Used vs. New: The Great Debate

Used vs. New: The Great Debate

Aylon has strong opinions on "the used game problem"

Is buying a game secondhand equivalent to pirating it? Does buying a game secondhand at your local videogame retailer hurt the industry such stores rely on? There are few more polarising debates in our hobby today. Many industry luminaries think secondhand sales are hurting them, but does that make it true? Aylon thinks so - but please remember, his views do not necessarily reflect those of

Used games are bad for the gaming industry.

This isn’t debatable, it’s fact. Now, just so I am clear, for the most part I am not talking about buying your games via TradeMe, eBay, or Adam from Maths class. I’m talking about going into an EB Games retailer and purchasing one of those “pre-owned” games in order to save about $10. If you do that, you are damaging our industry and it would be great if you would stop. If you aren’t going to stop though, then at least stop throwing a temper tantrum whenever Developers/Publishers try to make it a less appealing option.

Gamestop (locally known as EB Games) aggressively push secondhand sales

Among all the new Xbox rumours going around, there was one that the new console would implement a system that blocks used games from being played. This, of course, is still a rumour and no details of how it would even work were given. Obviously a lot of people were upset about this, but personally, I think it is a necessary evil. Yes, it sucks that this could stop me from lending a game to a friend or possible remove game rentals from the equation entirely; but what do you expect the industry to do? Used games are costing them billions of dollars every year.

Last year Quantic Dream - the developer of Heavy Rain - estimated that they may have lost up to US$13.7 million from used sales. That’s a lot of money and puts into perspective the kind of figures we’re talking about. In 2010, Gamestop (The American version of EB Games) made 54.7% of it’s gross-margin profits from used games.

Some argue that used car and book sales are have been around for much longer without those industries complaining about or fighting the effects. Firstly, they still make money from used cars, because when they break down they sell & supply the parts needed to repair it. Secondly, of course used sales hurt those industries as well. And thirdly, the price difference between new vs used in those industries is usually significant. They are great savings, but for used games you are only saving about $10. I’m sorry but being prepared to hurt the industry we love for a $10 discount makes us seem kind of cheap, don’t you think?

Another point I’d like to make is that the car manufacturers and book publishers don’t have any real ways of fighting used sales and that they most likely would if they could. Evidence of this is the book industries adoption of E-Books. Gaming publishers, due to the technology behind their products, have a lot more options to combat used sales; can you really blame them for using them? Sure they make money from the initial sale, but come on, it’s a business, they want money for every potential sale of their product.

Mike Capps, CEO of Epic Games, is vocal in his hatred of secondhand video game sales, which he frequently compares to piracy

Even if you think it’s just greedy CEOs wanting more, they still represent a business and making money is a priority for them. Also, they have to think about the artists, programmers, producers, and a lot of other people who make your games in return for a paycheck that feeds their families. When you make sure 100% of the profit from your purchase goes to the retailer and not them, how can you get mad at them for wanting to do something about that?

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you do choose to purchase their games used, then you aren’t technically their customer - so why do they owe you anything? The sense of entitlement from some gamers is mind-boggling.

Publishers have tried a lot solutions recently to prevent people from buying used or trading their games in. This includes adding multiplayer to games that were known for their single-player (Bioshock & Dead Space), special downloadable content (DLC) or bonus missions (Catwoman stages in Batman: Arkham City) and online-passes that block the games multiplayer unless you enter a one-use code.

Is the "Online Pass" the solution? Is it fair?

I’m not a fan of unneeded multiplayer, because even if it’s great, usually no one plays it (RIP Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood). Also, online-passes that block multiplayer aren’t a great move, since it potentially limits the size of the online community playing the game. However, I can understand why they do it as a way of making up for the costs of maintaining the server. I get that these methods can suck, but then again, I buy my games new, so it’s never going to be a problem for me.

