By misterhaan 14 Comments
i recently read some thoughts about buying used games on penny arcade, so i figured i’d write up my own. some game developers would have you think that buying a game used is stealing, because they don’t get your money. i doubt anyone actually thinks buying a used game is stealing, but i can see where a game developer might prefer that every player pays them. of course copyright law still allows the right of first sale, which means a player who buys a game new, plays it a while, and then no longer wants it can sell it to someone else.
i think one viewpoint that gets neglected in this conversation is that of the player who bought the game new, but has finished with it. reasons for being finished could be not liking the game after all, having played through to the end, or anything really. i personally play games that are largely an interactive story to me (for example, the assassin’s creed, zelda, or grand theft auto series). once i’ve reached the ending i know i’m not going to touch it again, so my options are to put it on a shelf or in a box in the basement and just let it sit, throw it away (even though it still works just fine), or give / sell it to somebody else who will use it. all but the last seem wasteful to me, even if recycling is an option. in order to sell it though, someone has to be willing to buy it used.
this also factors into my decision whether to buy a game. it may cost $60 now, but i’ll probably be done with it in a month and could get $20 - $40 back selling it on half.com, which is $20 - $40 for a month of entertainment. of course some methods of drm make it difficult to sell a game when i’m done with it. for example, if i were to sell my copy of assassin’s creed ii, the buyer would not be able to play it since the disc key is registered to my ubisoft account. hopefully there’s a way for me to unregister it so i can sell it, but i haven’t looked into that. so ubisoft may be successfully forcing everyone who wants to play that game to buy it new, which players have a right to get angry about since we’re supposed to have the right of first sale. of course that’s straying into a drm discussion, which i don’t mean to do just now. the point here is that if i can’t sell a game once i no longer want to play it, it’s worth less to me than it would have been otherwise.
when looking to obtain a game, a potential player has these options: buy it new, buy it used from a store that deals in used games, buy it used from another player either directly or through a service like ebay / half.com, or download an unauthorized copy for free. the only illegal option is the last one, so i definitely don’t recommend going that route. buying a game new has advantages in that you can be pretty sure the discs and manuals will be in good condition, and new copies are available sooner than used. also your money counts toward the numbers making the game look well-received. the downside is you pay more for it. buying used from a place like gamestop is the next most expensive, but you give up everything good other than it still being legal. personally i don’t want my money going to gamestop since they’re going to slap a price tag on it that’s at least twice as much as they paid for it and then just toss it in a jumbled bin with all the other used games. some used game stores do better than that of course. it’s more convenient for the player who’s done with a game though because the store buys it right away and hangs onto it until someone else wants to buy it from them.
next is my favorite way to buy games: used through a site like half.com or ebay. you can find older, less popular games on half for dirt cheap so it’s a great way to save money. it’s legal, it keeps games out of the landfill, and you can usually find what you’re looking for. the major downside is you’re not going to find used copies of a game on its release date, so you have to be willing to wait to play it. the longer you wait, the lower the price tends to go. you also have to wait a few days while it ships to you. if a game came out a couple years ago, this is often the most reliable way to find a legal copy. buying directly from another player means from friends or at garage sales, which is the same except much harder to find what you want.
the other option is downloading an illegal copy of the game for free. this is obviously the best price you can get (unless you have generous friends or find games in the free box at a garage sale), but the obvious downside is it’s illegal. not only that, but the penalties for copyright infringement (often called piracy by those who want to make it sound more harmful) are disproportionately harsh. you also have a chance of downloading a virus someone labeled as a popular game, or a version of the game with the copy protection removed in a way that makes the game unstable. if you’re lucky though, you might get a version of the game with the copy protection removed in a way that actually makes it more stable, which is disappointing for people who buy the game new.
the way i tend to buy games is to get them new near the release date if i want to start playing right away. if i can wait, or i’m looking for a classic title, i usually hit up half.com. once i’ve played all the way through a game and know i won’t touch it again, i put it up for sale on half.com. if i bought it new on the release date and finished it quickly, i can often get back a good portion of what i paid. if i got a good enough deal i might even make a little extra money — a benefit of being able to play through a game in 5 nights.