presented on X Box Live and Nintendo Virtual Console will challenge hard copy games for profits. At this time the age of hard copy will end. Used game stores are pushing themselves out of business with hard handed tactics designed to force players to buy and sell used games.


I often buy used video games but whenever a shop assistant tells me that i can save a couple of quid by buying the used version of a game i usually refuse. I am worried about how this will affect developers...but the only way i can see this being resolved is digital distribution i.e. the retailer being cut-out. Another way is to price games fairly because the current high prices for video games is the reason i buy used in the first place and not just to save a couple of quid but tens of pounds.

Mohammad Abbas

The focus is on the retailers selling used game as having an adverse effect on the developers and producers, however the number of new games which are purchased though trading used games must also be focused on. I buy three new games finish them and trade them for a forth new game that turns out to be a 25% increase in my sales alone, I am aware that means three titles will be sold cheaper reducing there copyright holders selling but for the most part consumers who buy used do so because they can not afford the game new. Also such customers once they have enough used games may trade them in for a new title and sales from those who can not afford new games also increases. Now trading games does increase new sales but to force a customers to buy new will have one of two results: 1. Diminished hardware sales because of the lack of cheap games available and therefore have an adverse effect on publishers and developers because of the reduced market potential. 2. Increased piracy need I say more. I know this first hand when I worked in retail and with a big title a lot of its initial sales will be though trading existing games and I would say at least 40%+ of first days sales will be partially funded by traded games. But maybe companies like gamestop could provide such information on new sales broken down by cash/trade-in.


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