What’s the difference between buying new & used games?

Whenever I walk into a GameStop store, I often see people browsing through the used games section. I don’t blame them, why pay the full price when you can get $10 or perhaps $20 off the cost of an unopened copy?

Gamestop, Blockbuster & other retail stores have been selling used games for years. Half of GameStop’s revenue comes from used games, why wouldn’t they continue selling them? They surely sell more new copies than used games, so why is used games taking 1/2 of GameStop’s revenue?

Revenue for GameStop

Whenever GameStop sells a brand new copy, the money is usually split between GameStop & the publisher of the game. When I worked for a small game store a few years back, the store would buy a batch of the new game around $35-40 a piece from the distributor, then the store would sell the games at $60.

A minor portion of the money goes into the retail store (Game Stop), while the rest goes to the publisher (EA) who usually have a deal with the developer (Westwood Studios, never forget) earning a minor chunk of the money.

used games 1

But what if Guy A sells a game he just finished to GameStop for $6-7 store value that he can use later, and GameStop sells the used game to Guy B for let’s say $24? Maybe a brand new game that came out a week ago, for $40?

Looking at it on paper, the game has already been sold to a customer, it’s gone from the world and will happily spend the rest of its days with the owner. A retail store saw the amount of revenue they could make by buying used games for in-store credit, afterwards selling the games at a lower price than the brand new copy of the game, yielding much more revenue because they don’t have to share the money with the publisher/developer who made the game.

Whenever I walk into a GameStop store in Denmark to buy a game, I often encounter the cashiers trying to sell me a used game instead of a brand new, unopened box.


Publishers & Developers

When the used games market in GameStop stores started to rise, serveral publishers reached out to the retail store, proposing a deal so the publisher and retail store could share the revenue. After all, GameStop is just a retail store being the middle man between the people who made the product and the customers, much like Wal-Mart.

GameStop had no plans to share the critical income from used games with publishers & developers. Serveral publishers have since then added a code inside the game box, the code is used to activate the multiplayer portion of the game, binding it to the account on the owner of the console. If the game is re-sold and the code is used, the guy who buys the used game will usually have to pay a small fee for unlocking the multiplayer portion of the game.

Used Games Market

The used games market is still rising, and publishers have been impacted slightly when it comes to revenue. A used game being sold is of course not a lost sale, but it’s a pretty hefty number in the long run. GameStop is a big reason as to why publishers lock out the multiplayer portion of the game with a code, the same goes for Xbox One requiring you to license the game on your profile. Steam does the same, why shouldn’t they get flak for it? The Xbox One isn’t backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games, while Steam will always be able to run on any computer and you will be able to install any Steam game, provided that you own it.

What do you think of used games? Do you buy used games? What could the publishers do instead of giving a code to unlock a portion of the game? I’d love to hear your opinion on it!


15 responses to “What’s the difference between buying new & used games?

  1. I’m not entering since I provided the game, but I thought I’d comment on the subject anyway. When I buy a console game, I always buy used. Until recently I’ve always been in a poor financial situation, so I could never justify paying full price for a game. For this reason I tend to wait until games are old enough to get a used copy at at least half price (Steam is perfect for that). In fact the last game I bought at full price was Final Fantasy XII.

  2. I haven’t purchased a used game in almost a decade ever since i found this magical world called PC gaming. Before converting to PC and going fully digital, i used to buy nothing but used games because it was a very cheap way to game. Long response short, i think publishers should put more pressure on retailers like exclusivity. No share of used game profits, NO exclusive in game items and what not.

  3. I’ve bought a few used games for when I played on my PS2, then I discovered PC gaming, and online games, so kinda difficult to buy used copies then, so most of the time I just wait for a sale on Steam or other platforms to buy the games on, I am concidering getting a ps3, or a ps4 once its released and who knows I might end up buying some used games then, as long as the disk is intact and no scratches I dont see any reason in buying the same game for way less money 🙂

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  4. Well, sure used games benefit gamestop more than they benefit the creators, but for those of us who happen to live in countries that are neither the USA or select European locations, we’re all too used to over-price and feeling like you’re getting ripped off instead of buying a game. Also, without Amazon, and with the restrictions on a lot of GFWL games, getting used, physical copies is the only way to access some content.
    TL;DR: I’d rather not buy used, but a lot of times, we simply do not have a choice.

