Buying Used

How much less would your house be worth if you could never re-sell it? How about if there was no used car market, and instead you put the car in the landfill when you got a new one? Okay, that same effect applies to the price of new and used games.

: Zubon

41 thoughts on “Buying Used”

  1. But Zubon! How do I support car manufactures I like if I’m buying used?! And if someone buys my house, think of all the home builders that aren’t getting paid to do their jobs!

    On this topic, I think we’re in the same boat.

  2. I’m a staunch supporter of first-sale doctrine. That everyone should have a right to resell their purchases, because otherwise our Copyright laws remove the concept of “property” (and by property, I don’t mean land).

    For this reason, I see the court enforcement of EULAs trumping Copyright law as a blight on our society. Depending upon the particular country or state / province, you can literally click-accept your consumer rights away. Ethically and morally to me, that’s just wrong.

    On the other hand, I also recognize what Tycho is trying to say. Other retail markets protect this via Mall licensing rules, where they just don’t allow used clothing stores in the mall to compete with new clothing stores. I’ve always found it odd that malls don’t enforce the same rules in regards to Gamestop / Electronics Boutique. But then, they don’t have much competition unless you count Walmart.

    Overall though, I really dislike the trends in recent years of protecting Business Models instead of protecting creator Copyright.

    The answer to me, is under no uncertain terms should a EULA / license agreement or any other contract trump laws. I cannot think of a single situation where that would be acceptable to me.

    If you buy it, you buy it. Buying a license to purchase something is inherently deceptive. I don’t care how much the buyer is aware. Who here purchases a game and thinks “this isn’t mine?”

  3. If console publishers really want to crush the second hand market then they have to take a few minutes to consider basic economics and lower game prices. Lower prices = more sales, and if you can get games to the point where they are impulse purchases then you’ll actually increase revenue through sheer volume.

    The PC market is leading the way in this regard…. admittedly the console market needs to take their digital distribution to the next level…. but that’s already underway.

    1. Interesting comparison but consider the following: your local dvd rental shop will stock many titles on the cover of which it says “For rental only”. The same, non-rental title will be available to you for consumer purchase for £15-£20 or so (new) but the rental shop will have paid 4-5 times more for the same title and, consequently, the license to rent out that title and make profit from that rental.

      Books are difficult to bring into this argument. While logically and rationally speaking, they are comparable consumable entertainment media, there is a very irrational perception of what books are. They are treated with a reverence and given a value in accordance with that perception. A first edition copy of, say, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone will already fetch thousands if not more on the second hand collectors market. My first edition CD-Rom of Quake is unlikely to do the same.

      If someone were to suggest that libraries started charging for book rental, there would be an uproar and yet no-one bats an eyelid that video rental schemes charge for the same business model.

      (This is based on the UK library and dvd rental models – YMMV.)

  4. Yeah, last time I checked the video game industry is not a “non-profit organization” that we donate money to. The only explanation I see spending $60 on a new game vs $30 on a (same quality) used game is that the money goes to the developers to support the industry. Blah.

    Straight up economics says that if Best buy has a game for $60, Target has it for $55, Wal-mart has it for $50, and Gamestop has a used copy for $40, assuming quality is the same across the board (its not like the transmission would be worn down or something… its data on a CD/DVD), no big shock, I’d buy the used one and everyone would agree with me.

    Saying “I’d spend more money to support the industry” is like saying “I’ll gladly pay more taxes”. Noble cause, but in reality, nobody will do it because it economically makes no sense.

  5. I remember when authors used to talk about book contracts, and the difference that buying their book in hard cover, buying it in soft cover, and buying it from a used book store made to their wallet. But if someone talks about the realities of the game market today, suddenly the reaction skips to “You can’t take my stuff away from me!”

    I just think it’s odd that no one demonized authors in the 80’s when they pointed out, “By the way, it’s a lot better for me if you buy the hard cover, and I don’t get anything at all when you buy used” but when someone points out today, “By the way, I don’t get anything at all when you buy my game used” the reaction is completely different.

    1. @Brad: I certainly wouldn’t have balked if Tycho had suggested that people buy new to support the games industry and the developers more.

      In fact, I’ve never bought (or sold) a used game. I’ve been playing since Pong. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone else for doing so, but I do get satisfaction myself from buying it from the source. I even cringe a bit when I buy a game after the developers have gone kaput and I know the money is just extra for the publishers.

      It’s the implication that buying used is the same as piracy. That it should be considered a criminal act. That there should be legal repercussions.

