Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Okay, so for full disclosure, yes I work in the video game development industry. But many of these thoughts of mine that will be presented in the next few posts predate such employment. They’ve just been closer to the surface as of late. These next few posts, which will be a mish-mash of several topics, may involve some inconsistency between rants. Try to think of inconsistencies as me looking at multiple sides of complex issues…

The first rant will be on used video games sales. I used to think this was a great idea. After all, games can be expensive, so it was great that I could just buy, play, and sell it back to the retailer. They can then resell it to someone else at a reduced price. Everybody wins, right? Wrong. There is a big loser in all this, hidden because I started that money chain too late in the process. The real process goes like this: First is the fuzzy bit that involves a game developer, and likely a publisher, spending lots of money over several years in making a video game. They then spend a good amount of money in promoting said game to the public so people will want to buy it. The physical copies of the games get passed to the retailer at a price point that will allow them to recover their development and marketing costs (us programmers don’t work for free for those years, so a lot of money was already spent) plus profit, and the the retailer sells it to you at an increased price so they can run their store and make a profit. Okay, so that was incredibly simplified, but let’s go with it. Now you can sell that game back to the retailer because you’re done with it, and they sell it to someone else. Then that person sells it back to the retailer, who again sells it to someone else. Then that person sells it back to the retailer, who again sells it to someone else. Wait a minute, did the retailer just sell the same physical product to four different people, making profit on it each and every time? Yes. And did the developers and publishers just make money off that copy of the game four times?

No. No they did not.

And therein lies a part of a very big problem. Why are games as expensive as they are? There are many many factors, but a part is because the publishers need to recoup the cost of production, and developers need to recoup the cost of development, through just a fraction of the “legitimate” sales that occur at the retail outlets. And how bad is that problem? I just visited a local store location of a major retailer of video games. I will not mention which store it is, but they only sell games, have stores in at least Canada and the USA, and have an online store as well. All of these outlets also sell used games. While I was just browsing through the store it dawned on me that over half of the games on the main displays were used games!

That’s right. There were more second/third/etc hand games in main displays than new games. And on top of that there were bins of used games that can only be loosely classified as displays. Many of these used games on display were recent releases!

Am I completely against used video game sales? No. I believe they have a purpose. When I’m looking for out of print and difficult to find games, I will turn to used games as the sole source for those games. These are found in those bins I mentioned. But please – used copies of new-release games on sale for just a few dollars less that the new copies? The retail stores are raking in their customer’s cash while the publishers and developers are wondering why their highly regarded work that everyone is playing is suffering poorer than expected sales.

Now for icing on the cake, this particular retail chain will sell you a yearly subscription that gives you a discount on used games. Yes, they will charge you for a program that allows you to give them money to buy products they have already sold to someone else, possible to several other people, further discouraging you from supporting the people who are actually making the products! You (not necessarily YOU you, but the general public you) are thrilled because you can save 5-10 dollars per game (less the price of the subscription), and the video game makers are forced to incrementally raise their prices because not enough new copies are being sold. This allows the retailer to also incrementally increase their used game prices, which are ALL profit.

Now for the badly frosted flowers on the icing on the cake, more and more of the large consumer electronics chains are noticing this cash cow and starting their own used game departments.

The more I think about it, the worse it looks. I’m going to stop now. Thank you for reading.