Publishers don’t want you to buy used games, and neither do game developers. That’s no surprise, but I was taken aback this week to see some game writers arguing in opposition to the used game market, one that is dominated by Gamestop and, according to the logic of those opposed, doesn’t benefit publishers and developers at all.
Hogwash. Used video games may not result in direct profits for publishers, but the argument that they’re derailing the games industry relies on several falsehoods. Here are the arguments you’re likely to hear against used games, and why they’re bogus:
1. Video Games Don’t Lose Value With Age
Really? When EA Sports stops updating the roster for Madden 10 to push people towards Madden 11, the old game has lost value. When a sequel improves upon the faults of its predecessor, the original game has lost value. If anything, video games depreciate more than movies, books and music, because they are intrinsically tied to improving technology. Old games become stale.
2. Video Games Have No Secondary Market
Compared to movies, which go from theaters to home distribution to ad-supported TV broadcasts, video games’ only chance at generating revenue is on store shelves — or so this false argument goes. Video games actually have a few shots at additional revenue with downloadable content, digital distribution and resale on new consoles. Case in point: NES games are no longer sold in stores, but we happily pay for them again on the Wii’s Virtual Console.
3. Used Game Buyers Freeload By Playing Online
This argument paints used game buyers as people who tax a game’s multiplayer servers without paying the toll, but it gleefully omits the fact that the toll was already paid. If I trade in a multiplayer game, I can no longer play that game online (or offline), so whoever buys that copy is no more of a burden on the publisher than if I had kept the game and continued to play. Meanwhile, publishers have an opportunity to double-dip through the aforementioned DLC, which doesn’t transfer from one owner to the next.
4. People Who Buy Used Games Aren’t Customers
Where is it written that someone who buys a used game never buys new? A few years ago, I rented Mass Effect through GameFly, then I bought a used copy when the price went down. When Mass Effect 2 was released, I bought it within a week of launch. For better or worse, the video games industry is built on franchises, not one-off hits. When someone buys a used game, that person becomes a potential sale for the big sequel. The challenge for publishers is in making games that are worth the day one asking price, but I understand that it’s easier to just complain.