What’s disappointing is when I see people getting pissed that content for single-player games is held for new purchasers. The only people who could rightfully be mad are those without Internet access to download the content. For everyone else, why you mad bro? Why can’t a publisher incentivize their potential customers to purchase the product new? It’s smart/good business. You don’t get mad at an infomercial asking you to call in the next 5 minutes to get a bonus training DVD do you? And if you bought that product second-hand a week later from somewhere else, you wouldn’t get mad if the DVD wasn’t included.

So why do people get mad that EA provide 7 extra side missions in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for those who buy the game new? They even allow those who buy it used to purchase them separately if they really need 7 more quests. There’s that entitlement again.

What do you mean, I don't get those missions for free?! WTF EA!

On the bright side, as digital purchases become more common this whole issue will be removed entirely, because you can’t trade in digital games; and you know why? Because you don’t really own a digital purchase - look at Steam games, do you really own anything in your library? It’s more like leasing, which is what a lot of this issue comes down to. The perception of ownership based on a purchase.

The reality is things are changing and the future for console gaming is heading in the same direction as PC gaming. For years you’ve had to enter a one-use CD-Key or Authorisation code for PC games. Why is this such a problem for consoles when it has worked perfectly fine on PC for years? In the end, there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it anyway. So best to accept it and move on with the comfort of knowing that, in the long run, it is better for the industry so we can continue to get the great games we love. Say it with me my fellow gamers... For the greater good!

So, where do you sit on the used vs new debate? Sound off in the comments below.


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Comments Comments (34)

Posted by Ubercuber
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 3:18 PM
I agree and disagree with a lot of this.

My major concern isn't around used games (I tend to buy new anyway) - but more around hiring games. If I just want to rent something and play games with some mates for a night - I don't think I should be punished. Also - if your game is 5 hours long and only worthy of a rental....

If that rumour about the next Xbox blocking used games comes true, I think Im done with games. Its all turning into the Apple model anyway with the user not actually owning anything.
Posted by Super-Pangolin
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 3:45 PM
This is because Gamestop/EB are the satan of game stores. I felt dirty for pre-ordering Kingdoms of Amalur from there. I reckon abolishing pre-owned games isn't the right way to go, but I support developers giving extra in-game content with new copies.
Posted by cantab
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 3:48 PM
Where do they get all/most of the 2nd hand games from? From gamers who have traded them in for new! No more trades would probably affect new game sales.
Posted by Curuniel
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 3:51 PM
If they can actually make a console that will not play used, borrowed, or second-hand games, I think that would be a bad and unjustified decision.

Second-hand games were bought from the creators at some point. When people buy second-hand the creators may lose *potential* profits from players who wait rather than buy new, but that's not the same as stolen goods. I have no problem with companies offering incentives to buy new - in fact I think that's a great idea. Trying to prevent second-hand games being sold at all is overzealous.
Posted by Classy_Shayne
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 4:24 PM
It annoys me when I see these articles about how the gaming industry is losing money. If these clown's would stop charging over $100 for a game, they would find that more people would purchase them. End of story. Most people can't afford to fork out over $100 for games they may only play once. The Call of Duty series is the biggest culprit here. Black-ops came out in 2010 and it still retails in alot of places upwards of $100? Compare this to Halo Reach which came out at a similar time and now retails at around $50 or less. I also cannot see how this is any different to selling other items second hand? This is like saying that once you buy a car, you can't sell it? If second hand games are banned, the gaming industry can stick it as far as i'm concerned!
Posted by nimrod76
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 4:36 PM
Your point about keys for PC games sums up this whole argument. PC games have had one use games for years/decades? I have no issue with exclusive DLC or online passes, if you buy a game new you get the perks, you buy second hand and love the game you should be willing to fork out the extra $10-$20 for the pass/DLC.

