Second-hand market, game cost and game longevity

Many outspoken figures in the videogame business have been vocal about their need to get rid of second-hand sales. Many have gone as far as likening gamers buying second-hand games to pirates.

Eurogamer has a pretty good overview of the situation, with a bent on seeing things from the consumer’s point of view.

Let me tell you a story. I used to be a poor student, like most of us. Despite this, I was a heavy gamer – all thanks to the second-hand market. I could afford maybe one (1) brand new game per year, but I bought dozens of games, fueling my passion for the videogame market. When I begun to make some money for work, I spent more and more on new videogames. In the end, my passion took me to working in the field, making games.

Very likely none of this would have happened without the second-hand market. Yes, I could buy some discounted titles and borrow stuff from friends, but we wouldn’t be talking about anywhere near the same magnitude. Then of course there’s piracy. A lot of internet-savvy young people wouldn’t cry about their inability to buy games if they could just turn to Piratebay.

The naysayers do not see that the second-hand market is keeping a lot (a lot!) of financially challenged consumers interested in gaming, very likely buying some brand new games on the side, and eventually making enough money to support their hobby, which they’ve grown attached to.

And it’s not just about being limited in spending. I could afford more brand new games than I’m buying these days. The fact is that despite working in the field, I do not see very many games being worth the entry fee. Games are too expensive – they should be impulse buys! Second-hand games are.

Now, couple the high price with the fact that most gamers never (anywhere near) complete their games and you have a situation where people are paying too much for something they feel leaves them unsatisfied. At the same time, the developers and publishers are spending ever-increasing amounts into making ever bigger games, which a tiny fraction of their buying public ever sees through. Why are we wasting all this effort? Why are we asking the consumers to support this practice, even though it gives them zero value?

I have a feeling the industry is far too interested in a fraction of the actual game playing and buying public, making no moves towards accommodating the actual masses and their wallets. They have no right crying about consumers not giving them money if they’re just not offering something the consumers actually want. The problem with only sure-fire hits with massive marketing being a reliable source of profit is all down to this. Consumers can’t take any risks because they’ve been priced out of their hobby.


  1. The “hated” casual gaming uprise is kind of adressing the issue of not people finishing the games they buy – they are not really meant to be finished. Most of casual games are overpriced too, of course, but at least in a way they give more for the buck than the average 50+ hour adventure people play half way through and never touch again.

  2. Joonas Laakso

    All true. I can see episodic content becoming a bigger deal in the near future, and that’s really something that could help in addressing this – offering more reasonably priced chunks which players are likely to complete and then want more. No money, no work wasted. Well, provided that the first episode, with the biggest development costs, makes a profit and warrants the later episodes, anyway.

    Playstation 3’s Siren Blood Curse is a good example of something that might see wider adoption, as are some of the episodically released adventure games, like Sam & Max and Penny Arcade Adventures.

  3. Kai

    As a person not in possession of a games-capable PC or a next-gen console, I have been impressed with the shine and polish on the big AAA titles. But what has attracted me most has been the likes of XBLA stuff – relatively cheap stuff that’s got a low entry threshold.

  4. I’ve tried to keep a balance of buying new AAA titles so that the developer gets full payment for their efforts and continues to make things, and buying used titles when I’m cautious about how much I’ll like it.  i’m continuing to buy used titles for older systems too to this day.  There is just so much fun stuff out there!

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