GameStop Wants to Sell... Pre-Owned Software Keys?

While customers can already waltz into GameStop and purchase a used copy of Halo 3 or Black Ops, PC gamers are left out of the secondhand market -- they're lucky to even have a few shelves for actual new titles. But the nation's largest games retailer, which makes the bulk of its revenue from the secondhand market despite the disapproval of publishers and developers, is looking to change all that by selling used digital games, or rather, pre-owned license keys.

"It’s very interesting," said GameStop CEO Paul Raines in a 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."

Naturally he wouldn't reveal who those outfits are, only adding that "we wouldn’t want to disclose that and have our competitors rushing in."

The move to selling previously-owned serial numbers isn't surprising as the industry is slowly shifting into a digitally-focused distribution model. Publishers will likely stick with physical media for years to come, but eventually consumers will reach a point where it's easier to purchase and download titles directly to their desktop, console or tablet. Used digital sales will also keep that aspect of GameStop's revenue flowing as physical media begins to fade away.

Earlier this month, a European court ruled that content creators cannot prohibit post-purchase redistribution of work no matter what the end-user license agreement claims (pdf). The ruling stemmed from a case between hardware and software producer Oracle and German company UsedSoft, the latter of which made a living purchasing and reselling software licenses from consumers. Obviously, UsedSoft won.

According to the court's judgment, a software author's exclusive license to distribute a given copy of its product is exhausted in the initial distribution. Thus, owners of the software can sell said copy without the author's consent. The judgment applies both to future end-user license agreements and preexisting ones.

By selling pre-owned digital games, GameStop could be entering new territory in regards to offering non-gaming software on the cheap. What that would include -- whether it's an unused Windows 8 key or a previous owned Office 2013 key -- is mere speculation at this point.


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  • DroKing
    As much as I hate gamestop but this is rather appealing =) beside their jacked up prices of course.
  • assasin32
    Great we can sell Win7 pro for $3 now and Ultimate for $5, now I can afford to buy myself one more coffee from Starbucks.
  • xtc28
    back_by_demandParasites, sucking the blood out of the gaming industry, they should be forced to give something back to the devs every time the same game is sold

    The devs would not get said royalty payment as it would go to the publisher. The publishers are the parasites. Us consumers along with companies such as Gamestop and identify are more like symbiotes in mutually beneficial relationships. The fact that some publishers release trash and refuse to let us sell what we purchased is rediculous.
    Here is the the issue. These gaming companies are just like any other tech company, they develop a technology and then use that technology to create a product. When we buy the product it is the product that we own not the technology that was used to create it. Therefor we own the product. As with any product we purchase we own that product and have the right to sell it. In the case of licensing for use of a product......... This should not be allowed unless the purchased software is used to create another product in which the intended creation directly relies on the software licensed. Now since we are not licensing the game engine to create a new game but we are purchasing the end product we should have the right to claim ownership of our individual copy of said purchase. This is not saying that we own the technology or the game itself, but the copy we bought. Just as we purchase a flat screen TV. That individual unit becomes the purchasers property after the exchange of currency. Again we didn't purchase the patent for the technology itself but an individual unit of an end product that becomes the purchasers property, Therefore when the owner sees fit to sell the property that is owned it is legal to do so.
  • Other Comments
  • DroKing
    As much as I hate gamestop but this is rather appealing =) beside their jacked up prices of course.
  • back_by_demand
    Parasites, sucking the blood out of the gaming industry, they should be forced to give something back to the devs every time the same game is sold
  • bigdragon
    I'd be more than happy to buy used software keys. That's the main way I discover new software that I may or may not like. This is especially true of video games. Certain titles I think are bad (Rage, Bulletstorm, etc.) and would never buy new are far more appealing at a used price point. If I like I'll probably buy the sequel at full price.