Monday, 10 May 2010

Feature: The Future Of Videogame Trade-Ins?

The notion of trading in your old games for new ones, or just simply buying the latest new releases in second hand form seems to be a thorn in the side of videogames publishers. Or so it may seem, especially when reading reports on how companies like EA and Sony are gearing up for a battle to salvage sales of brand new ‘mint’ games whilst putting a dent into preowned, both in terms of sales and the customer trading in. Many of these companies are tired of sitting back and watching whilst the retailer makes money over and over again on titles in which the publishers can only sell once.

However, what if retailers gave back a small percentage of the profits created by used game sales, what about then? Would publishers now be willing to ‘play ball’ with the retailers on the current situation they find themselves in, or would they still be gunning to drastically cut down all preowned transactions? Well, an answer may be here sooner than you think, as attempts to put all the benefits of used game trade-ins and sales to customers, whilst at the same time giving publishers and developers the support they need.

I’ve been saying for years that retailers should be giving back a percentage of their preowned profits to the publishers, and that if they did do such a thing, then the development community wouldn’t have so much of a problem with people wanting to trade-in and save money whilst still obtaining the latest releases. That idea, it seems, is also very favourable to the development community, who with the service offered at GreenManGaming’s new online portal, seem to be strongly in favour for the notion of trading in, and seeing cheaper versions of their latest products available, if only because they finally see some of the return on these sales.

Online, it seems is the perfect testing ground for this idea, and the ailing PC market also lends itself nicely for such an experiment with users constantly expecting lower prices, and struggling against some particularly aggressive DRM measures. This is where GMG and their website comes in. It is at first, like any other website selling downloadable PC games. Create an account, add in your credit/debit card details, download your selected game, and away you go. However, the site unlike any other on the market, offers its users the option of trading back in their digitally downloaded games when they have finished with them.

So how does this work, how can some give back an existing download on their computer at home for a new download of another game? Well, you're not quite giving back the download itself.

When you purchase any software from GMG’s website you are given an activation code, just like with boxed PC games, and it’s this that you effectively trade back in. All you have to do once you want to trade back in a game, is click on the ‘trade in’ option below the box art on the game page and then that’s it, your game gets traded. Of course, you are given a trade in value for your title beforehand, and if you choose to accept, you are given credit to purchase further games from the GMG website. Your original code gets re-generated into a new one, and is then sold off at a cheaper price, depending of course on its market value.

This means that it is not only possible to trade in your old GMG website purchases for new ones, but also the ability to buy cheaper versions of other games which have been traded in. All of the games are new, there is nothing except for the price that could be considered preowned. In terms of pricing, everything is determined by market value, just like how actual bricks and mortar shops operate. So, the more people that are trying to buy one particular title will send both its trade and purchase prices right up. Whereas if a certain title is being constantly traded in, its purchase price drops accordingly, as does its trade price, just as you’d expect it would.

At the same time, highly popular or rarer titles will maintain there market value over longer periods of time, unlike in some regular retail stores in which some popular titles see both their trade and purchase prices reduced massively over time. GMG’s system should be fairer, with customers through their own buying and selling habits dictating the overall price of certain items. New releases however, are likely to be price protected for a short period, as you would expect.

Of course, for such a system to work securely, away from the hands of pirates whilst satisfying the publishers, there has to be some form of DRM involved. In this case, SecuROM. However, GMG’s implementation of this somewhat hated form of DRM isn’t quite as intrusive as the ones used in previous boxed retail copies of high profile titles. Instead, after installing the newly downloaded game onto your computer it will register itself with GMG’s online servers, verifying its authenticity and thus allowing you to play. This authentication needs to be done via an Internet connection every three days. Although if you are away for long periods of time it is still possible to activate the game again after the three-day period, it’s just that the game won’t work after three days unless you re-activate it.

The system may sound harsh, but looking at the increasing number of titles which require a continuous internet connection, it is a pretty fair compromise, especially if gamers are getting all the benefits of cheaper titles and the ongoing option to trade in old titles. For the PC market, this would actually be the first, as previously hardly any shops would take in PC games with their reliance of activation codes and online registration.

So far, a few companies including PlayLogic, JoWood Productions, Midas and Namco Bandai have signed up to have their games available on the site, and apparently GMG is in talks with the likes of Rockstar, THQ and Sega to see if they are interested in at least trying out the service.

If the security measures are good, and the overall service is popular enough, then I suspect many more will come on board, as there is very strong evidence to suggest that people who trade in more games, also buy a lot more games as a result. This seems to be the view held at GMG as well, so they are very positive that their service will offer gamers a new way to empower themselves by trading and buying new titles online. Certainly, the aim is to make things fairer for both the publishers and the gamers.

GMG’s service will be launching here in the UK first with a planned roll out into many other territories, starting with the United States in a few months time. Currently gamers anywhere in the world can use the site, however the prices and currency are all localised for users in the United Kingdom. Later on when you visit the site from other territories other than the UK, a specifically localised version will instead appear with the correct pricing and currency for that particular territory.

Other than having an eventual worldwide presence and new release game sales, GMG also are hopeful that their service will attract titles that have failed to garner a publishing deal, and that might have otherwise been left upon the scrap heap. Instead they hope that developers will release their gamers independently on the service fee of needing any kind of publishing deal. The likelihood of which, means that there is a high probability that titles featuring original ideas, or simply independent IP, will eventually appear on the site, giving gamers both choice and variety on the site.

Overall, GMG’s revolutionary service could well be the way forward for traditional retail outlets to maximise trade-ins and preowned software sales, whilst at the same time satisfying large publishers and developers, in addition to the smaller ones who struggle to break even, let alone make a solid profit these days. I imagine that traditional retail will be looking at how successful GMG’s service is, both in terms of profits and market penetration, before perhaps adopting a similar system further on down the line.

If the service is successful, then there is no reason why bricks and mortar retailers also couldn’t start giving back a percentage of profits made from their sales of preowned games. After all, in the long run it would benefit the entire industry, from the developers and publishers, to the gamers, and even the retailers themselves.

Of course, it has to be done at the right price, and it has to be fair on the consumer, fairer than the current retail system in which you pay near £40 for a preowned title, only to be given around half that when you trade it in days later. Personally, I think it’s pretty obvious that this change isn’t going to happen overnight, but a change is necessary, especially for the industry to continue to thrive and push forward the boundaries of interactive entertainment.

GreenManGaming’s site ( opened to the public earlier this week. We definitely suggest that you pop along and check it out, as it could well be the future in the making.

No comments:

Post a Comment