In today’s economy, nearly all markets are suffering because people cannot afford to stimulate them. Naturally, people are always looking for ways to retain their old spending habits but at cheaper cost; thus, wallet-friendly options are born: cheaper restaurants, wholesale stores, eBay and so on. The video game world has always been a bit pricey, so it too has created a cost-efficient option: used games.
Like other industries, this cheaper option makes waves because of the competitive, capitalist society that exists. Used games are especially negative for the gaming industry due to the fact that they cause game developers and publishers to see very little, if any, profit from their sales. This is a very underhanded tactic to turn a profit, as it is akin to illegally downloading music in how it affects those who create the product for consumption. Strangely enough, buying used games is still legal, and there is no sign of anything changing in the near future.
Of course, those who have been following the gaming industry over the past few years already knew this, as it is by no means a new issue. Yet, it still persists in the struggling economy of today. This problem will remain an issue as long as games remain as expensive as they are today because the attempts the industry has made to make up for the losses they incur due to used games (digital distribution for a lower price and downloadable content) have not been enough.
Digital distribution services such as Steam and OnLive (a streaming, rather than distribution service) have popped up to offer games at a lower price, yet a large portion of the profit goes to the developers. The problem with these services is that they are currently only in place to supply PC games. Console games are only digitally distributed long after they come out on physical media, or they are “arcade” titles. Perhaps once digital distribution takes off for console play, the used game market will plummet enough so it isn’t a viable option anymore, but for now the gaming world isn’t ready for it. The Sony PSPGo, a handheld that was released in 2009, was based entirely on the concept of digital distribution. It was discontinued in 2011, which speaks volumes about the acceptability of a complete lack of physical media.
Gamestop is the main distributor of used games, but eBay, Amazon and all of Amazon’s affiliates are also culprits. Certainly, the solution will not (and should not) be putting these retailers out of business, but rather they should go into a different kind of business: a business that doesn’t sell used games. People are always going to sell their games to one another, but if it were on a smaller, person-to-person scale, the industry wouldn’t be in its current position. Gamestop (and all sellers of used games) would remain in business; they would just have to shift their focus to carrying specialty import or rare games. This would be beneficial for gamers as well as game companies and could even create a whole new market for such games in the United States.
Used games aren’t all bad. They do give publicity to the games and possibly encourage those close to the buyers to purchase the game themselves. In addition, the buyers may want more bang for their ill-spent buck and use that money they saved buying used to purchase downloadable content. Still, these sales just aren’t enough to make up for what’s lost in used game sales, and downloadable content has a dark side.
Downloadable content’s profits go almost completely to the developer, making it a viable alternative for revenue in a world filled with used games. The problem is, downloadable content only goes so far because in most cases it is much less costly than your average retail game. It costs even more money for the developer to make, thus making it harder still for them to turn a profit and continue making games.
The obvious solution to some game companies was to release downloadable content immediately after the release of the game. This content clearly could have (and would have in a different time) come packaged in the game, but because of the desire to turn a profit via downloadable content, developers decided to force consumers to pay more. Used games may be beneficial for the buyer short-term (and, for the casual gamer, the short- and long-term), but the hardcore gamer will spend more money and get less content in the long run due to effects directly related to the sale of used games.
The only significant beneficiary of selling used games is Gamestop and its ilk — they get to keep almost all of that profit for themselves. By purchasing used games, consumers may think they are saving money, but they are actually only hurting themselves. All people that provide a service are paid for their work: wait staff at a restaurant, lawyers that win cases and professors that teach students. Why should those who entertain us by creating magnificent video games be any different?
Regen McCracken is a junior planning to major in journalism. Any questions or comments on this article, past articles, or any entertainment medium may be directed to email@example.com.