The Double Edged Sword of Used Gaming - o_JMan240_o Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Double Edged Sword of Used Gaming

Used games are one of the most polarizing topics in gaming today. Gamers love them, and almost universally stand by them, while those working in the industry most likely hate the fact that a retailer like GameStop has gained such a strong standing. The European Union's ruling on digital games, and the generally positive reaction in the comments section of every site I found that bit of news on, got me thinking more about the effects of used sales on the market. I can't speak from the industry side, but I can from the gamer's and say that, perhaps the used game phenomenon might not be as great for the consumer as it appears to be. (I encourage everyone to read the ENTIRE blog before commenting as I realize this may not be a wildly popular stance to take.)

The pros of used games from the buyer's perspective appear, at first glance, to so clearly outweigh the cons that arguing against them would be nothing short of insane. Used games can sometimes sell for $10-$15 less than their new counter parts, largely due to the fact that prices fluctuate more readily with demand in that environment. Saving this money often allows consumers to obtain games they would otherwise have passed up, most likely by buying those games pre-owned as well. The used game market has also contributed heavily to the growth of the game industry, providing retail outlets dedicated entirely to videogames.

Since they aren't sealed at purchase, most can be returned within a week if the buyer felt the game wasn't worth the money. Used game retailers also offer store credit that can be rolled into other games or even consoles, helping players to keep finding new titles to sink their time into or move into the newest generation. Many gamers also, no doubt, see them as a way to avoid paying too much for a game that isn't worth their money. With so much working in favor of used games, it's sometimes hard to see the more sinister side.

It's a tough pill for most gamers to swallow, but the publishers aren't necessarily acting entirely out of greed when they express displeasure towards used games. Their stance is well founded from their perspective and they most certainly aren't out to get those people that purchase their product. It's fact that they spend a boatload of money on these games and don't often hit it big enough in the AAA market, which walks an already tenuous line, to keep making a series. There's a lot of money on the line here and used games almost certainly have an impact on whether or not your favorite developer stays in business. And while used games may not be the sole problem that AAA developers and publishers face, it's certainly a considerable one. That negative impact doesn't exclusively affect those large publishers that throw around tens of millions though.

Like it or not, used games throw the industry off balance. On the back end they may actually hurt gamers more than they help them. From the industry side, used games are likely a significant factor in the perpetuation of the much maligned $60 price point that gamers decry on such a regular basis. Developers and publishers of large games know that they can't count on sales late into a game's life-cycle, so they feel compelled to get as much money up front as possible. Consequently, persistence of that $60 entry price has caused any games selling for less to be immediately assumed inferior by the public, starting the cycle that we're now stuck in. All these things then perpetuate a need for DRM to protect what new sales there will be, launch day DLC to entice players to buy new, and the online passes that players so often complain about to maintain online services.

From the consumer side, digging deeper than the surface reveals that all those good things are little more than polish on a turd. Used games and products are often of inferior quality, with some seeming almost as if they had been trampled on by their former owners - which they may very well have been. They come covered in stickers, along with whatever grime their previous owner left behind, and without all the goodies that came packed in at launch.

Selling a game back to a used retailer like GameStop will never net the player more than 50% of the game's value, and even then only if they trade the game back within a couple weeks after release and use that money to preorder another new game. In reality, it's more like 10% or 20% of face value, meaning gamers may get back $10 for a game that's worth $40... if they're lucky. To top it all off, none of the $20-$30 of profit that a place like GameStop makes off resale will find its way back into the industry. In essence, used games siphon money from the industry like a parasite. Yet despite contributing directly to much of what gamers universally dislike, they still have the consumer staunchly defending them.

This brings me full circle, back to the EU's ruling on digital game licenses. So many people, without thinking, immediately deemed this a good thing. In reality, it's anything but and proliferation of resale of digital content could severely damage the smaller, more artistic side of the industry. The side that doesn't have millions to throw around. Small developers flock to the digital space because they do not have the resources necessary to distribute their games physically, and in many cases they're developing products that would not succeed at retail anyways.

Unfortunately, working primarily through the internet means that their titles are much more susceptible to being pirated. The last thing they need is more of what little profit they scrape out of their hard work taken away. If large corporations have a hard time making up the difference, just imagine how that would effect a small dev team like Playdead, who created Limbo. The guys who don't have the backing to implement the same protective measures as AAA publishers could be wiped out in the blink of eye. 

It may leave a bitter taste in your mouth to admit it, but the negative effects of used games severely outweigh the good that comes from offering gamers a cheaper alternative. Without those used games, there may very well be a more flexible pricing model in the retail market. Without used games there almost certainly wouldn't be launch day DLC or online passes. The phrase, "you can't have your cake and eat it too", comes to mind here. It's painfully hypocritical to both complain about those practices we find unsavory and simultaneously support that which makes them necessary.

I know full well that used games aren't going anywhere, all I'm asking is that those who took the time to read this blog all the way through take a much shorter amount of time to think about the fact that there are two sides of this coin. That they don't so blindly and wholeheartedly support something that, in actuality, may be costing them, and the entire gaming industry, so much more in the long run. 

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