The Average Gamer

Pre-Owned Nightmare

Guillaume de Fondaumiere, co-founder of Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain), launched an ‘attack’ on the pre-owned games market recently, declaring it “one of the number one problems right now in the industry.”

I can take just one example of Heavy Rain. We basically sold to date approximately two million units, we know from the trophy system that probably more than three million people bought this game and played it. On my small level it’s a million people playing my game without giving me one cent. And my calculation is, as Quantic Dream, I lost between €5 and €10 million worth of royalties because of second hand gaming.
– Guillaume de Fondaumiere, Quantic Dream on

My opinion? The pre-owned market is quite large; for example, CEX stores offer nothing to the industry at all, as all their products are pre-owned (games, DVDs, CDs, etc). Video games are expensive on release and it is cost alone that pushes away most from a product. Pre-owned titles do also give the other big games retailers – GAME and HMV – sorely-needed profit boosts, particularly in the current financial climate. My preference is to buy new copies, where possible. It gives back to the developers and publishers for their hard work and efforts, and of course, more importantly, keeps them in business to carry on making the games we love. However, I also understand why people go for pre-owned titles: they cost less.

There are also other matters that I’m sure de Fondaumiere was indirectly addressing, such as piracy, but I feel he has missed a key factor that has been underestimated over the years: lending and or renting. Most new titles are available from say, Blockbuster, for £5 a week. It is an avenue I have used before, and I’m sure many others have too. If a title such as Saw, which is only worth a single play-through, is rented out, it is unlikely to be purchased afterwards. Using Heavy Rain as a key example, I do not own a PS3 currently and actually borrowed my brother’s PS3, and the game, so I could experience it. Does that make me evil?

Personally though, I confess to not being a great giver to the industry this year on newly released titles, having only bought one new game on its release all year (so far): Dead Space 2. I received what I felt was a big kick in the teeth when it was reduced to £19.99 within two weeks, at all retailers. So I’ve learnt to have a bit of patience.

One thing I have noticed when buying a title at a retailer such as Gamestation is their newly found pre-owned driven angle. The last three games I have bought, I have been asked if I want the pre-owned copy, because it is, say, £5 cheaper. I’m sure some would say “yeah, go for it” due to the face-value saving but on each attempt I asked whether online passes have been redeemed and they didn’t know. Unless declared when traded in, or tested (yes, CEX, that word does exist), how would they know? Even worse was one of my local stores actually scanning and handing over a pre-owned copy of Fallout: New Vegas, when a new copy was handed over the counter, without asking first! As consumers, the last thing we want is to be dictated as to what we buy.

This then leads to the age-old argument about retailer profit. Is there really any need for the RRP of a typical Xbox 360 game to be £40? Dead Space 2 sold really well and this price reduction would have only increased its sales at the time. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, another recently released title, is down to £24.99 already online and in my opinion that is a sure-fire face-palm to those who purchased on the first day.

Just to point out also, I will be purchasing both FIFA 12 and Batman: Arkham City on release. I’m not that patient.

I would love to know people’s thoughts on this subject also. How do you judge when to buy your games? Do you just go “SQUEE” when you see it in the store, and can’t get your money out quick enough? Or do you use my method; stare at the box for 5 minutes, trying to justify that you “shouldn’t this month” but just think “sod it”?