I buy mostly new games with the odd second hand one here and there, Dirt3 being the latest. I don't have access to the online at the moment but if I find myself really getting into it I will pay the extra $20 no problem.
Posted by acedumbunny
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 5:03 PM
My problem with not allowing second hand games is for when a game becomes out of print, how will players who missed out on said game be able to play it. Also, if it becomes a franchise, that is popular for it's plot, why would people who missed out on the original purchase the sequels when they have no way to get the beginning of the story? (This is assuming the game does not get a downloadable copy, that even then would probably cost more than the game did when it was being sold as a physical copy).
Posted by Kegz
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 5:13 PM
Ehh it depends. I mean that's assuming the person who bought the second hand game would otherwise buy it new if that avenue wasn't available to them. Dev's can still get money off online passes and DLC so it's possible a second hand market earns them money rather than taking it away.

It's not really a problem for me in terms of buying games, I always buy new BUT I do sell almost all of mine (Trademe) when I'm done with them in order to ensure I don't actually pay $100+ per game (I think that's excessive). I know that if I couldn't sell them to recover some of this cost then I'd buy a whole lot fewer games.
Posted by KatalystaKaos
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 5:36 PM
At the end of the day people only have $X amount of dollars to spend on their hobbies (in this case gaming). So if there is no way of selling or trading a finished game(on a new game) then the actual amount $X is either likely going to be decreased or purchases will be less frequent. Either scenario means the actual amount of games purchased will lesson, the result being less IP's, less variety etc.

It's another example of how capitalism eats itself, with CEO's wanting more profit to feed hungry share holders. These rinky dink game platforms of today may look and sound sweet but I often find myself longing for the old C64, Amstrad days where it was about fun and not more stinking profit for already rich fat cats.

The good news is that there's now such a huuuuggggeee back log of games to play that if the next gen does go the way of no 2nd hand games, I'll be more than happy sticking with my current & past tech, purchasing ALL my games 2nd hand from TM, ebay etc.
Posted by chinaman71
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 5:51 PM
They can go cry. As the purchaser i can do whatever i please with the end product. This whole "it hurts our business" stuff is BS and the game industry will go the same way of music if it doesnt be careful, fighting the customers stimulates piracy period. They can stop their b*tching too games are on the up and up more $ than ever in it. If you want to "ban" used copies bring it in from the beginning, otherwise its just greedy. Im buying the game not a freaking license they can strip from me when i do something different.
Posted by KatalystaKaos
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 6:04 PM
"Why is this such a problem for consoles when it has worked perfectly fine on PC for years?"

Gee could that be why MOST gamers prefer their console, I freking hate those CD-Keys that is why I for one use my console as often as I can when gaming. The more i read that article the more I realise how out of touch the writer is with the majority of gamer. Lease a game WTF?
Posted by ADz_Nz
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 6:25 PM
Off topic, any news on a podcast coming soon? it would be nice to get the new zealand view points back :)
Posted by ashman
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 6:31 PM
"Now, just so I am clear, for the most part I am not talking about buying your games via TradeMe, eBay, or Adam from Maths class. I’m talking about going into an EB Games retailer and purchasing one of those “pre-owned” games in order to save about $10."
Is there a differences? Either way you are still buying the game secondhand for maybe $10 or more cheaper but both will be hurt in the end.
I think there are some good points here but you talk about a developer losing $13million from used game sales but how many people would've brought the game if they had to pay the full price for it? You and developers are assuming that gamers are going to buy every used game they bought, NEW if that is the only option to them but the reality is different. People will limit the amount of games they will buy a year to fit into their budget.
I personally think the Online Pass is the best option as it gives people the option to still buy used games at cheap prices but also the game developers still get their share.
I know if I can only buy new games then the amount of games I will buy a year will decrease because of my budget.
Posted by KatalystaKaos
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 7:14 PM
Yep^ you're right. It's amazing how these guys cannot realise that, and please developers spare us the "games will be more affordable when their digital", currently the majority games on Live/PSN are the same and often more expensive than there bricks and mortar counterparts.