      Tycho quote: “I honestly can’t figure out how buying a used game was any better than piracy”: May be just one sentence, but it’s sure a doozy. The context is even worse, with the sentence following. Tycho is not a person loose with his words, he selects every one of them carefully.

      That is taking it way too far and deserving of much derision and as you put it: demonizing.

      It’s an offensive statement and one I have never heard uttered from an author.

      1. Oh I should note as an exception to my buying used games: LOL I do own a collection of coin-ops and a handful of “classic” games from long outdated consoles, although I don’t believe that really applies to the market at hand. I’ve never purchased a used-game for a current system (or at all in regards to PC games).

        Besides, if I bumped into John Newcomer I’d probably offer some way to give back for all the years of enjoyment I’ve had with that Joust in my living room. =P

      2. Imagine if someone had written the following instead:

        “From a financial stand point, buying our game used is exactly the same as piracy–either way, we don’t get any money.”

        then turn up the hyperbole as one would expect for Penny Arcade. That’s the context that I read the statement in.

        1. @Brad: The problem with that context is, to me, I see Tycho allowing for that take– and then cementing the other end of the shoe with the next bit:

          “From the the perspective of a developer, they are almost certainly synonymous.”

          He is quite literally saying they are the same, for all intents and purposes, not for the sole. The only way he could further equate used-sales to piracy would be to write: used-sales = piracy. =P

          Now call it rhetoric if you like, but again, Tycho often notes how he selects every single letter of every single word. If he didn’t intend it to be taken both ways, he would have clarified. He intended this perverse allegory.

          I can imagine if someone had said the preceding plenty. They didn’t.

          1. Well, from the perspective of a developer “A bunch of people who didn’t pay me anything playing my game” almost certainly *is* synonymous with “A bunch of people who didn’t pay me anything playing my game”. (I’d actually argue that from a developer PoV a used sale is significantly *worse* than somebody downloading a copy, since an unknown but non-zero percentage of people who download things would never have paid; *every* used buyer has indicated they’re willing to purchase a copy).

            Ignore the labels, they just confuse the issue.

            1. @Pardoz: Actually, no it’s not.

              Even taking the least offensive interpretation, it’s still so far off base.

              On an individual sale, the developer isn’t seeing anything directly, but if someone buys Assassin’s Creed 2 used and ends up thinking it’s the best game ever, they’re just as likely to line up on release day for Assassin’s Creed 3 as anyone else. They’re a consumer and they’re buying your game. Reality is, most of the developers I know, understand this distinction completely.

              The entire premise is so flawed in so many ways. It’s presented as a “don’t be ungrateful to the developers”, but it’s inherently ungrateful to the customers.

              Besides, the labels ARE part of the point here, I’m absolutely not ignoring them. There was a connotation of making these consumers appear dirty and corrupt when they’re distinctly not.

              Their are plenty of other examples when the developer sees nil from a consumer purchase of their game, such as between royalty checkpoints. Is the consumer somehow in the wrong on those too?

            2. “I didn’t pay you for this game, but if I liked it I might pay you for your next one” has been one of the stock justifications of the file-sharing crowd since the 1200 baud dial-up BBS days. Its relative “I’m just downloading it to see if it’s any good or not, and if I like it I’ll pay for it” works rather less well with the second-hand market, for obvious reasons.

              I just can’t buy “inherently ungrateful to the customer” – if you aren’t paying me for a product or service, you *aren’t my customer*.

              I’m not trying to argue that second-hand sales are morally wrong, just point out that “people who didn’t pay me for my game” = “people who didn’t pay me for my game”. The morality, legality, dirtiness, and degree of corruption of the various mechanisms by which people can get my game without paying me for it is a separate discussion.

            3. @Pardoz: The discussion really has been about name-calling tho. That ~is~ the central discussion.

              You call it justification, as if it’s inherently selfish to balk at Tycho’s statements. So why am I balking? I don’t buy used games myself. Why would I have need to justify the actions of others, other than I feel they represent fair dealings?

              Regardless of any disclaimers on the context, all people who “didn’t pay for the game” don’t equate to the same. Period. It was just used as an engine to carry an insult on the back of a math statement that people like yourself would be likely to defend.

              You’re defending idiotic rhetoric on the basis that the math is sound. Math that’s detached from any actual reality of economics and market.

      3. There is an If statement at the head of that sentence you quote which I think gives that sentence different meaning than you are currently taking from it.

