Is There A Good Side to Used Game Sales?

One of the most debated and demonized parts of the video game industry is used games. And rightfully so; often, it’s because of used games that many developers don’t see the money they deserve for all of their hard work, which can eventually lead to the unfortunate shutdown of studios and the loss of careers for talented individuals.

And as we move steadily toward an all-digital future, it’s going to phase out and eventually cease to exist as we know it in our current day and age.

But the fact of the matter is this; it exists today, and it’s a real and heated issue on both sides of the argument.

Well, call me an optimist, but while I understand (and often agree) with the arguments made against used game sales, I can’t help but feel like there are some advantages to them that actually help the game industry.

Now, I’m not talking about the recently released games you can buy used for $54.99 when the retail is $59.99. That’s a blatant rip off that should be avoided in most cases. And it should be noted that it’s always better to buy new whenever possible, because the money bought on a new game does help out the people who made it.

The truth is, games are expensive. Gaming is an expensive hobby, and if you want to stay topical and in discussion in the current releases climate, you’ll have to plan on spending a pretty penny. But that’s what makes used game sales so popular; it offers gamers a more affordable option when purchasing a game that’s been on shelves for a while. It’s a completely understandable rationale to consider purchasing a game used when it’s half the price of its new counterpart at retail.

And the low cost of used games gives some gamers the opportunity to play when they might otherwise not be able to. Some might not be able to afford all of the new releases seen on shelves each month. But, they still want to play and have those experiences just the same as you and I. Thanks to the affordable accessibility of used games, they now can.

Much like the free games given away on PlayStation Plus, used games have the opportunity to generate interest within our community. Take Borderlands, for example. That game was given away free to PS Plus members this month. And because it was free, it has reached a broader audience that might, in turn, generate interest in the upcoming release of Borderlands 2.

Used games have the opportunity to do this as well. You’re more likely to drop a small amount of money on  game you don’t know much about and give it a try, which can in turn help usher you into a new franchise should the game ever get sequels. Most full-price purchases made at retail these days will be games that fans have researched or know a lot about beforehand; you’re not as likely to impulse buy something that costs $59.99 as you are something that costs $14.99. The risk taken is much lower, and there’s a chance you might find something you really love out of it.

It’s much easier to find older games used than new as well. There’s a small brick and mortar shop near my house that has an impressive collection of PlayStation 2 games that I’ve bought from to jump into older classics and build my knowledge base. It’s a difficult task to find a lot of these and older games new anymore, and having them used makes them much more accessible to me and anyone like me who wants to jump in to some of the classic games of past generations.

And it should be remembered that everyone from large companies like GameStop to small local stores are supported largely by the sale of used games and equipment. Outlawing used game sales could deal them a fatal blow, and like it or not, they are an important part of the gaming industry in our current day.

Now again; I understand the argument against used game sales. And I don’t necessarily condone them in all cases. But I do see value in them, despite the loud cries of foul that are usually thrown their way.

So, what needs to be done in order to help out developers and publishers and still cater to gamers as used games do? Companies need to find ways to offer games to players in more affordable ways. And in several cases, they’ve already started. Games frequently get price cuts to the point where you can buy many several-year-old games on retail shelves for $19.99. Newer games might get price cuts to $29.99 or even $39.99. And while it doesn’t beat $14.99, it’s still a step in the right direction. For all their problems and kinks that need to be worked out, free-to-play games are a model that finds increasing popularity both in the online and mobile space. Whether or not it becomes a standard way to charge for games moving forward remains to be seen, but it has real potential.

The aforementioned PS Plus and other online services such as Steam are paving the way for a genius business model moving forward into the digital age as well. Offering free and frequently-discounted games to players makes the market a more open space for many to come into and take advantage of. Buying high-quality release games on Steam for sale prices as low as $4.99 is not uncommon, and makes it much more accessible to the gaming community.

And who knows? Maybe there’s a way for companies to work alongside used game sales to take a cut from them in order to help out game makers and prevent studio doors from closing shut as frequently as they have been.

Or, maybe I’m just looking at a half-full glass. But either way, it’s an interesting debate to be had, and one with a unique impact on our industry as whole.