There is very little competition in the online DLC marketplace(none on consoles), how can that ever be good for the consumer? I actually feel alienated, offended infact by this stance of developers.
Posted by brettz0r
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 8:19 PM
I think the best solution for this is for places such as EB games to have a ban on buying back games that are less than 6 months old.
Problem solved.
This means the people who will buy new, will by new.
The people who want to buy 2nd hand, can buy 2nd hand.. they just have to wait for it.
EB games will also have to realise that they need to keep game devs happy or they too, could be out of a job
Posted by OriginalSin
On Friday 17 Feb 2012 9:41 PM
At the end of the day, if you piss off a gamer too much, there is every likelihood that they'll just turn pirate and the industry will make no money anyway. While I feel for the developers and I want to support them so they can continue making the games I love, some of the methods employed recently are getting me close to being pissed off too much.
Posted by kiwiatlarge
On Saturday 18 Feb 2012 10:02 AM
17 February 2012, 08:19 PM Reply to brettz0r
I think the best solution for this is for places such as EB games to have a ban on buying back games that are less than 6 months old.
Problem solved.
This means the people who will buy new, will by new.
The people who want to buy 2nd hand, can buy 2nd hand.. they just have to wait for it.
EB games will also have to realise that they need to keep game devs happy or they too, could be out of a job
Agreed, possibly the biggest problem the industry has comes from people clocking games in 2-3 days then trading them back in, while the retailer then gets a second bite, while the developer loses a sale.

The other option would be something in the fine print that regulates that all resales of a game through a licensed retailer, such as EB, come with a % back to the developer. Of course, you can't do that with private sales, but I don't think private sales are so much of an issue here.. It's the 7 day buy backs that are.
Sir Thrustsalot
Posted by Sir Thrustsalot
On Saturday 18 Feb 2012 10:51 AM
Punish the game stores who are putting used copies of games right next to the new ones at a slightly discounted price. Not the gamer that is trying to scratch up a few extra dollars to buy the latest game they're interested in, by selling an old game he/she's finished with. Hell don't supply the offending shops with games on release day or week, that will sort them out fairly quick.
As for online passes that's cool. But allow people a once off 24hr pass to see if they actually like the multiplayer/game before forcing them to pay $20 or what ever it is. The buy ins from rentals and used sales would be greater if there is still a limited form of try before you buy.
Posted by Vicx
On Saturday 18 Feb 2012 12:16 PM
If everyone is forced to buy only new, the price should come down because more are buying. They'd still profit and we'd pay less, it's potentially a win-win situation. But forcing us to buy new at $100+ prices would only be bad for everyone.
Posted by W00KIE_WARRI0R
On Saturday 18 Feb 2012 9:16 PM
I will just turn to ps4, im not buying a game if its just like 5-8 hours.
Posted by brettz0r
On Saturday 18 Feb 2012 10:11 PM
18 February 2012, 12:16 PM Reply to Vicx
If everyone is forced to buy only new, the price should come down because more are buying. They'd still profit and we'd pay less, it's potentially a win-win situation. But forcing us to buy new at $100+ prices would only be bad for everyone.
Nah this wont happen because cheaper games means pre owned will just be that little bit cheaper... and then you still have the same problem
Posted by phantom
On Sunday 19 Feb 2012 9:42 AM
18 February 2012, 10:11 PM Reply to brettz0r
Nah this wont happen because cheaper games means pre owned will just be that little bit cheaper... and then you still have the same problem
I think that depends on the price. Personally, if a game is at a consumable price point (up to $50), I'm happy to buy it with no hope of resale (Steam, etc). Once you get past that point, there are very few games I'll buy outright if they have no resale value.

This sort of behaviour seems fairly typical, too, with things like DVDs and CDs seemingly of next to no value secondhand; the original purchase costs so little, so why bother?