        You need to take his full statement in context, “If I am purchasing games in order to reward their creators, and to ensure that more of these ingenious contraptions are produced, I honestly can’t figure out how buying a used game was any better than piracy. From the the perspective of a developer, they are almost certainly synonymous.

        Translated: So for The Purpose of furthering the creation of the games we so enjoy, the only way to do that is to purchase a new game. To do otherwise, as in to buy a used game, has the same value for This Purpose as pirating the game.

        If you are not trying to further that Purpose (to get new games made), but rather just trying to enjoy the recent crop of games at the cheapest price, then buying used makes sense. Just know: you are not the customer of the developer.

        1. @Trin: I didn’t miss that though, I just didn’t feel the need to quote what’s essentially a disclaimer before the insult.

          If I felt like insulting Tycho’s rhetoric, I would call it outright idiocy in this case. If I did intend that, despite feeling that he’s overall an intelligent and insightful gamer, I would say that he’s become too much of an insider and has lost touch with most of reality.

          Does that “If” make any real difference to the rhetoric that follows? At most, he’s separated into a with-me / against-me debate.

          Even the separation: Those who want to reward game developers and support the development of new games– That’s not useful, because he’s still made an equation in a void. The market is sustained by all of the consumers, direct or not.

          As pointed out elsewhere by myself and others, you cannot segregate a market in this sort of direct manner without balance. I don’t care whether you’re a free-market evangelist (I’m distinctly not) or believe in a digital divide, etc.. This is Economics 101.

          If you think purchasing used games doesn’t contribute to the development of new games: I don’t know how to respond to that without being grossly insulting in return. It’s a wee bit simpleton logic isn’t it?

  6. Zubon,

    I don’t think you have a valid point. Cars and houses are a durable good. Publishers certainly think that games are a consumable. How much less would your milk or ham or toilet paper be worth if you couldn’t resell it?

    It’s reasonable to argue that you think new prices should be lower, but that’s a market issue. If you think the price of something is too high, don’t buy it and exert your consumer influence.

    I too am a supporter of first-sale and the ability to resell products, but it is not the publisher’s duty to provide you with something that can be resold. Rather, it is the consumer’s perk to decide not to purchase something if it cannot be resold.

    1. Comparing my 8 year old car with my decade old copy of American McGee’s Alice is a lot easier on the brain than comparing Alice to ham.

      1. Yeah… games might not be analogous to other products but they’re definitively NOT consumables.

        Unless the publishers MAKE them that way… which they’re starting to… which is fine, it simply reduces the value of the product.

          1. I think the problem here is that game publishers often want their game / software under multiple business models: Consumable, software-as-service, software as non-expandable product, exclusive product, etc.

            To me, Zubon’s point stands. It doesn’t really matter what they ~want~ it accepted as, because they use that for certain legal shenanigans. It’s a still a goods product, regardless of their business model.

            Rentals come with their own related laws.

            I’m comfortable with those two clear types: purchase or rent.

            1. But YOUR desire for things to be cut and dry is just as ephemeral as their desire to have/eat their cake.

              The very reason IP laws exist is to protect “property” that does exist in nature and therefor can’t be defended by natural means.

              In summary… it is a pickle.

            2. @moondog548: Yeah, it is a pickle. The cases on these are inconsistent and contradictory at best.

              For instance, my view is that software is software (a product) and a service is a service (a service). Software-as-service to me is just an incorrect definition, yet that’s one of the legal quagmires.

              You shouldn’t have Copyright issues directly related to a service. Each have their own legalities and picking-and-choosing between the two seems to be one purpose of many EULAs + TOC combos, to bind software as a service.

              I know I’m a bit, what’s the word, starry-eyed on some of the ideals, but it’s the age-old dilemma that laws are meant to clarify, not confuse (and well, they do confuse an awful lot).

  7. I honestly can’t understand the view some people have that they have any personal stake whatsoever in the games industry. Unless, y’know, they actually do have a stake in it.

    If you’re merely a games consumer, on the other hand, it’s in your best interest and the best interest of the market and industry as a whole to do what makes the most economic sense: getting what you want at the lowest possible price. I don’t purchase a car because I want to support the car’s manufacturer, I don’t eat at a certain restaurant because I want to support the chef, and I don’t buy games because I want to support their developers. My stake in the livelihood of the developers is basically nil, so instead I do what’s best for me and get the same product at a lower price where possible.

    I have no problem with buying used, and I’m not going to be a less intelligent consumer simply because I enjoy my hobby. Video games are not a charity, they are a for-profit industry. The gesture would be futile and perhaps even counterproductive, especially given that Gamestop, the largest games-exclusive retailer, is well-known for selling previously used games as “new.”

