Banning Used Game Sales: A Fantastic Idea...

“There’s another big rumor about the next Xbox console that could really start to shake things up…it won’t play used games at all! Personally I think this would be a fantastic change for our business and even though the consumers would be up in arms about it at first…they will grow to understand why and that it won’t kill them.

The words of Jameson Durall (designer on Saints Row: The Third) which are resonating around the internet today and being matched with consumers’ complete and utter contempt.

I think concessions need to be made between retailers and publishers, absolutely.  Choking out used sales is not some magical meal ticket standing between developers and swimming in pools of revenue, though.  No, it’s a severe blow to used retailers like Gamestop and it’s a fucking death sentence to smaller retailers like the Play N Trade I work at.  And the move is damaging to publishers that seem to think if you block off avenues to consumers, it will surely force the average gamer’s dollar to flow their way.  This is an extreme fallacy.

I feel piracy will become more savvy, more ubiquitous, and even easier for the masses to accomplish.  Recall how Americans reacted to the Prohibition (except bootleggers are smuggling Mario Kart instead of booze).  Those that don’t steal, however, will do something even worse to big publishers – ignore products altogether.  As hard as it is to imagine, there are avid gamers out there in the wild that are loyal, want new experiences to delve into, but cannot muster $60 every release day.  What do you think happens when you pull the used games rug from out beneath them?  That they’ll just wait six months for a price drop?  That they’ll settle for another one of your products in the meantime?  That’s as naive as checking your phone every two minutes anxiously awaiting to hear from your drunken one-nighter.

The greatest compromise that can happen between publishers and retailers is a shift in profit margins on new games.  If you’re unaware, a shiny new $60 game nets in profit next to nothing for retailers.  The profit gained is close to five bucks.  Why stock so many brand new games if that’s the case?  The new games are there solely for the purpose of enticing consumers to trade their old games in for the new, helping the store to break even on a new copy of a game while netting in the pure profit sales of several used games.  This business strategy is the backbone of Gamestop and the only way my store keeps afloat.

If new games were an easier cost to swallow for retailers, it’s not impossible to imagine these same retailers cutting percentages for publishers to chow down on.  It’d be a serious change in dynamic, but the consumer wouldn’t even be affected by the change.  And when you do things right, nobody will notice you did anything at all.  Hell, this idea has already been propositioned in response to the online pass codes infecting the market.  The same online pass codes Mr. Durall goes on to applaud in his blog, adding:

“…consumers complain about this method because the precedent has always been that it’s included in the price and should come with it.  It did for the person who actually bought it first…so was saving that $5 at Gamestop worth it for you?”

Volition, the team behind the Saints Row series, must be feeling their pubsliher THQ’s decline to jump so excitedly over the prospect of eliminating the used games market.  How about this, THQ?  Instead of trying to lobby for the complete change of the industry as we know it in a bid to scrape more profits, why not just stop making asinine business decisions and start making better-than-medicore games?  Low blow?  So is trying to prevent consumers from saving money.

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