Thank Goodness for Used Video Games

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Finger Pointing

To hear some publishers tell it, used game sales are the devil's work, and we--meaning us consumers--the devil's henchmen.

We're buying too many used games, you see, and in our patient thrift, we're destroying the very thing we're supposed to love.

Not the games themselves, mind you--first-class game development is flourishing with or without the World of Warcraft's and Call of Duty's--but, if we buy the corporate line, the ability of game publishers to reap increasingly massive revenues.

More 'Fearsome' Than Ever

The latest "uh-oh, used games" salvo comes from a UK-based analytics company, which just released a report fingering preowned game trading as "the driving force" behind year-on-year declines in UK new video game sales.

"The second hand games market is more fearsome now than it ever has been," concludes UK trade mag MCV, which noticed the study. "A decade ago the only outlets for second hand games was High Street specialists and the then burgeoning number of UK indies."

The trend's not new, of course, and it's ramping up on both sides of the pond. In July 2009, a Nielsen retail game sales report suggested US used game sales were cutting sharply into new ones.

"Used game purchases have picked up in 2009, and this has increasingly come at the expense of new games when looked at as a share of the total," said the Nielsen report. "Sales of used games increased by 31.9 percent compared to last year."

Stepping back to September 2008, Bungie (Halo) audio director Marty O'Donnell predicted smaller studios were in for bumpy financials given the thriving market for pre-owned games.

"It's hard to gauge the effect of used game sales on Halo, but I'm sure it's big," opined O'Donell. "Complaining about sales when you have a multi-million seller is somewhat difficult to justify, but it seems to me that the folks who create and publish a game shouldn't stop receiving income from further sales."

And Bethesda's (Oblivion, Fallout 3) Pete Hines recently put it this way: "We would prefer to participate in the sale of our products, especially when we spend years putting one of these things together and we have to continue to provide support for all these new customers without creating any new revenue from it at all."

So are these claims fair or foul?

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