used games

(originally posted on my personal website track7 on september 1, 2010:  http://www.track7.org/bln/used-games)
 

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.

14 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by misterhaan

(originally posted on my personal website track7 on september 1, 2010:  http://www.track7.org/bln/used-games)
 

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.

Posted by YoungFrey

I just wait and buy them new from Amazon when the price drops.  A lot of games see brief dips to $40 shortly after release.  And prices dip pretty quick these days.  Wait a couple months and $40 is not hard to do. 
Edited by Surkov

Man, that guy must really hate capitalization. 

Posted by TaliciaDragonsong

I use loads of budget gaming sites and often check for weekly deals.
 
I get most of my new games for around 30-40 euros, at release, and some of the gems or ones I skipped I order with specials deals from sites.
Win-win.
 
I even bought AC2 for 30 euro's when it released, and sold it to the store for 40 a week later.
Awesome system when it works.

Posted by Xpgamer7

When I lived in China all I could get was pirated copies, so I didn't feel too bad about it. Here I try to buy new copies or order it from sites like amazon to get it cheaper yet support the developer. I do buy used games, but only if I'm low on money.

Posted by misterhaan

i should note that since i wrote this i started buying more games through steam, which doesn’t allow me to get rid of them if i don’t want them anymore.  console games i’m buying used or receiving as gifts.
 
@Surkov: i just don’t like to press shift

Posted by Grumbel

The comic has the right idea, but is oversimplifying the situation a bit, as used games by itself are not the problem. The money a gamer gets buy selling his game has a very high chance of being invested in another game and the reason why that gamer bought that game in the first place was likely because he knew he could sell it again and get some money back. Thus both the original buy and the used buy are customers, as both of their money goes to the game creator eventually, not directly of course, but that it changes a few hands before that doesn't really change that fact.
 
The core problem is that many people don't sell their used game from gamer to gamer, but from gamer to GameStop to gamer. And GameStop buys games for cheap and sells them for only a little less then a new game, thus a lot of money that would otherwise go from buyer to seller, simply goes to GameStop and thus won't ever benefit the game developer.
 
That said, while I can see the problem, it really is the game developers own fault. The Internet has existed for quite a while now and would provide an easy way to by pass GameStop, yet I can still not buy most games from the developers or publishers directly, or if I can, their stores are complete and utter crap. As long as it is cheaper to buy a new boxed copy straight from Amazon then it is to order them directly from the EAs Origin store, it is no surprise that their digital business has a hard time taking off. If they want to outdo GameStop, they need to provide the better offer and they really could, as they could buy pass all the middle man.

Posted by misterhaan
@Grumbel: well said!  part of that i was thinking but didn’t articulate (that the money i get from selling my games often does go to pay for other games, for example), and the rest fits nicely into my view of the situation.  i’ll add that i’ve seen a number of independent developers do a good job of selling their games directly, and they often don’t do anything to limit what you can do with it once you get it.  resale of digital games remains a bit tricky though, and i can’t see facilitating that sort of thing as in the interest of the developer.
Posted by crusader8463

It's like debating piracy, and no one will ever agree about the topic. At the end of the day when you buy used you are keeping money from the hands of the people that make the games. Simple as that. If whatever justification you want to come up with to let you sleep at night works for ya then have at it, but don't pretend it's any different then pirating. The only difference is EB Games makes money when you buy it used, and you save a few dollars then if you bought it new.
 
As far as I'm concerned if you buy used you might as well pirate it. The only difference is you save yourself the money.

Posted by Tsoglani

I think it's an important part of a gamer's lifestyle to be able to have the choice whether to buy used, online, or physical copy. Some peeps just can't afford to shell out $90 for a new game, so the only option is then to buy a used version, or radically reduced price. 
 
For instance, Shadows of the Damned; it was $100 new (Aus Dollar) and no way could I afford that. So I traded in my shitty copy of DNF and LBP2 (which I sort of regret now) and ended up paying $15 for Shadows of the Damned. I will do the same when Shadows of the Damned has run its course in my console. All-in-all, I think it is vital that gamers have these options.
 
And yeah, FUCK DRM.

Posted by misterhaan
@crusader8463: i think the fact that buying a used game is not illegal but unauthorized downloading / copying is illegal is an important difference.  you can’t get fined for buying a used game.  i don’t understand how you can see them as the same, though i do understand the viewpoint that the availability of used copies may decrease the sales of new copies.
Posted by Rolyatkcinmai

With Amazon preordering and Prime, I rarely pay more than $40 for a brand new game, and I get at least one per week. Always on release day. It's all about preordering at the right time.

I don't buy used because I prefer to give the developers the money. I don't sell my games because I like the collection. On the rare occasion that a game is truly horrific (only OF: Red River so far this year) I'll throw it on Glyde.

Posted by TehFlan

I play a lot of games that revolve around the story as well, but I don't sell them for the same reason I don't sell books. The story can be just as interesting the second time around, especially if I don't play a game for several years. I can see how you would look at it differently, though. In any case, I try and buy games new when I can, but usually not at full price.

Posted by Khann

I fucking hate people that think Gamestop is the only place to buy used games. Only a fucking moron buys a used game for $5 less than a new one.