The Seedy World of Used Games (According to Publishers)

We've all been there before. You're in a brick and mortar store, perusing the video games. You see that copy of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim you've wanted to get since it came out, but haven't really gotten around to it. The price is staring at you: $60. But wait? How much is that one right beside it? $40? Used? Why not? You grab it, walk over to the counter and snag your used copy of the game. It's used, but brand new to you. And you're on your way.

(It should be noted that the above scenario is clearly fiction. Why? Because if you were at GameStop the used copy of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim would probably still cost you $55. But bear with me).

Currently, there's a rumor going around that the next gen Xbox is going to have technology that makes it unable to play used games on it. Surely this is aimed at combating the used game market and scenarios like above that GameStop thrives off of and costs developers many a dollar in revenue as they make nothing off of used games.

Can this possibly be a feature for the next console generation? Maybe. Should it? I say possibly, but if that's the route they take then game prices will have to come down. As game consoles have gotten more powerful and expensive in their own right game prices have steadily gone up as well, with $60 being the new norm for most games.

Does that mean when the Xbox 720 or PS4 come out are games going to be $70 a pop? $80? It’s because of these rising prices that cost-conscience customers are driven to the used game market, especially in these days with folks having to stretch their gaming dollars even further.

Developing a quality game takes a lot of time, effort and money to make it worthwhile. Every time a game gets sold used those people who put their lives into making said game don’t see a dime of that profit, but to make it that used games are no longer of any value is ludicrous. Every other medium can be resold in one fashion or another--books, movies, music, TVs and computers all can be resold when one person no longer wants or needs them. It's the Right of First Sale Doctrine.

Now publishers are saying that games are a one-shot thing. Once you buy it you're either forced to keep it until the end of time, even after you play it to your heart’s content or throw it away like a cup of coffee that has gone cold.

Being able to buy used allows gamers to experience games that they might not have had the money to buy new or check out a game that they're unsure of for cheaper. Nobody wants to plop down sixty bucks on a game that blows and not able to resell it to recoup some of their money to puts towards another game (Bullet Witch comes to mind). That's what drives the game market. Being able to reinvest money from one game into another. Additionally, it builds brand loyalty.

Say you buy a used game from one developer. You like the game and tell your friends about it, spreading the word, while becoming more inclined yourself to get future games made by that publisher. The next time they have a new game coming out you know you're getting it's highly likely you pick it up new this time around as you're familiar with the level of work they put out and can be assured of a quality game.

If the aforementioned rumor turns out to be true then it's no longer worthwhile to take a risk on a game since you can’t resell it or return it because it's a crappy game. You're stuck with it. Not being able to play used games will just make people wait longer for the price to come down on the game brand new. I think I paid $60 for a game in the past year maybe twice. Other than that I've gotten games on sale for $35 or $40 new.

That’s why prices for games have to come back down if we as consumers are going to be buying these titles with no option of reselling or letting a friend borrow it to try for themselves before buying. Single player games with little to no multiplayer compononent are a great example. Why buy Batman: Arkham City new when you can wait a bit and borrow your friend's copy?

There has to be a better way for developers to get their slice of the pie from used game sales, but all I can say is that if consoles do prevent used games from playing then publishers needs to step up. No more Day 1 DLC or buggy as hell games that need a patch only a week after they've been out. No more online passes or DLC that is locked on the game you need to buy to unlock.

If the industry really wants to combat used sales, bring the price of games down. $40 for a brand new game is a lot more appealing than $30 for a used game. Otherwise, I can wait to play the latest game a few months after it comes out. Can the developers wait that long to sell the game and still recoup the development costs?