Team Humidor on Used Games

imageSeeing as this week marks the launch of not one, but two new consoles, and that many of said consoles are already appearing as high-priced Ebay auctions overseas, we here at The Escapist decided that today would be a good day to revisit the issue of used games.

Or at least, we going to pretend we planned it that way. Basically, what happened was that someone suggested that used games rip off game developers, and well … that pretty much started the ball rolling.

We reproduce here the emails that cause a brief, yet stellar conflagration of game editor ire on our Exchange server. Enjoy.

Used games rip off developers. Discuss:

Russ, Associate Editor
Saying used games hurt the industry is an oversimplification, and one with which I could not disagree more. The major threat to small, innovative development is the increasing cost of making games, which itself is based in no small part on the increasing complexity of game hardware.

However, if game makers truly fear the small games market, they’d do better to make better, cheaper games. Digital distribution is one solution, but it will not address the needs of consumers who can’t or won’t pay $60 for a game. Ignoring (or worse, condemning) that market will not solve anything.

Julianne, Executive Editor
I’m not disagreeing that the increasing cost of creating games is one of, if not the biggest problem facing small game devs. But calling the used games trade not a problem is turning a blind eye. Buying and selling used games, as the market is currently structured, is pretty much the same as pirated games to a developer, ie. they see no money from the resale of a game, just as they don’t from a pirated game.

Small companies feel the pangs of this more than an EA, which has multiple titles at any given time to soften the blow of this kind of market. And there have certainly been companies who have floundered because they’ve made good games, but didn’t protect them well enough from pirating to get the production money back. In it’s similarity there, this side market is absolutely a problem. I’m not completely condemning a used games market, simply condemning the current structure, one in which the developer is cut out.

Joe, Associate Editor
Saying used game sales hurt developers is like saying used car sales hurt Ford. At the end of the day, someone had to buy the game in the first place, which means the developer made money on that unit. Really, by the time a game makes it to its second or third owner, the value of a shrink wrapped game has dropped to the point where publishers stop printing the game anyway. So you could actually say the used market keeps games around longer, which allows people to develop a deeper sense of brand loyalty.

Of course, there are the people who refused to buy new games at all, waiting for the early adopters to trade in their games a week after release. But that goes back to the old piracy debate, which (correctly) states that those types of people weren’t going to buy the game anyway. In this case, the people who bother to wait aren’t buying at the original price point.

If the industry insists on making a mountain out of a molehill, though, there’s really only two options: Adopt the Long Tail approach and keep shrink wrapped games available at a lower price longer, which would pretty effectively kill the old-school used games business; or go digital distribution and force everyone to pay a standardized price and hope you don’t lose too many customers.

What do you think?

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