The gaming industry is going through some tough time. “We’re not making as much money as before and it’s all because of the used game economy!” cried all the big game publishers. But as big of a taboo as it may be, the fact remains that I love buying pre-owned games.
As a consumer I can’t afford to buy a $60 game every time there’s a big game release. When I was a kid I had to save up for weeks just to buy a $29.99 game to feed my Nintendo Gameboy. Even as I’m finally getting my first paycheck in the next few weeks, most of it will be going toward other things: food, rent, booze, and you know, life.
A game isn’t like a movie in that it’s not something that has a set budget with a set duration. I can easily schedule in a movie because I know it’s is going to cost me around $10 and around two to three hours. Games, on the other hand, start anywhere from $30 to $60 (plus potentially a monthly fee) and may very well take me twenty to fifty hour to completion (if I’m lucky). And while I wish I can say I’m excited to dedicate fifty hours of my life leveling up or to collect all 100 feathers in Assassin’s Creed II, the same fifty hours can and sometimes have to be spent elsewhere like buying groceries, going on dates, and again as you know, living a life.
And then there are all the shit that game publishers do. Like rehashing the same game two to three times over the course of a year: Game of the Year Edition, Ultimate Edition, Arcade Edition, Off the Record Edition, whatever. No sane person is going to spend full retail price buying all of that. And by releasing all these different editions across so many games, game publishers are pretty much telling me to hold off from buying them on day one since there’ll always be better, if not more refined, versions of the games coming out just around the corner.
So where do buying pre-owned games come in? They come in when I can get the same game for a cheaper price. They come in as a trial to see how the original Darksiders is before buying the upcoming Darksiders 2 at full retail price. They come in when I can sell my now-defunct regular version of the game in exchange and to indulge over the now flashier, complete edition of the game.
If the pre-owned game economy ceased to exist, then consumers will be more wary in buying videogames, period. Without pre-owned game, the $60 price tag would then be considered as a hard cost. What might’ve been a “buy now, think later” mentality now becomes “well let me sleep on it.” It’s also one less reason to buy Madden or Call of Duty this year as opposed to next year or the year after that.
Buying pre-owned games is also more environmentally friendly. It may be a silly point to some, but it’s one of the main reasons why I continue to prefer buying used games. Instead of a game going by the wayside or being left behind in the attic, I get to be proactive in giving the product a second life.
I wrote about my feelings toward digital downloads before (http://bit.ly/oblFED), and I’m still skeptical about it all even if it’s inevitable. Game publishers seem to be banking on it as a way to kill off the used-game market, but I ultimately think it’s more harm than good to limit a legal method for consumers to purchase a game.
Remember, iTunes is a successful story in combating piracy and physical media, but even they had to succumb to getting rid of DRM that was already in place. Consumers want to own what they buy; not be limited by the content or be treated like criminals.
Maybe the problem isn’t how to maximize profit to please those finicky shareholders, but to create products that are appealing enough to be worth buying full price. Maybe it’s not so much as crying foul over the fact that people buy used games, but to learn why people do it in order to win that segment of people over. Gamers are constantly growing up, so maybe it’s time the game publishers do too.