Retailer and Tech Developer Battle Over Used Games

July 13, 2010 -

At the ongoing Develop Conference in the UK, a representative from GameStop Sweden and the CEO of a new company attempting to make games as easy to play and share online as YouTube videos got into a bit of a dustup over used games.

GamesIndustry.biz details the flare-up between GameStop’s Niall Lawlor and InstantAction chief Louis Castle. Lawlor told Castle that the used game business helps GameStop preserve its margins, but that, “We don't like being in the used business, it's very difficult to manage.”

Lawlor said that without used game sales, GameStop would not be in business.

Castle answered that selling used games would quicken the demise of brick-and-mortar stores, adding, “While you're preserving some margins, used is accelerating changes. He continued, "I can see the train wreck, it's coming. Pretty soon everyone is losing money. Used is accelerating the decline of profitability for publishers. The oxygen is being sucked out of the room.”

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Indie Store Owner Continues Anti-Online Pass Fight

June 1, 2010 -

While you (and I) were enjoying the Memorial Day weekend, the owner of an independent videogame store in Columbus, Ohio recorded and uploaded a new YouTube video in which he further assails the  Online Pass initiative of Electronic Arts.

EA’s measure, for the uninitiated, would tie online gameplay to codes that come with select new titles, meaning that purchasers of used games, which feature Online Pass, would need to shell out $10.00 for a new code in order to play online.

Indie Game Store Owner Anti-Online Pass

May 24, 2010 -

While GameStop might be on board with it, the owner of a Columbus, Ohio independent videogame store (Level One Games) is “completely appalled” at Electronic Arts’ Online Pass and claims the introduction of the measure is “about destroying the buy, sell, trade business.”

EA's initiative will see new games come with one-time use codes for online play. Anyone who purchases a used game that features Online Pass will need to pony up $10 in order to access online features.

The owner outlines his take on how EA’s Online Pass will affect his business and consumers, saying “I have to assume that most businesses, knowing that you’re going to have to pay an extra $10 to buy an Online Pass for that game, are going to give less in trade and sell the games for less used. At least that’s the way I would do it.”

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Ubisoft Eyes EA's Used Games Initiatives

May 19, 2010 -

And so it begins. French publisher Ubisoft said during its Tuesday earnings call that it is closely watching EA's "$10 solution" to monetize used games. Ubisoft Chief Financial Officer Alain Martinez told conference call participants that Ubisoft "will probably follow that line at sometime in the future." He added that most of the games that the company plans to release next year will "have downloadable content available from the start."

EA's initiative to monetize used game sales is called "Project $10" and the basic idea is to get consumers who buy a used copy of a game at places like Gamestop to spend extra money one a $10 one-time code to get additional content that is basically free to those who buy that same game new.

But EA is even more aggressive when it comes to its sports titles; the company announced "Online Pass," which would charge used game buyers $10 purchase a one-time code and unlock online play in sports titles like Madden, Tiger Woods, NCAA Football, and more. Again, those who purchase a new game will be able to use a code that comes with the game.

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Used Game Specialist Reaps Large Revenues in Q1

May 19, 2010 -

Profits from used games continue to fuel Maryland-based Game Trading Technologies, Inc. (GTTI).

The company, who we took a look at earlier this year, specializes in acquiring and redistributing used games, and also offers technology—billed as a “game trading engine”—which provides real-time, dynamic pricing for used games and consoles. GameStop, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Blockbuster, 7-Eleven, Toys“R”Us, eBay, and GameFly are among GTTI’s customers.

The company released first quarter results for the three months ending March 31, 2010 and revenue rose to $11.4 million, up 37% from the $8.3 million reported in the same quarter one year earlier. First quarter gross profit was pegged at $1.98 million, also up 37% from the previous year’s $1.44 million.

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GameStop Fired RapeLay Commenter to Save $$, Stop Boycotts

May 12, 2010 -

A GameStop employee fired for discussing piracy and RapeLay in a college newspaper says that he was canned in order to avoid costing the videogame retailer “millions of dollars.”

Derek Littlejohn told Kotaku that following publication of The Globe article, his District Manager was contacted by a GameStop Vice President, who said he was getting calls about an article in the Globe, which the VP thought alluded to the British tabloid of the same name. Littlejohn’s manager told him that he was fired because “people were threatening to boycott and picket GameStop, which would cost the company millions of dollars.”

Littlejohn indicated that the author of the Globe piece, Ann Straub, was a friend of his, but that he “Didn't know she was gonna cite me as an employee of Gamestop, which is what they were able to use as for firing me…”

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GameStop Employee Canned for RapeLay Comments?

May 10, 2010 -

Being interviewed for an article on RapeLay may have cost a GameStop employee his job.

GameStop employee Derek Littlejohn was interviewed for a piece on the controversial game which ran in the Point Park University publication The Globe. Littlejohn was quoted in the story stating, “I’ve both heard about and played RapeLay myself, and I find it as nothing more than a game.”

Littlejohn went on to offer some theories on Japanese culture before discussing banned games, saying, “It’s relatively easy to pirate these games, when all one has to do is type in the name of what they want and add ‘torrent.'" He added, "Usually, some sort of link turns up.”

GameRant claims LittleJohn, employed for about two years by GameStop in Oakland, was fired shortly after the article was published.

