Something that always seems to find its way in and out of gaming discussions is the debate over used games. Are they ethical? Do they harm game developers? Are they good for the industry in their own way? Should we be worried about accessibility to older games or not? Are games art?
That last question was a joke, but seriously, let’s talk about why used games are important to games as a key presence in our culture today. We need used games.
Accessibility Is Key
Games are expensive. New stuff is expensive. Secondhand stores have existed forever, across all mediums, for that specific reason. Government funded libraries exist for that reason. People should have access to art and media to enrich their lives in our late-capitalist society. Let those who have the resources front the bill first, which then allows for less well-off people to benefit from the secondhand market. This is especially important for games, which are still in the unstable growth stage.
Smaller Games Get a Second Chance
Sometimes a game doesn’t sell so well on its first outing, and that’s not always because a game is bad. Maybe it didn’t find its audience because of bad marketing or bad timing. The secondhand market leaves the floor open for discovery, and perhaps leading to the emergence of a new fanbase. Familiar with the term “cult classic?” Secondhand sales help make that a thing.
Used Games Make Local Game Shops Possible
Local game shops are awesome. You will never what what you can find at each one. But if the used games market goes away, so do “mom and pop” shops that simply cannot make money selling new games. Publishers charge way too much for stores smaller than GameStop to stock brand new games. Used games are their lifeblood.
Finding Rare Games Is Easier
Used game sales are a beacon of hope for collectors or younger gamers trying to find long out of print or rare games for a decent price. Places like pawn shops don’t always know what they have, and negotiations are almost always possible at retail shops, if you’re not a jerk about it. As collecting games becomes more popular, retail spaces help keep it slightly more manageable.
Checks and Balances
Game publishers, aka large corporations, are always trying to find ways to take power away from people who aren’t them. That includes their customers, people like you. Digital ownership rights are always going to be a point of contention, and physical game releases are starting to look like the last bastion of consumer control over their purchases.
Games Stick Around Longer
Used game sales keep games around longer. This is great for historical preservation purposes and things like collecting or playing retro games long after their prime. Thanks to secondhand sales, you can almost always find that game you used to love but have since lost to time, and maybe even avoid paying inflated prices online. Plus, digital rights issues can make games that didn’t get physical releases disappear!
New Markets and Innovations
As games get older and more people are trying to keep their games around longer, innovations and new technologies are becoming more and more in demand. Console developers and publishers are being pushed more than ever for things like backwards compatibility. Companies like Hyperkin are doing great work developing new devices to play old games. Old games are still viable and playable!
Secondhand trading and selling builds community! So many game trading and selling marketplaces have cropped up on places like social media, in addition to faceless auction sites like eBay and online storefronts. People bond over shared interests. Being able to make connections while seeking out collectibles and building friendships is part of the fun. Even conventions for this kind of thing have gained steam over the years.
Sharing Is Caring
If everything goes digital-only or other ways to combat used sales eventually come to pass, what will happen to the ability to simply lend something to a friend? If I have a book, a movie, or some other physical good and I want to share it with a friend, I can put it in their hand and let them borrow it for a while. For now, you can still do that with games, but not without some controversy along the way.
Weird Stuff Is Cool
Having old games in circulation is great, even if sometimes they stop working. This is where the weird stuff comes in. Old carts and discs can often be seen being used for cool art projects or things like reproduction carts. Being able to appreciate games all over again, with things like creativity and art, is part of what being a gamer is all about. Right? Right.