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Walmart Testing “Video Game Buyback” Kiosks

Walmart Testing “Video Game Buyback” Kiosks

May 18, 2009 | By Kris Graft

May 18, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Walmart has leased store space to third-party automated kiosk company E-play, which has released 77 “Video Game Buyback” stations at select locations, Walmart corporate told Gamasutra on Monday.

The machines are part of a very limited pilot program for Ohio-based E-play -- the kiosks are only found in 2 percent of Walmart’s 3,656 total U.S. stores.

Walmart corporate spokesperson Melissa O’Brien said in an email that E-play owns the machines, which reside in Walmart stores’ vestibule leased space areas.

She said the Walmart machines also carry movie DVDs and video game discs for Wii, Xbox and PlayStation platforms for $1 per day rentals, on top of accepting game discs that customers want to sell.

E-play marketing VP and business development exec Kristen Fox explained in phone call that customers scan a game’s jewel case at the machines, at which point a buy back price point appears on the unit’s screen. If the customer accepts the buy back price, he or she inserts the game disc into the kiosk, and the case into the attached bin.

After the machine’s technology confirms the authenticity of the inserted game disc, the kiosk requests the customer’s driver’s license and a credit card. Credit is applied to a credit card of the user’s choice within 2-3 business days, depending on the customer’s financial establishment.

The card does not have to be a Walmart store credit card, Fox said. Store credit can range from 50 cents to around $25 for more recent, high-demand titles, she added. For example, she said that E-play machines buy back Madden NFL 09 for Xbox 360 for $14, although E-play reviews trade-in values frequently “to stay competitive.”

Fox would not go into details about the contract between E-play and Walmart, and declined to say whether or not there is some sort of profit-sharing deal between the two companies.

Fox also declined to comment specifically on what E-play does with the used games that it buys, only saying there are a “couple different methods” for resale of the games. It’s possible that some of the inventory is injected into E-play’s game rental inventory.

“I can't see this having tremendous appeal to hardcore gamers, unless the credits are substantially higher than those offered at GameStop,” said Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, who also told us that the system could appeal to cash-strapped customers.

“Even if this takes off, it's not going to make much of a dent in the used market. … I don't see it being a big deal.”

Walmart’s O’Brien added that the retailer would consider expanding the E-play game buy back program if it’s successful.

Prior to the Walmart initiative, E-play had established a base of what it calls “high-tech DVD vending machines” that can hold thousands of discs. The touch-screen operated machines are able to accept discs thanks to playability check technology inside the machines.

While the E-play Walmart program is a third-party initiative, other non-specialty video game retailers have attempted to steal away used game market share from the current used game leader GameStop on an internal basis. Best Buy has attempted to gain traction in the used market by selling used games in select stores, with limited success. Toys ‘R’ Us this year also dipped its toes into used games, as well as online retailer Amazon.

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