In a move sure to have game publishers pulling their fingernails out in frustration, the venerable retail chain Toys R Us is testing the waters of used game sales. The program is only running in certain stores across the U.S. as far as anyone knows right now, but it’s likely to spread given any success. And there’s no reason to think it won’t be a success considering the used game market is already a $2 billion industry.
Obviously GameStop is the world leader in used game sales, but several smaller retailers have been dealing in secondhand discs for years now. With the worldwide economy currently clogging the toilet (just jiggle the handle…), people are looking for a bargain, so it makes sense for many to wait on playing a new release. You can save a few dollars buying it used, and you also have the benefit of knowing whether the game is any good. Kind of a win-win, right?
Well, not for publishers. They don’t see a dime of secondhand games sales. And while it’s true that the game has to be bought new before it can be bought used, there could theoretically be dozens of gamers who play a disc based on one person’s full-price purchase.
GameStop says this isn’t really a valid concern, since the majority of credit earned from trading older games is spent on buying new ones, but many publishers don’t buy it. To stem our desire to trade in or sell back our games, they could focus on delivering high quality downloadable content to extend their games’ lives, or they could simply start implementing some sort of activation code system. The latter seems much easier, so I’m afraid that’s the direction we’re heading.
Whatever the case, there’s little doubt used game sales are just going to get bigger. Kotaku is reporting that their source claims retail giant Best Buy is also looking into restarting their defunct used game sales, so we’ll most likely find out sooner than later how publishers plan on handling all this.
Judging by the boneheaded past decisions of major corporations, I’m fairly certain we’ll eventually see game discs that, upon being inserted into a foreign console, explode in a massive fireball that instantly kills your family and pets.