I’m sure you could ask any video game developer in the world what they think of used game sales and they would most definitely have negative thoughts on the subject. The selling of used games today is killing the industry slowly, but surely and the creators of the games feel it. The problem is the 100% of the profit from the sale of used games goes to the retailer selling them, not a penny goes to the people who actually made the game. Now it could be argued that at one point the game was new, so the developers and producers got money for it when it was originally purchased and so what if it gets sold as used after that? The reality is that if the game is bought once, then basically passed around from person to person with no money going to developers, it’s still a big loss. It would be like if you made a movie and one person bought it, then lent it to 10 different friends to watch meaning that now they wont buy it so you just lost 10 sales. 10 sales is small time, imagine losing thousands upon thousands of sales, and the money associated with those sales – it adds up.
It costs somewhere between $10 and $80 million to make a AAA title game, so it’s not cheap. In the United States, a new game runs you about $60 without tax and a used game will cost you anywhere between $5 and $50. The biggest loss is the newer games, we’ve all been into stores like GameStop and have seen the used game next to the new game. If it’s a new release the used version is only $5 to $10 cheaper than the game brand new. So the industry is losing almost the entire cost of the game new when the used version is sold, and the retailer makes a large profit. You can see how the retailers win in this situation, they get large profits for doing almost nothing except having employee’s push the used game sale hard. I used to work at GameStop, so it’s not mere assumption when I say that employee’s are supposed to push the used game over the new game. It’s easy – you tell the customer that the used copy is cheaper, and also that it can be easily returned if the customer doesn’t find it to his/her liking, unlike the new game. As an employee it doesn’t bother you because your managers like that you sell the used games and you are still getting paid regardless. Retailers like GameStop even have deals in which you buy two used games and get one free, get discounts on used games, or even get rewards such as 10% off anything in the store after buying 10 used games. All the while the game developers are hurting, and in the long run it will hurt the consumers. It’s also hurting you now, what do you get for trading in (selling back) a brand new game, $30 tops? Is it very fair that you paid $60 for a game one week ago then turn around and get $30 back for it? If the game is more than a month or two old you’ll get even less. The retailer can turn around and sell that game they bought off you for $30 and charge $55 for it, meaning they get a huge profit and it all goes straight to them. It seems like everyone but the retailers lose in this case.
Richard Browne, former Eidos developer and former VP of Core Studios at THQ and Universal Interactive, made this statement earlier this year in an interview:
“What on Earth was the point of taking the completely single-player experience of Uncharted 1 and bolting on an entirely new game to Nathan Drake’s second adventure? The multiplayer game – brilliantly executed as one would expect of the Naughty Dog team – had absolutely nothing to do with the single player experience, and from my perspective had absolutely zero interest from me as a consumer, and I’m not alone in that, take a look at the most recent Ninja Gaiden game. Why does that multiplayer mode exist? What effect did having to build it have on the single-player experience? There is no reason for the multiplayer game to exist; it makes no sense in NG’s universe. I’m not singling out Ninja Gaiden here, as the number of games that have gone the same route over the past couple of years is substantial. But is it good for the consumer? Absolutely not – in general they’re getting a poorer single-player game. But again that’s the tip of the iceberg.”
We all see the amount of DLC being released, the uprising of online passes, and the sheer amount of multiplayer games out there. These are all ways in which the developers are trying to get some money back and fight against used game sales. Releasing DLC means that the consumers will have to give money directly to the developers, you cannot buy used DLC. The online passes make is so that the consumers will be prompted to buy a game new so that the online pass (allowing the game to be played online) is basically free. If you choose to buy the game used but wish to play online, you will have to purchase the pass which again gives money directly to the developers. Multiplayer games open up a whole new world for the developers, since the DLC is easily released and it’s even easier to hook people into playing it. All of these things are the topic of complaints for cosumers. It’s annoying to constantly have DLC thrown at you, it’s irritating to have to worry about that online pass, and it’s just plain stupid that every game just has to have a multiplayer mode which arguably takes away from the single player of the game quality wise. This is the unfavorable future of gaming, the sad truth of the the gaming industry, and what we will have to expect from gaming as long as used games are being sold as aggressively as they are today. These changes wont happen tomorrow or even next month, but over time we will most definitely see a decline in single player quality and and incline in repetitive multiplayer games ridden with random useless DLC.
I could show examples and site sources all day, so let’s get down to the main point: What can we do to stop used game sales and change the direction that the industry is forced to go? One simple way is to not buy used games, and tell your friends not to as well. I know that seems tough when you aren’t sure of a game is good or don’t have the money to buy a game new, but if you choose to buy used games repeatedly then you forfeit the right to complain about the downsides mentioned above. It’s hypocritical to say “I hate these stupid online passes” when you are solely buying used games. Another way you can do your part in halting used game sales is to spread the word. Do some research and let others know what is happening to the gaming industry and why, knowledge is power and if more people out there know the facts then more people can continue to spread the word. Now I am not foolish or naive, I know that used game sales will most likely never go away completely but I also know that I’m not going to contribute to them any more. I have personally decided to never buy another used game, and to be honest it’s not only because of how it hurts the industry, I just hate how disgusting most of the used games look. The cases are cover in scratches and some kind of sticky stuff, the disc looks like someone cleaned it with sandpaper, and the smell of the thing is repulsive. That may be just exaggeration, but it’s not gross exaggeration. I like my games to look nice, and if it’s helping the industry as well then it’s a win win for me. In the end, we cannot expect things to get better by just sitting around and talking about it – if this issue means anything to you and if you wish to see the gaming industry thrive as opposed to crashing and burning in a menagerie of multiplayer madness then do something about it. Stand up for what you believe in and if games mean anything to you, stand up for what is right.
Food for thought: