The used-games market

Games publishers have been making increasing amounts of noise about the used market for games. So, let’s look at another industry example.

Let’s look at cars.

Okay, so you buy a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, for about US$25,000. In ten years you want another car. Let’s assume the 2020 Camaro costs about the same. You sell your old Camaro for about US$10,000, and you pay $15,000 on top for your new ride.

Odds are that you’ve done something like that for every new car you bought. Your first car was probably a used one to begin with. Lots of people only ever buy used.

Chevy get absolutely zip for every used-car sale.

How about books?

You’re done with some old books that cost you $25. You sell for $10. That gives you $10 towards new books. The publisher doesn’t get any portion of those used-book sales, and neither does the author, but you’ve got more money to spend on new books.

You buy new books, and you either keep them or sell them on when you’re done.

So, what if Chevy get annoyed at not being able to sell as many new cars because of the sales of used-cars. Somehow, they gimmick it so that you can’t sell your old car to another driver.

When the time comes to buy a new car, you need 165% more money to get the same car. $15,000 doesn’t buy a $25,000 car, and you can’t get the $10,000 for the sale of the used one anymore.

A new car has suddenly become more expensive for you, even though the price-tag remains the same. The car has less value, even though the price-tag remains the same, because you can’t resell it, only keep it or scrap it.

You cannot buy a new car as often. You might even think that they should now be $10,000 cheaper to make up for the fact that the value of the cars have dropped by that amount.

Chevy discovers that their Camaro doesn’t sell as well. Camaro buyers are buying them less often, people who would buy used cars look at public transport, bicycles or car-pooling. Chevy isn’t getting any more money than they were before, because reducing the resale value of the product doesn’t create more money in the market; it just changes how people make decisions.

So, now we’re on to games. Limited activations, online codes, digital distribution. I love digital distribution, but there’s no resale value there. Each game is worth less than an identical game that you can sell second-hand.

And depending on where you live, those digitally distributed games cost as much or more than buying a copy off the shelves that you can resell to help fund the purchase of new games.

And they age. A great many of those games won’t be playable in ten years time, after you’ve gotten a new video card, new drivers, or an updated operating system. Some won’t be playable in five.

(If you’ve got a current gaming machine (or one from any time in the last couple of years) you can’t even run the SimCity 4 release that popped up on Steam a couple weeks back. Too old. You need an old system to run it properly)

Forget the aging of physical media, the hazards of dust and scratches, and the wear-and-tear of use. Your digitally distributed games age too.

And now publishers are looking at ways to further reduce the value of the games you buy, by cutting any resale value that physical copies might still have. Because they want you to buy more games new – which you won’t be able to do without selling the ones you’re done with.

Because they’re not going to make the new games any cheaper to compensate, are they? Of course not.

You personally might not be a person who ever resells games, but the industry relies on the parallel economy of those that do, even if they try to convince themselves that they don’t.

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