Over the past few days, debate has been rife in the Allure Media office about the pros and cons of buying pre-owned video games. The argument against this practice is that it robs developers of cash, with 100 per cent of the profits going to whichever retail outlet you happened to buy the game from.
Personally, I feel customers should be free to onsell a product they’ve legitimately purchased in any way they see fit. Removing the pre-owned games market from existence would severely limit consumers’ ability to sell their second-hand games – you’d basically be left with eBay and garage sales.
It could also be argued that the pre-owned/trade-in model allows gamers from lower socio-economic groups to play and enjoy the latest titles (at up to $120 a pop, console games are simply too expensive for many people to buy outright).
When looked at in this way, the second-hand games market could almost be compared to a thrift store where items are traded among the needy. You don’t see clothes manufacturers complaining that they didn’t get a cut from Saint Vinnies — why should the games industry be any different?
Now, you’d think from this opening salvo that I have both feet firmly planted in the “viva pre-owned!” camp. In reality, I have never purchased a pre-owned game. The reason for this is that they’re just not sexy enough. Bear with me.
Walk into a random EB Games store and one of the first things you’ll see is a pre-owned games banner. They are invariably black on yellow and an insufferable eye-sore to anyone with an iota of taste. The games, meanwhile, are usually heaped on a table in tottering stacks or jammed inside a bargain bin with zero love or finesse. Hell, even the ‘pre-owned’ stickers are small, yellow and ugly.
When it comes to attracting consumers, perception is everything. If EB Games doesn’t care about its pre-owned wares, why should I? Just because it’s somebody’s unwanted junk doesn’t mean you have to market it that way.
Supermarket Coles has obviously learned this lesson with its various house brand products — often, the packaging looks superior to non-store-branded goods.
My advice to EB Games is to really push its pre-owned brand: invest in cooler displays, ensure packaging is grime-free and get rid of that god-awful yellow motif. I want to see explosion-shaped stickers, sleek mirrored tables with games in neat rows and maybe the odd bikini model dispensing second-hand love to cash-strapped gamers. (Sex sells, right?)
Until then, I’ll stick to full-price land, which is lovingly populated with cardboard cut-outs of game characters.