I'm firmly in the "games are too expensive" and "retailers don't make enough money from first sale" camp when it comes to explaining this phenomenon.
Posted by PunisherNZL
On Sunday 19 Feb 2012 4:48 PM
I never buy used games, only preorder/buy new if u cant afford the price tag of new games you have bigger problems than worrying about games. U need a better job that pays more or a new hobby!! Simple as that If you enjoy playing the games the Dev's make you have to show your support with your wallets.
This comment has been down-voted by the community.  
Posted by Jake
On Sunday 19 Feb 2012 5:40 PM
19 February 2012, 04:48 PM Reply to PunisherNZL
I never buy used games, only preorder/buy new if u cant afford the price tag of new games you have bigger problems than worrying about games. U need a better job that pays more or a new hobby!! Simple as that If you enjoy playing the games the Dev's make you have to show your support with your wallets.
So because I can't afford multiple games at $120 a pop, I shouldn't be a gamer is what your saying? Your view of society is kind of warped if you think paying $100+ for a game that you might only play once is economical for anyone.
Posted by toadeny
On Monday 20 Feb 2012 9:56 AM
I've seen that sometimes the pre-owned games are $10 more than a new one from EB. I'm all for paying for content, I'm happy to drop money on music from iTunes and that model works fine, and I don't expect to on-sell those tracks ever.

To answer the article, my feeling is that games should be provided at a slightly lower cost with a single use code. The $100+ for a new game makes having a large collection prohibitive. That's why I only follow a few franchises and skipping every other years new title due to the costs.

To digress a bit... when PS3 network was down I believe no one could play anything that was downloaded from the store because it required a sign-on to validate your licensed purchase. I have BF3 for PC (I guess I'm a fan of the franchise) but that has a stupid internet interface for launching the game and thus wont work when the internet fails. Its mad that you can't play a campaign offline when the servers are down for maintenance, its the unfortunate price I have to pay for a great game :(

I think the download and always validate model needs to be more resilient and only deny access if after several failed attempts over a period of say 30 days. That would enable you to play the stuff you brought when the internet is offline/unreachable
Posted by jamesg
On Monday 20 Feb 2012 4:19 PM
I agree with most of what's been said here. My only point of contention is a difference of opinion on the developer’s. I don’t think they’re whining; I can imagine it is frustrating to see the resale of an item you spent years making with profits going solely to another company (i.e. EB Games). Not that I blame EB either, mind you. In all actuality if I was EB I would be under cutting everyone in used game sales. They’re just a business trying to make a profit too.

There is absolutely no problem with budget gamers in the least! We all enjoy the same things. It’s up to the developer’s, publisher’s, and retailer’s to figure how they get our money. My hats off to them for every dollar they can make out of me, you, and the rest of us.
Posted by Orcmeister
On Thursday 23 Feb 2012 8:13 AM
Utter rubbish, Aylon. The makers of Heavy Rain are greedy whiners. Not a good look in these times of fiscal restraint! Do a little digging and you'll see the game sold by the boatload and profits were immense. Just about every other product is available for potential resale so why should video games be protected from this facet of the free market?

I don't think your example of single use PC codes is always correct and it depends on the game. There are certainly titles that have allowed me to make multiple installations but I can only play on the machine that has the game disk in the drive at the time.

If you think this hurts the industry, you really should ask yourself if the industry isn't hurting itself more by making games with low replay value. Portal 2 is fantastic but low on replay value. The Civilization series is also fantastic but with high replay value. If I was interested in purchasing either of these titles now, guess which one I wouldn't buy unless it was in the bargain bin? The second hand market is also a great place to pick up good games that I otherwise might have missed out on. Fat chance of that if games are now one user only. And you won't be able to lend your mate your copy of your game either as he won't be able to play it on any system but yours.

Lastly, there's this. You've paid your money but you didn't like the game. DRM means nobody else can play your copy if you onsell it. How happy are you feeling right now having wasted that money? How much cagier will you be in purchasing titles in future? How good for the industry will that be?

