The State of Gaming: The Used Games Debate

In the final segment of my State of Gaming blogging series, I’ve decided to discuss the much talked about used game argument. I’ve heard dozens of different, conflicting opinions on this matter, and while there isn’t an easy answer, I do think there is a logic that we need to apply in thinking of buying games used or new.

The used game market has been around for a long time, but it has risen to its highest place yet in this generation. With stores like GameStop growing ever popular, gamers have realized that buying games used is not only cheaper, but also opens up the option to ‘return’ games that they’ve decided aren’t worth keeping.

Sounds good right? Well, at this kind of face value it certainly is. Let’s all be honest; games are expensive. It’ll cost you around sixty-dollars to purchase a game on the PS3 or Xbox 360, a little less for the Wii U or handhelds. That isn’t cheap, and is why many of us don’t buy near as many games as we’d like.

For me personally, as a student with a spring/summer job, I can’t afford every game I want. I have to decide which games are worth picking up on day one and which ones I should wait on.

For instance, the three games I plan on buying opening day are Tomb Raider (March 5th), BioShock: Infinite (March 26th), and The Last of Us (May 7th). But those aren’t the only games I want to play. Games like Fuse, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and even the already released Halo 4 will have to wait.

Buying used games is easier and cheaper than buying new. But that doesn’t necessarily mean its the better option.


I could, in theory, avoid this dilemma if I just bought all my games used. If I were to wait a month after each game came out, I could most likely buy them used from GameStop for a lot less than if I were to buy them new.

But as someone who keeps up to date on the gaming market, I have seen dozens of game developers get shut down because they’re games didn’t make enough money. That means lots of people have been laid off because of this, and that’s very sad.

Sometimes their games really do suck and that’s why they don’t sell; but other times it’s because they set their expectations too high, and other times it’s because too many people bought their games used.

You see, when you buy a game used, not a penny of that sale goes to the people who spent years working on the game. All the money you just spent goes straight into the store’s pocket.

I’m not saying that if you buy games used then you’re helping people lose their jobs, but I am saying that buying games used can be a slippery slope.

Anyone who’s ever traded in a game knows how this feels.


Also, I want you to know I do buy games used from time to time. But buying new is always my first choice; but sometimes I just can’t afford it. And that’s the other side of the coin in all of this. There’s nothing inherently wrong with buying games used. Not at all in fact.

In this economy, used games allow people to play games they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. And that’s great. The more people that can enjoy games the better. However, we should still think about the impact it can have on the people who’s job it is to make the game you just bought for fifteen bucks.

It’s not stealing, and in fact, it is your right to buy and sell games however you like. Which is why I think it would be a terrible idea for Sony or Microsoft to implement something in their next consoles that restrict the use of used games.

That does go to show how much of an impact the used game market has had on the gaming industry, and it’s made publishers and developers almost desperate.

Lots of people get mad about the Online Pass, but really, is it that wrong? If you buy a sixty-dollar game for twenty-dollars, and then have to spend ten-dollars on an online pass, then you still bought the game for half its original price. And supported the developers a little in doing so.

In fact, one of my favorite PlayStation podcasts, an IGN podcast called Podcast Beyond, did a great episode last year about the used-game debate, and if this kind of thing interests you, then you should check it out. You can download it for free right here. Disclaimer: there’s some harsh language in this podcast, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of stuff, listen at your own discretion.

The guys over at Podcast Beyond hade a great discussion about used games.


I guess what I’m trying to say, if you think about it, is that the whole used game ‘problem’ is one that can’t really be solved. People will almost always choose the cheapest option in buying something, and that’s okay. I’m just trying to let you see that that way of buying games does have an effect on others.

Buy games however you want, you definitely have that right. But, if it’s possible for you to do so, think about buying new. You’ll have a guaranteed to work product, and you’ll also be supporting the people who developed the game.

And if you don’t like taking risks in games, then do what I do and use Gamefly, a game renting service that allows you to try out a game before laying down the cash to purchase it. It’s another option for people out there, and one I’ve been using for several years with great success.

Gamefly is a great way to try a game before you buy it.


There’s no easy answer to this debate. People will always have the right to make their own decisions, and that’s perfectly okay. I just ask that the next time you think of buying a used game, take a moment to think.

Do you really need to save ten bucks, or can you spend a few extra dollars and send some love towards the developers of the product you’re holding in your hands?

Thank you to everyone who has Liked, commented, and read my State of Gaming blogging series these last few weeks. I’ve had some great discussions with some great people, and it’s been my pleasure writing these for you. Who knows, maybe I’ll have start up another series like this sometimes soon.


2 responses to “The State of Gaming: The Used Games Debate

  1. Great post, again. It was as level headed as I expected.

    I know I’ve posted pretty long comments, and gotten into some good discussion with you here in this series… but I’ve got to leave this one alone for now. I’m very adamant about my position, and while it doesn’t directly disagree with yours, it likely goes off on a few tangents before brining it back home to the topic at hand.

    I’ve been considering making my own ranting post about this topic, but every time I start I get worked up to a point of way-past-reasonable. I’ll get around to it eventually… probably the next time I buy a new release game. Which doesn’t look like it’s going to be anytime in 2013.

    What’s wrong with me? I just wrote two long paragraphs explaining that I won’t be writing much about this…

    You can see why I have to stay away from actually talking about the subject itself.

    • This is definitely a tricky topic, and I don’t expect my opinion to match up with everyone’s at all. However, I’m still only a student, and don’t have a family to take care of, so my opinion on it all is going to be different from yours just because of that.
      I appreciate all the comments, and have enjoyed our discussions and I look forward to reading your ‘ranting post’ on the topic, whenever that may be. 🙂

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