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  5. On the rather infrequent occasion that I do buy a console game anymore (typically just out of nostalgic loyalty to a franchise) I definitely buy used. Generally I’ll buy from GameFly since they come with box, booklet and cover in near mint condition every time and exchanging a scratched disc (only had to do 1 time) is a breeze. I rarely buy used from GameStop since you (usually) get none of the above except possibly the easy exchange in the case of a damaged disc and if you are lucky enough to get a case/book/cover they aren’t in great shape. Prior to the current generation of consoles I bought used games VERY frequently. Used carts for my NES, SNES, Genesis, N64 and discs for PSX, Xbox, and PS2 were plentiful and much more affordable. Without a used game market a lot of younger gamers will not be able to as readily afford the games. This SHOULD be as much a concern for the publishers/developers as the revenue they are “losing” due to used game sales. Gamers tend to stay fiercely loyal to franchises and developers they really enjoyed during their younger (ie – poorer) years, so putting your games farther out of reach of the younger audience this way is a HUGELY STUPID long term move on Microsoft’s part. If young gamers can buy used games on the PS4 or get them dirt cheap and play them on their mom/dad’s PC via Steam or some other distributor then they’re going to gravitate more toward those platforms and as they grow up and have more income they will be more likely to continue giving increasing amounts of their money to THOSE platforms instead of the ones they have little to no brand loyalty to from their younger days. I’ve seen Microsoft make some stupid, stupid moves over the years, but this one seems bewilderingly idiotic to me.

    Good article yet again DCM. Keep up the good work 🙂

  6. When I was young, I would love browsing used games. It was affordable. Now I only buy new, because I in a way want to support the developer that make the games I enjoy. Then there is the twist. I see no sense in keeping most games I have beaten, so I’d rather sell them on eBay than have a hoard of dusty game boxes. In a sense I want to be on both sides of the argument.

  7. Most of my games are used and from Gamestop so I don’t know what the problem is with Gamestop,but they do warranty the used games which is good and if you have kids that play you don’t want to buy a new game and have it ruined when you can get it used and not worry about,plus if they don’t like it then your not losing money. So go used because you cant go wrong,the only time i buy new is when i just have to have the new release no matter what. 🙂

  8. im mostly a PC gamer. ever since i got my first job back in high school i saved every penny and bought my first PC. i did however buy an xbox 360 a few months back. i now have over 40 games for it, mostly used games lol. my first console system in over 10 years. its not the same as a PC, but ive been having fun on it. my opinion on used games being blocked on xbox one? well, since i mostly buy used games for console, blocking them isnt going to get me to buy over priced new games for 60 bucks a pop that i beat in one day, its just gonna make me stick with steam on PC that has sales all the time. so they wont make more money from me.

  9. Used games are cool to the consumer not only because they are cheaper but that years later we can buy and play them after the game devices stopped getting support and new games (thank you Nintendo for making N64 without such silly things – i love Ocarina of Time i got from a friend :3 ).
    With DRM and “protections” industry is trying to impose will just help the generation of consoles to disappear faster when it starts to get less support and dying :\

  10. I think that we’re at a stage when publishers are going to have to think long and hard about their position as middlemen in the flow of a game from developer to gamer. What I *do* know is that attacking the used games market doesn’t make sense. I think that when you buy something, you should get to do anything you want to it. That when the money exchanges hands, you get a piece of property, not a licence to use what you bought.

  11. Thanks for this article, as I finally understood why Microsoft wanted to block out games, somehow.

    And I’ve always bought them used, unless its a game I get on release. I think they’re a really good thing, since they work most of the time (Haven’t bought a non-working game since I bought Super Smash Bros. Melee years ago) and Gamestop offers a lot of good used games in my price range (I don’t have so much money, what can I say?) plus they’re making more of a profit that way so I’m glad they exist. My girlfriend is the opposite though, she buys the games new. And well they already do that but they give pre-order bonuses so they buy a new copy, so I think they’re already using all of their strategies so people buy new copies.

  12. Sorry, what is the difference? One multi-million dollar company gets your money or another does? People act like the programmers and producers get more money from new games…they don’t. Why do you care if EA gets $45 or GameStop gets $40? This is the biggest red haring I’ve ever seen. We should be more concerned with how Sony and MS treats, EA, and how EA treats the studios, and the impact on Indie Studios.

    BTW, do you know any developers (the actual coders and producers)? I know two of them that work for smaller studios. One drives a Porsche and the other an Escalade. These aren’t guys working out of a garage.

  13. I always buy preowned. Buying new games is to expensive for me :/ so preowned is cheaper for me :3 I just bought resident evil 6 for 12 preowned! not bad if ya tell me.

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