Ultimately this about corporates trying to control the market and dictating to consumers. That's just plain wrong in a free market system. If game companies achieve this, does anyone think that this security of income will result in cheaper prices? Does anyone think that anyone other than the stockholders will see a penny more out this increased revenue? I really wouldn't be holding my breath for a bonus or salary bump as a game company employee if this came to pass.
Posted by kiwiatlarge
On Thursday 23 Feb 2012 10:21 AM
Everyone complaining at the price of >$100 games needs to realise a couple of things

-That pricing is not new for games. So it isn't like games have just gone up because of 'greedy' developers.


-There is actually a bucket load of work goes into a modern blockbuster game like Uncharted 3. We are talking movie size production teams and budget. Actors, mocap, etc, etc, etc.

If you want $50 games, then the smart phone/tablet brigade who can't see the place the Vita deserves in the market because their gaming centres around Angry Birds, will get their wish.. Freeware/shareware style gaming will take over, game, set, match. Facebook gaming for everyone. I can't wait.... not!

And a lot of developers are listening to complaints of 'lack of replayability'. That's why games like Uncharted, Assassins Creed, hell even bloody Dead Space have online modes now, whereas they once didn't. The Last of Us will no doubt be the same. As much as single player purists like myself don't really care for it, clearly we are in the minority, the people have spoken, and the developers are listening.

I do agree about paying over 100 for a mere 6 hours of gameplay is not worth it. (I for instance have not bought Modern Warfare 3 because I don't play online, and I'll probably only play it through once like I did MW2, for $150), The key for me is making games I WANT to replay 3+ times, like the 3 Uncharted games. Little touches like the Insomniac skill points of old makes a big difference for me. (How many hours did I spend trying to get them all in Resistance Fall of Man?)
Posted by rebolta
On Friday 24 Feb 2012 5:21 PM
Great write up. I agree with alot of it. Mainly because I like shiny new things. But also having friends in the industry that got made redundant I realise the importance of the sales for the people that put so much energy and time into making our lives happy with the mashing of buttons.
Posted by Qualanqui
On Saturday 25 Feb 2012 5:27 PM
Hahahaha neither I hire all my games there extremely expensive pieces of plastic
Posted by Tzeit
On Sunday 26 Feb 2012 12:17 AM
I disagree with a lot that was said here. The only thing I do agree with is that, of course, piracy being bad for developers.

Used games do not equal piracy. A legitimate copy is a legitimate copy irrespective of being new or used. You can't change definitions on a whim.

I don't know why anyone would be blindly happy with buying "licences", or at least not the option of buying the game in full. So we aren't allowed to own anything anymore? We should all just give up and submit ourselves to our capitalist overlords?
Posted by murkawicz
On Tuesday 28 Feb 2012 9:34 AM
buying used games is perfectly legal and acceptable. the fact that gamestop makes such a profit off trade ins and such is what bothers the f**k out of me. they rip people off so much
Posted by DAZLAA
On Wednesday 29 Feb 2012 4:26 PM
It will never happen and even if it doe's someone will find away around it pretty quickly they still haven't been able stop pirated music and movies or games for that matter and the more they try the more people will fight it.MW3 made $1 billion in 16 days and its a over rated game surely Activision can't be upset at that i think the industry is getting i bit greedy here i mean it would take me 14,285 years to make 1b dollars on my wages so excuse me if i don't shed a tear that that want more momey make better! games and cheaper! then people will bye more
Posted by ademorg
On Tuesday 6 Mar 2012 8:37 PM
Why is everyone blaming places like EB Games for this. I personally don't buy second hand games because I beleive that they are too expensive. A new games doesn't cost much more so why not buy them. I biggest way I save on games is buying them when they become cheaper. No I don't get to be the first to play it but I do still get to play the awesome games and the developers get my money.