According to a recent survey, most consumers buy new just because it’s new.
The used versus new games debate is one of those battles that will just continue to rage until the videogame industry goes fully digital, with publishers hating on used games and retailers saying they’re not so bad. For now, publishers are looking for ways to ensure that more consumers buy new products, and according to a recent analyst survey the answer is to just keep making new games.
Which is to say, there may be no answer. The Cowen and Company survey’s results showed that 54% of respondents buy new games just because they “want new games.” These consumers are trying to avoid the hassles that come with used games, such as scratched disks, destroyed packaging, missing manuals, and hidden narcotics. 49% buy new for a similarly themed reason: They want a game the day it comes out. So, if publishers can just figure out how to turn used games into new and have them come out every day, they’ll be fine. The survey seems to present used games as a factor for the increasingly new pattern of high launch-day sales followed by a major drop-off, with Cowen analyst Doug Creutz saying new game sales are now “frontloaded.”
Only 16% of gamers buy new to support the industry, which is actually a higher percentage than I thought. When it comes to the almighty dollar, it’s usually hard to ignore the savings that a used game can provide to help out people you don’t know. 26% buy new because they want bonus content, and 21% buy new for online play. The results of initiatives like EA’s online pass that require a code to be entered to play online, which comes free with a new game but costs $10 otherwise, are debatable depending on who you ask.
Creutz points out the most interesting result of the survey, which was that 70% of respondents will buy a new game if they plan on using it for a long time. “We suspect there is a behavioral psychology factor at work, where gamers have an easier time justifying the higher price of a new game if they expect to get more use/value out of it, even though the utility of new vs. used on that basis isn’t any different,” he said. The solution for getting gamers to buy new product could lay in the psychological realm rather than by trying to attack their wallets.
My solution is for publishers to buy used games themselves, re-shrinkwrap them, and sell them back to retailers at an increased cost. Crisis averted.