New game prices would have dropped long ago if publishers got a piece of the re-purchase.
It seems like a simple transaction. You buy a game for 60 bucks (or however much it is in your region) and you own the physical copy of that game. You have the right to sell that property in whatever way you see fit, usually back to the store you bought the game which then has the right to resell it. The whole process is completely legal. The problem is that, for many publishers of games, that second or third or fourth sale doesn’t add up to more revenue for the title and because of that lost money, some game developers can’t get their game published because the audience is more inclined to buy it used. According to David Braben – a veteran game developer since he made the space trading sim Elite in the 80s – the used-game market has stopped the publishing of some narrative games without a multiplayer component because they simply don’t make enough money.
“Pre-owned has really killed core games. In some cases, it’s killed them dead. I know publishers who have stopped games in development because most shops won’t reorder stock after initial release, because they rely on the churn from the resales,” said Braben. “It’s killing single player games in particular, because they will get preowned, and it means your day one sales are it, making them super high risk.”
Braben said that having a game sell out the first day is not a good thing anymore. “The idea of a game selling out used to be a good thing, but nowadays, those people who buy it on day one may well finish it and return it,” he said. “People will say ‘Oh well, I paid all this money and it’s mine to do with as I will’, but the problem is that’s what’s keeping the retail price up.
“Prices would have come down long ago if the industry was getting a share of the resells,” Braben stated.
The situation is a tough one, with no clear solution. I don’t think game publishers have any legal recourse to try to get a cut of the profits from used games. We, as a society, would have to fundamentally shift the way we think about property rights and possession in order for publishers to ask for a kickback from GameStop. Imagine if book publishers began demanded every yard sale or book swap demanded $1 be sent back to them for every copy of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sold. I can see the looks on the old ladies’ faces now. Horror.
On the other side of the counter, the kind of games you want to play are no longer thought as viable options for publishers and therefore might not get created at all. That’s not really an option either.