Used Games: Good or Bad for Gaming?

Used Games: Good or Bad for Gaming?

Open communication via the Internet has brought gamers and developers quite close, and for the most part, we’re all good buddies. However, one issue still divides us like a katana through a cake: the used games debate.

Game developers generally do not harbor warm feelings about the used game trade. They believe it takes money directly out of their pockets, and, by extension, food out of their children’s mouths. Gamers, by contrast, think the pre-owned game market is fantastic–even industry-preserving. Both sides have valid reasons for their points of view, and both sides are a little right and a little wrong.

There isn’t a game-related issue that’s as “grey” as the sale and trade of used games, but when we talk about the benefits and downsides, our arguments are parsed in black and white. A recent example of the divisive attitudes surrounding used game sales comes from Guillaume de Fondaumiere, the co-founder of Quantic Dream, and one of the minds behind Heavy Rain for the PlayStation 3. Fondaumiere believes that the sale of used games is costing developers millions of dollars in lost royalties, and says that the second hand market is currently one of the “number one problems in the industry”–especially for triple-A games.

“I can take just one example of Heavy Rain,” Fondaumiere said to Gamesindustry.biz. “We basically sold to date approximately two million units, we know from the trophy system that probably more than three million people bought this game and played it. On my small level it’s a million people playing my game without giving me one cent. And my calculation is, as Quantic Dream, I lost between 5 and 10 million [Euros] worth of royalties because of second hand gaming.”

Fondaumiere also pointed out that if publishers and developers continue to lose money on used game sales, it’ll simply hasten the fate of retail as a distribution model. Publishers will be that much more motivated to save money by putting everything online.

For the opposite side of the conflict, you don’t need to look any further than the comment threads over at 1UP or Gamesindustry. Defensive arguments include:

“If I didn’t save money buying used games, I’d never buy games at all.”

“Publishers should keep their retail product competitive by lowering their prices by $10.”

“This is America, and I can spend my money however I wish.”

In other words, Fondaumiere’s worries are valid–but so are the arguments of the ladies and gentlemen who prefer to buy their games used. The used game trade isn’t evil. It’s an alternative for gamers who, true to their word, would otherwise miss out on certain games.

Moreover, even though we associate used game sales with GameStop, the massive chain is hardly the origin of the practice; it merely capitalized on it to enormous success. Before we bought used games with any regularity, we rented them, we traded them, we invited friends over and shared them. In any case, we experienced games without paying full price for the actual title.

Fondaumiere admits that maybe retail titles are too expensive. In any case, he believes that developers, publishers and expert consultants alike need to put their heads together and find a solution for the used game “problem,” else the retail business model risks collapse.

There isn’t much to be done, however. In some form or another, the used game trade will always exist, no matter how cheap retail games become. In fact, where any consumer good exists, a “used” market is never far behind. That applies to games, as well as books, electronics, clothing, cars, and furniture. Every other manufacturer has accepted that their products might not be bought new, and game developers and publishers will also have to make peace with the used market.

If its any consolation to Fondaumiere and his peers, GameStop is aggressively trying to expand its reputation beyond used video games. The retailer is building up its own tablet, as well as a game streaming service. While GameStop will never abandon the used game trade, there might come a day when people walk into a store with the intention of purchasing something other than a stack of used titles.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. It’s easy. Games with replay value don’t get sold very quickly. If you make a game with 20 or less hours of gameplay, and 10 hours of that is just collectibles, what do you think would happen?

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