Despite what developers say, used games sales is good for the industry.
In an interview with Gamasutra, GameStop CEO Paul Raines points out that 70-percent of the income gamers receive from turning in their used games is spent on new gaming products. That, according to his stats, is a nice $1.8 billion injection into the games industry. Yet developers -- and some publishers -- will have everyone believe that the used games market is actually killing the industry.
"My answer to developers is that we are driving growth in a category that needs to grow," he said. "We think there's a real lack of awareness as far as how it's good for the industry. The transparency you're seeing from us is because we want people to know about it, helping people understand what we're trying to do for the industry."
There is a point in the interview that Raines seems to understand where developers are coming from in regards to their angst against the used games sector. After all, the work of art they've poured their life's blood into is now being sold at a discounted price, and they're not seeing a dime. It's understandable, but car manufacturers don't receive royalties from second-hand sales at car lots either.
Many gamers see the trade-in model as currency, a means to purchase a new title they couldn't afford with straight-up cash. And it's not just the games either: used consoles can be traded in towards a newer version, to purchase a batch of used titles or the latest AAA shooter on the market. Either way, the money is usually dumped back into the games industry.
"We're really not cannibalizing new game sales," he said. "That's a common misconception. So my answer to developers is that we are driving growth in a category that needs to grow. We think there's a real lack of awareness as far as how it's good for the industry. The transparency you're seeing from us is because we want people to know about it, helping people understand what we're trying to do for the industry."
Of course, the whole topic of discussion here is used console sales. At one point, GameStop accepted PC gaming trade-ins, but discontinued the program years ago because of piracy and falling sales. Now gamers are lucky to get a few racks for physical copies of recent Windows-based titles, and a slew of digital distribution platforms like Steam and Origin makes it difficult for GameStop to compete without exclusive incentives.
That's where the company's new plan to sell pre-purchased keys come in. It's much easier to sell used PC games by acquiring the activation key itself, a possible service GameStop is currently investigating. "It’s very interesting," said Raines in another recent interview. "There are some technologies out there in Europe, and we’ve looked at a couple that are involved. We’re interested; it’s not a meaningful business yet. Right now we’re not seeing that as a huge market, but I think we’re on the leading edge. There are a few companies, a few startups, out there that we’ve talked to that are doing this."
Still, consumers and retailers like GameStop will seemingly always be considered the bad guys because the former wants to save a buck and the latter wants to make a buck. As Raines points out, there will always be people on the internet saying negative things about the company from time to time.
"It's going to get picked up," he said. "There are a lot of people [on the internet] who tend to be very developer-centric, they love the developers. Anyone who is perceived as doing anything whatsoever to detract from the developer is going to catch some vitriol from the [internet] folks."