One of the most dismaying trends within the game industry lately has been a growing disdain for used games being re-sold. To a small degree, I understand publishers’ apprehension. They receive no sales from those purchases. That’s money they would like to get that could be lining their pockets or fueling their next project. This is a ridiculous sentiment that needs to be forgotten, but until the game-makers agree, we need to remind them why they are so wrong.
My father is a carpenter and frequently I find myself making reference to various situations using carpenter metaphors. Imagine my father builds a chair and sells it to his plumber friend. The plumber puts it in his living room and finds that, despite the impressive amount of craftsmanship that undoubtedly went into it, it does not match the rest of his furniture. While he my be willing to overlook the lack of cohesion in his living room, his wife cannot. The plumber unfortunately, after months of hearing about the decor in the living room, is forced to sell the wonderfully crafted chair to his electrician friend, who is a bachelor and does not care that the chair will not match the pool table, the mini fridge and the 52 inch TV. As much as I would like my father to get the extra income from the electrician, he does not deserve it. He has no right to that money and should not be disgruntled by this entire situation. He sold the chair. The transaction was closed.
The developers and publishers essentially believe that my father should get paid by the electrician for that chair. While they focus on that one chair that has been purchased without any financial gain to themselves, they forget the great potential this situation has for them. The people who end up with those used games are able to take a risk on something they might have overlooked and this could lead them to buy other games that come from the same developer or publisher. A few years ago, I borrowed GTA: Vice City and loved every minute of it. I’ve purchased nearly every Rockstar game made since then, and the giant GTA: San Andreas poster in my house is proof enough that they converted me. I was also fortunate enough to borrow Assassin’s Creed a few years back and have followed a similar trend to GTA. I bought Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on Ebay. These are three of my favorite series and without being able to play them used, I would’ve either skipped them or found my interest much later. And when a new game or DLC comes out for one of these titles, I hurl money at it faster than a bachelor party at a strip club.
A few weeks after the electrician buys the chair, he invites the plumber over to watch a football game. The plumber misses the chair he sold and plops down onto it with a beer in his hand. The electrician takes one of the few other seats he has, a folding lawn chair that has a cup-holder in the arm. During the game the folding chair suddenly gives way and as the electrician crashes to the floor, spilling his beer in the process, he decides that he would like at least one more nice chair. The next day he calls my father up and asks him if he could build a few more chairs for his apartment. My father is delighted and begins the work on three more chairs.
Another aspect of used games that publishers take advantage of is the actual money gamers get from selling their games. Many gamers I know, including other TBGSE staff members sell several older games just to turn around and spend that money on new games. They end up selling three or four games to purchase one new $60 game and probably buy the DLC for it too. That’s money they are getting back and they are getting it because used games are seen as an expendable source of cash for most gamers.
After months without a nice place for him to sit, the plumber tells his wife that he would like his chair back and his wife reminds him of the reason why they sold the chair to begin with. The plumber and his wife reach a new agreement where the plumber goes back to my father and requests a second chair that is just as comfortable, but will fit the “theme” of his living room. After a strange conversation involving what potential kind of “theme” a room could posses, my father utilizes his drafting skills to sketch another chair for the plumber’s wife to approve. A few weeks later, the plumber once again finds himself comfortably sitting in his living room, when his wife asks him if he thinks they should have a coffee table.
A game is an investment. An investment for the publisher, developer and gamer. Sometimes, the initial investment for a gamer is too much, but if they really want that game, they will buy it as soon as they can. Publishers and developers need to focus on making us want to give them our money as soon as we can, by making great games that we want to play. This is a situation where everyone benefits and everyone wins. Publishers make millions and for them to focus on the sales coming from used games is incredibly narrow-minded. Publishers who make gamers feel bad about purchasing used games just irritates us and makes us less inclined to be loyal. Gamers are a loyal bunch of consumers and one way to gain that loyalty is through used games.