July 21, 2009

The Games Aren't the Only Things Being Used

So! As you may recall, I screamed like a girl about preordering last week, and mentioned that I wanted to talk about used game sales too. My opinion about preorders, I feel, is pretty hard to disagree with- I mean, you can, but it seems the general consensus. My opinion about used game sales is a little less widely accepted. Those with other perspectives, feel free to comment! Input is valued.

So, used game sales. Before I get too crazy, let's just look at the straight facts. When you buy a used game, the people who made that game get no money. None. The only person who makes a profit is the game store- the middle man. With games that have already made a huge profit- Greatest Hits/Platnium Hits/Player's Choice/What-Fuckin'-Ever titles, this isn't such a big deal. And some games are out of print- they can't be found new, at least not without paying collector prices, and those just aren't worth it. You may ask yourself, well, how much do used game sales affect the industry, really? Well, let's look at some examples.

Crackdown was a badass Xbox 360 exclusive, a truly awesome open-world title. And fortunately, at this year's E3 they announced a sequel to the game. Yay! I mean, they'd be crazy not to, given what a success the game was, right? Wrong. Crackdown was a high-budget next-gen title, and it sold 1.5 million new copies. In the words of the developers... "we pretty much only managed to break even." That's over the whole life of the game until now. For comparison, Halo 3 sold over 8 million copies in four months. And it wasn't even as good (if you ask me). But if you add in Crackdown's used game sales? Then that's a total (used + new) of 3 million copies. That's right... effectively, the devs only got 30 dollars per sale, instead of 60. And that's not even true, of course, because of that money, the developer's cut is much, much smaller than that.

Another good example: Dead Space, a survival horror shooter that was applauded both as an action title and as an original intellectual property. It was also one of the first examples of what some are calling the "new" EA- that is, an EA willing to try new things and advance the industry rather than just soullessly take advantage of consumers. It was risky to make a new IP at a time like that, when they could just as easily pump out two generic titles. So how much of a profit did they make from it all? They were in exactly the same situation- 1.5 million new, 1.5 million used. And that's across three platforms, mind you- it wasn't a platform exclusive.

So really, if you try to argue that used game sales don't affect/harm the industry, it's pretty easy to see that you're just wrong. But here's what gets me- yes, I understand that you save a few bucks, yes, I know that it's a good tool for those who don't want to go through the trouble of proper resale. But come on- you're cheating yourselves! You're trading in something for 25 dollars for them to immediately turn around and sell for 55! That is thirty dollars, straight in the trash. Wasted. You're paying Gamestop to have more patience than you, and they're happy to do it. You could sell that game on Amazon, Ebay, or some other online site for 50 bucks, easy. Hell, if you're trading in a title that just came out (who the hell trades in Street Fighter IV on the same day it comes out? I swear to God, I saw it happen.), you could just stand outside the store for ten minutes and offer your copy to someone that was about to enter the store!

Laziness is the only excuse, and it's a terrible, terrible excuse. Come on, you guys. We can do better.


  1. Boy do I disagree.
    The developers don't get the money for the used game sales, yes, I agree. But, I would not buy nearly as many new titles if I didn't think I could sell them for a fraction of the cost when I tire of them. So even though I buy new and used games, I'm still putting the the same amount of money directly into the new market.

    This influences the market hugely. Used game sales are the reason that add-ons are being made and why multiplayer is becoming mandatory. Both give the games replay value, and the longer the games are played, the longer until the games go into the used market. Halo 3 was 55 buck used for over a year because it had so much replay value. It's the crap games that suffer.
    Sure there are exceptions, single-player campaigns that last a few hours and then you are done, but maybe they are overcharging for those games.
    I think that if there was no used market (which there won't be when the next generation of consoles comes out) Then games sales will go down dramatically per capita because it's too much risk. Eventually they will lower prices in that scenario, but I feel like that demonstrates my point.
    Some games are crap, but I still want to try them out. I think of it in terms of art, and I think that gamers are somewhat entitled to the ability to sample games at low cost if they are able to wait long enough.

    Now I think your motivation is that you want to reward the developers in such a way that it will encourage them to make better games. So lets look at how we can do that.

    I've heard that bands make a lot more money from live shows then from selling cds. Web-comics make money from t-shirts and branding rather than the free comics. Maybe we should go back to the pay-per play era, but only have it come through a digital stream. Every hour you spend playing Dead Space, you are billed a dollar.

    I don't know, but the industry has massively inflated prices to deal with the used market. There may be a better system, but this system is at a reasonable equilibrium.

  2. I dunno, I really hate used games, with a fiery passion. I know I'm a little unreasonable about it, but a lot of it just pisses me off, the exploitation and the laziness. You certainly have a point- it's not all bad.

    I do think, though, that if games switched to pay-to-pay, across the board... I would find a new hobby. I just couldn't tolerate that. Maybe, in light of that, used games aren't so bad after all.