When it comes to video game shopping, I don’t think the average customer cares much about whether or not they buy a game new or used. I think when they want a game, they buy the game and get it at the best value they can. However, among gaming press, online gaming communities and anywhere else where serious video game discussion takes place, the topic of buying new vs. buying used always seems to crop up. The main argument for buying new is that your money supports the creators of the game and the main argument for buying used is that you get the game at a discounted price.
I don’t think this is a binary argument. There are a number of reasons for consumers to do both. I buy games both new and used. This post highlights the reasons I buy new and the reasons I buy used.
Why I Buy New
I’ll lay my cards out on the table now: In almost all cases, I prefer to buy new games over used games. Ever since games switched from cartridges to discs, I have become extremely paranoid about the condition of my games. When you buy used, you might get a game that has been scratched to oblivion. By buying new, I can pretty much guarantee that what I’m buying is going to work fine.
I’m also picky about the condition of the game’s packaging. I have seen used games that don’t come with manuals, games packaged with torn-up manuals, and games missing the original box or games with broken boxes, to name a few. The worst one I ever saw was a game where the box art was taken out of the sleeve, used as a coffee coaster, and put back in the box. Are you kidding me? I don’t want anything to do with other people’s damage to the original product. By buying new, I can better ensure that what I’m getting is in mint condition. When it comes to games I don’t want to pay full price for, I would rather wait for new copies to go on sale rather than buy a used copy. Even when I’m buying used games, it has to come in the original box or I won’t pick it up.
From a value perspective, buying new releases used is just silly. Most of the time, used copies of new releases are no more than $5 cheaper than buying new. I’d rather spend the extra $5 to get a new copy than get a used one that might be scratched and packaging that has been marred by owners who don’t take care of their games and retailers that don’t mind placing stickers all over the game boxes.
Do I think about where my money goes when I buy new? Yes. Even though this is an expensive hobby I believe in supporting people who make content I like so that they can make more of that content for the world to enjoy. There are a lot of examples of games that don’t have sequels anymore because people didn’t buy them, new or otherwise. In particular, I feel extra motivated to support niche games whose success or failure could determine something major down the road. I bought Tatsunoko vs. Capcom on the Wii right away, even though I was unemployed, because I wanted to support fighting games on the Wii in hopes that this game’s success would mean more would be on the way. While I’m not sure there are any new major Wii fighting games coming soon, the success of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom at least keeps the door open for more fighting games on the platform not called Smash Bros.
I also think about where my money doesn’t go to when I buy new. When you buy a used game, most of the money goes to the retailer, who probably paid a fraction of the cost for the game from a consumer, then jacked up the price in order to raise their profit margin. I understand that this is the way that business works, but when I buy a game, I would rather the creators of the game get the brunt of the money rather than the store I bought it from.
Why I Buy Used
Before the advent of disc-based games, I was all about buying used games. As a child with no income, I was able to get the games I wanted for cheaper. Cartridges were fairly durable and because they came in cardboard boxes, it was unreasonable to expect people to keep the packaging.
While I shy away from buying used nowadays for the reasons I’ve listed above, I’ll still buy used games under certain circumstances. Price is absolutely the main factor in this. In particular with older games, sometimes the prices of used copies are way lower than new copies. As long as it comes with the original packaging, the packaging is in ‘good enough’ condition and the disc is in good shape, I’ll buy it.
Some older games are also harder to find brand new. In cases where I want a game and can only find it used, I’m OK with buying it used.
Most recently, I bought a used copy of Super Street Fighter IV for the PS3, a game I already own on the XBOX 360. Because I didn’t really ‘need’ a PS3 copy of it, but wanted one, and because I’ve already supported Capcom by buying the XBOX 360 version brand new, I picked up a used PS3 copy to save a few bucks.
There are no ‘right’ answers to this discussion, as the ‘right’ answer depends on a lot of different factors. I’m not here to judge how you obtain your games, but I think it’s an interesting topic to discuss. Do you buy your games new, used or both? Why do you buy games a certain way?