It’s no great secret that videogame publishers and developers have little appreciation for the pre-owned games market. Some time ago, pre-owned sales were territory dabbled with solely by the independent retail market, but when international retailer GAME, then known as Game Zone and later becoming Electronics Boutique, stepped into the field it was all of a sudden a very different level of competition.
Now, near every high street retailer offers an exchange of some kind. Even HMV, an entertainment chain known more for it’s wide selection of music and video rather than videogames, now accepts used videogames in part-exchange for any in-store item. Of course, with the passing of time bringing great technological change, and videogame publishers will soon be equipped with their own outlets thanks to the increasing awareness and viability of digital distribution services. That’s not to say however, that certain publishers aren’t exploring ways to sustain the demand for their titles at a full retail price in the meantime.
Pre-owned sales have a number of effects on retail packages, and not least directly substituting what may have been a full price sale. Any profit made from a pre-owned sale is wholly that of the retailers, and while it could be argued that specialist outlets rely on these sales as a compliment to the relatively low margins on new products, especially in the independent sector, it’s easy to see why those responsible for delivering the product to the shop shelves in the first place may not be best pleased. Although large or international retailers may only reduce the price by a few pounds, independent retailers are known to use pre-owned sales to sustain customer loyalty; often pricing pre-owned products £15-£20 lower than a brand new equivalent. This inevitably lowers the price that consumers are willing to pay for the product, often leading to sharp drops in shelf price after a month or so of a game being on sale.
Of the publishers taking steps to combat the pre-owned effect, Microsoft has been most obvious in their approach. The recent, and hugely successful launch of Halo 3: ODST saw retail discs accompanied by the promise of an invitation to join the Halo Reach Beta Testing Phase in 2010 – but only as long as the retail disc remained in your possession. Obviously, there will be those who, if so inclined, will see that they would be able to part-exchange the title now and buy it back prior to the Beta Testing Phase at a reduced price, but most will likely hold on to their copy for the time being, possibly limiting the amount of copies entering the pre-owned market and, therefore, helping to keep the retail purchase price at a more respectable level for longer.
Electronic Arts have also dabbled with various attempts at reducing the effects of the pre-owned market, and the latest NBA Live release features not an attempt to limit the quantity available on the pre-owned market, but to monetise those pre-owned sales themselves. Dynamic DNA is a unique feature of NBA Live 10 that allows for continuous updates to the game based upon the real-world season, and this year is taken full advantage of within the Dynamic Season gameplay mode. Dynamic DNA can be accessed with a unique, single-use code included within the retail package. Therefore, should you purchase a pre-owned copy, it’s more than likely this code will have already been used, and your only option for accessing the Dynamic DNA is to download it from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 1200 Microsoft Points, or through PlayStation Store for £11.99.
The argument both for and against pre-owned videogame sales has valued points, and it’s not likely that any reasonable conclusion will be drawn soon. Although the rapid adoption of digital revenue streams may spell the end for disc-based products in time, it will be many years until retailers are cut entirely out-of-the-picture, and so publishers will have to watch their attempts to curb the expansion of the pre-owned market for some time.