latest Question of the Week asked our esteemed audience of game
industry professionals, educators and students to relay their thoughts
on the tricky
problem of used game sales, which account for significant revenue
not seen by game creators. Specifically, the question we asked
was as follows:
Q: As part of a community of game publishers and developers,
do you buy used video games or go out of your way to buy new
If you do buy used, are you concerned about the financial implications
of the used game market, or does the free market trump revenue
concerns for the game business?
As usual, the responses were mixed. Though many, especially the
developers amongst the respondants, prided themselves on being
dedicated to buying new, most saw the effects of the games aftermarket
as no different than any other consumer product market, be it music,
movies, or cars. Most replies noted, though, that not only are
direct downloads a solution and response to the problem, but that
if developers and publishers wanted to curb used sales of newly
released games, more incentives were needed - be it lower price
or collectible insert - to make that new sale essential.
On the following pages, we'll highlight a few of the more interesting
have bought used games. I've always thought the $50+ price point was
bloated. I have a reluctance to pay more than $35 for a game. If I can
get it for $20, so much the better. Especially if I'm only buying the
game to keep up with the state of the industry. Actually for that need,
I'll usually just wait for the demo. Even if I have to wait a year. If
there's never a demo, I'll likely never look at the game. I rarely buy
games at all. I'm a game *developer*, not a game consumer. Buying and
playing games is a very bad habit. If I were to do it like consumers
do, I'd never get any work done at all. I end up playing too much Freeciv as it is.
If I buy a game, there has to be a business justification for it.
title has extraordinary implications for the game industry (i.e. Spore),
has proven to be an important marker in game design history for
better or for worse (i.e. Diablo II, Black & White),
is a competing product in the same genre I'm focused on (i.e. Civ, GalCiv),
or is an outstanding indie effort worthy of my support (i.e. King Of Dragon Pass).
I'm much more wiling to support indie developers with my dollars
than mainstream developers. Still, first
and foremost I support myself. It's not my job to provide the
game market with lotsa cash. I've made $0 on all the MIT licensed
source development I've done to date, so my conscience is quite
clear on this point. I should say, furthermore, that I think
a lot of what the game industry produces isn't any good. Just
generation of the same stuff shoveled into boxes. With a new
art team, that nevertheless manages to produce basically the
as before! I see no point in buying something I've seen dozens
of times already.
Brandon Van Every, Indie Game Design
I have always bought new games, but many times it is a year or more
after release when they are cheaper. Mostly I do this to get the
manuals intact because I buy a broad range games to learn about them
and use them for reference. I don't buy only new because I'm afraid of
the free market. Certainly, there would be more money earned if there
was no used market... but I know I wouldn't want the "game police"
coming down on my head every time I loan a game to a friend or
markets are part of life -- especially in the realm of art. If we
want our products to be deemed "artful" we had better get used to it.
Thank goodness the free market includes "collectors". The industry may
want to consider printing "edition" versions more distinctly -- like
books -- and cater more directly to game fans with unique art printed
on the disc and manuals. This is already done to a limited extent with
the collector's edition of major titles. Of course, there is also
something to buying the game made at a friend's company that is more
personal for myself than if I wasn't in the industry -- and buying a
friend's game "used" seems kind of tacky.
Steven Ehrensperger, Coresoft Inc.
buy new games, for two reasons 1) I want my money to go to the game
developer and publisher, who did all the work to get the game on the
shelves in the first place. 2) Buying a used copy opens the door for
support issues. How do I know it's a good copy? How do I know that the
box has everything in it that came with the box when it was new? Also,
if it's used, someone probably already registered the game, which means
that if I need tech support or patches, I may not be able to get them.
Also, we have had support issues where people have believed that they
were buying a new copy of the game when in fact they were buying a
re-shrink wrapped used copy where the original owner had already
registered the game.
So not only do used game sales mean less money for the developer, but
they can also translate into more support issues, which cost the
Cari Begle, Stardock
will purchase a new video game over a used video game if one exists at
the time of purchase. Until there is a new business model to combat
used games sales, I choose to support the current one. Unfortunately,
not everyone else does this because they don't have a vested interest. Ultimately,
the free market will trump revenue concerns and force video game
companies to be creative in attracting buyers to purchase new
titles over used. Digital distribution is one way to combat the issue because there isn't a market for used digital games.
Amir Ebrahimi, Flagship Studios
Recent games, no... but where else would you get the consoles
and games your parents wouldn't buy you when you were a kid? Or
other games that you didn't hear about till they had long since
left the shelves?
As both a gamer and a game developer, I think the used games market
is beneficial. Brand new games are expensive, and used games are
the only way many younger gamers can afford to play at all. This
at least keeps them interested in gaming (if the games are any
good!), which means there will be more customers around to buy
new games later. Additionally, the ability to sell it later
is often an important consideration in the purchase of a new game
- if the buyer doesn't like it, they know they can get some return
on their investment by trading it in for another. Given the price
of brand new games, the alternative to the used market is surely
going to be piracy for many, and that's a far worse way to lose
Simon Booth, SCEA