    In a purely economic sense, EA has the right idea for curbing used game sales with their Project Ten Dollar. If you don’t want people to buy used, ensure that a new game is worth the additional cost. Value for your money is a simple concept that a variety of industries have embraced, and it’s time that video games did the same.

    1. Further, let’s assume that despite the statistics being heavily biased against this being the case when I purchase a game new (since the mass majority are not savvy nor interested in the plight of the starving game developer and will purchase it used because it’s a more intelligent economic decision) I am sending a message to the publisher. The issue here is that the exact message I send may not be what I’m intending to say.

      I purchased Heavy Rain for PS3 new because I enjoyed the developer’s previous game Fahrenheit. Is the publisher going to take this as “Oh, Quantic Dream’s doing well, let’s send more money their way and publish more of their games!” or “$60 is obviously an acceptable price point for this product! Perhaps they’d be willing to pay $65, even!”

      Not exactly what I meant to tell them, in other words.

    1. @Xiryc: I don’t think he has though. My impression overall is that the point was made, with very little regard to its implications.

  8. Apparently it never occurred to all these devs/publishers to take in those used copies themselves? Why leave it all to Gamestop or whoever and not see a penny off the whole thing?

    “Dear Customer: thank you for playing our great game (A). Hold on to it and return it to us when you’re done for a chance to win something on a raffle or some shit, plus this valued returning customer ID# you might wanna hold on to for discounts and access to exclusive content when we launch (B).”

    6/12 months after the launch of (A) they can start selling it used themselves. Of course Steam and the like makes all of this rather moot, but not everyone likes Steam. There’ll be a market for boxes for the foreseeable future, small as it might get.

    1. Also, keep in mind, this debate is only for console games. PC games, once you open them, a great majority of stores won’t let you return them due to ease of copying and other shenanigans. So Gamestop only sells used console games. And console games will still remain boxed for a long time.

      1. Eh, even if the customer makes a copy, no-cd’s it and sends the original dvd back to the dev/publisher, it’s not that the dev/publisher is out of anything. They still have a physical (used) copy they can resell which is better than having no copies they can resell.

        I don’t see anything wrong (even anything morally wrong) with the devs/publishers themselves saying “These are our games, you can get them new for (x) or used for (y).”

        With the speed games depreciate nowadays (last year I was able to pick up the Oblivion GOTY edition with a bunch of other stuff, new, for like $15 or $20, can’t remember… so it’s more than a 50% depreciation just in a couple of years) I imagine the prices for new and used eventually get to a point where they’re so close that it might be convenient to just sell it used and save yourself the duplication costs of new copies.

        Caveat: All this is theory and, again, digital distribution makes all this silly.

    2. If this was such a good idea, then car manufacturers would set up branded dealership franchises which did part exchange on old cars for new/used cars. It’s a preposterous suggestion and will never catch on.

      1. Car manufacturers obviously feel they are making enough money without having to poke their noses into the used market. If game developers are complaining about the used market, then the suggestion is valid.

        Additionally car manufacturers can already affect the used car market by making their products wear out faster, or by only selling replacement parts for a particular model for a few years.

        1. Hmmm. Maybe it’s a UK thing then. Or, maybe I should have added an “Oh… wait…” at the end of my comment.

          Clarification: car manufacturers (in the UK) already poke their noses into the used car market.

  9. The number of posters here whose position boils down to “I’m going to act exclusively in my self-interest as a buyer, and so is everybody else, so OF COURSE we’re all going to buy used.” is kind of alarming to me.

    As individuals, we have an extremely limited palette of tools available to us to make changes in the world. In a capitalist system, all we can do is vote with our wallets.

    If you consider “always vote for the cheapest equivalent, no matter what the repercussions to the world” to be a foregone conclusion, then that’s the same as having no vote at all.

    Am I seriously the only person who will spend more on the same product to support a local business? Am I the only one who feels a RESPONSIBILITY to not shop at Wal-Mart?

    1. oh please
      you are confusing “should” and “is”

      the secondary market props up the primary market, and provides it stability. manufacturers benefit from secondary markets since they lower risk for buyers. study after study has shown strong secondary markets result in higher sales for primary markets. there is no reason this is different for books or cars or software

      so your position, that secondary sales are “morally wrong” results in less sales and less money for primary providers

      our positions, that morality doesn’t enter into it, results in more sales.

      which one is better for the manufacturer? imposing my will on others or not?

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