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Used Game Sales and Its Detrimental Effect on Gaming

August 29, 2009 Written by Jonathan Leack


Used games have been a cause for commotion among the gaming industry for years now. Many prefer to pay a smaller price for a previously owned title, while others believe that buying used games is like stealing.

An interesting fact about used games is that they make an incredible amount of profit. GameStop was one of the first companies to buy and sell used games. The process of offering a low value for consumers’ used titles then in turn selling the title for around $5 less than the new counterpart has proven incredibly effective. So effective in fact that some resources report that the company makes as much as double the amount of profit from used games versus new games.

The unfortunate side-effect of used game sales is that developers receive fewer and fewer sales as used game sales steadily rise. The end result of fewer sales due to used games is that the developer earns no profit from the second-hand sale. In essence, the availability of used titles attracts potential buyers of the new game and in turn lowers profits for developers.


Just yesterday, the well-known and revered game designer David Jaffe got into a heated argument about used game sales over Twitter. Jaffe argued that used game sales drastically hurt game developers, and also proposed a potential solution. David Jaffe posted the following on his Twitter:

“Gamer suffers. IF gamestop cut game makers into the deal, Gamestop could stay in biz much longer than they currently will.”

He also added:

“Used games hurt devs/publishers. Hurt devs/publishers go out of biz or find ways (dig dist; all content only on first sale) to stay in biz.”

So it seems that David Jaffe believes that over the course of time, game volume will decrease due to a lack of sales and will eventually end up in GameStop losing massive profits. He has proposed that developers receive a cut from the profits of used game sales, which will make up for the loss of new game sales. This is an interesting proposal, but one problem is that regulation of sales through sites such as Craigslist, eBay and Amazon would likely be impossible. With that said, there is no doubt that used game sales continue to accelerate as games have gotten shorter and less replayable.

The question is, what is the best way to handle used game sales so that both developer and consumer can be happy? Please reply with your opinion in the comments below.