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Lawsuit Targets GameStop over “Free” DLC

March 26, 2010 -

A gamer has launched a class action suit against GameStop over what he deems deceptive practices in the retailer's used games sales.

Plaintiff James Collins purchased a used copy of Dragon Age: Origins from a GameStop in Hayward, California according to a story on IGN. The game’s box art advertised that free content could be downloaded for the game, but of course the original owner of the title had already redeemed the free downloadable content, leaving Collins out of luck.

Collins, who paid $54.99 for the used game, saved about $5 off the list price of a new copy, then found out he could pay buy the extra content for $15, leaving him $10 poorer than if he had originally purchased a new copy of the game.

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A Look Inside the Profitability of Used Games

March 17, 2010 -

If any doubt remains about how lucrative the used videogame market is, news from a company that specializes in the field should remove such misgivings.

A Maryland-based company called Gamers Factory completed a public stock swap with City Language Exchange in late February, while simultaneously executing a private placement with investors that netted the company $3.9 million. The merged company now operates under the name of Game Trading Technologies and is public, trading under the symbol GMTD on the OTC Bulletin Board.

Armed with the new funds, Game Trading Technologies just acquired more than 320,000 used videogames and accessories from a “national retail firm.”

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NY Attorney General Subpoenas GameStop

February 5, 2010 -

Ever bought something online from a reputable dealer and then unexpectedly find yourself hit with fees, account charges and bills for programs you never knew you'd signed up for?

According to New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, GameStop may be one of the culprits.  The AG's office has subpoenaed GameStop and 21 other online merchants over their relationships with so-called membership discount clubs such as Webloyalty, Affinion/Trilegiant, and Vertrue. The AG's office believes that GameStop and the others have been "tricking customers into accepting offers from third party vendors, which then siphon money from consumers’ accounts." Because of the relatively low dollar amount of the charges, the fees may go unnoticed for some time.

The names of the companies involved read like a laundry list of e-commerce: Barnes and Nobles, Expedia, Pizza Hut, Staples.com, Travelocity, Classmates.com, etc.  According to Cuomo, the three discount clubs under investigation bring in a combined $1+ billion per year, much of which Cuomo believes is fraudulent.

According to University of Minnesota Law Professor Prentiss Cox (via MSNBC):

Retailers that sell their customers’ account information so that the customer can be charged for a membership club by stealth should know that they are participating in a marketplace scam. Data from public enforcement actions over the last ten years and from the recent U.S. Senate Commerce Committee investigation suggest that the number of consumers who know they are club members and know they are paying for this purported privilege range between about 0 percent and 5 percent.

 

Every retailer and bank should be held responsible for selling their customers’ account information to other companies, especially when the deceptive results of this arrangement are so obvious.

Gamestop's VP Chris Olivera confirmed that the company had been subpoenaed, and was intending to cooperate with the AG's office.


Dan Rosenthal is a legal analyst for the games industry.

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Game Industry Scores Well in FTC Report

December 3, 2009 -

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) seventh report on Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children (PDF) contains good news for the videogame industry.

The FTC review labeled the games industry the "strongest” of the three entertainment sectors (games, music and movies), when it came to self-regulation. The Commission added that the game industry “did not specifically target M-rated games to teens or T-rated games to younger children.“ Additionally, compliance with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) code within the videogame industry was “high in all media.”

Undercover shopping stings run by the FTC reported that retailers were “strongly enforcing” age restrictions for M-rated games, with “an average denial rate of 80%.” GameStop and Target were labeled as top enforcers. Toys R Us however, was specifically labeled as trailing when it came to enforcement, with only a 56% denial rate. The report called the use of gift cards to buy games online a “potential gap in enforcement.”

On the advertising side, the FTC found that game companies demonstrated a “high degree of compliance” when it came to television ads, with only a “few instances” of non compliance over a more than two-year period. The same description was used to depict compliance with videogame print ads.

FTC suggestions aimed directly at the game industry were adding content descriptors to the front of videogames, alongside ratings, and to continue to provide more detailed rating summaries online for parents. Additionally, all three industries were told to pay more attention to compliance within online and viral marketing campaigns.

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) President and CEO Michael D. Gallagher was understandably happy about the report, saying, "Today's FTC report is a strong acknowledgement and validation that industry-led self-regulation efforts are the best way to provide parents and retailers with the resources and support they need to keep our kids' entertainment experiences suitable."

The ESA press release also included a quote from National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) head, Dr. David Walsh, who stated, “We join the FTC in applauding the industry's progress. The advancement in technology including parental controls by console makers, identification checking by retailers, and an ongoing effort to improve ratings illustrates that the members of the video game industry have taken our concerns seriously and continue to make sure that kids enjoy games that are age appropriate."

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GameStop to Join Digital Download Arena

November 13, 2009 -

In an acknowledgement of the growing popularity of digital distribution, GameStop has announced that it will begin offering digital downloads at its stores starting in early 2010.

According to a Reuters news story, the downloads will focus on online console games using Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. GameStop cutstomers would be able to purchases available levels for their favorite games at the store and have them available when they got home.

Speaking at the BMO Capital Management Digital Entertainment Conference, GameStop COO Paul Raines said he doesn't see the market for full-game downloads as fully viable yet, but that "the add-on download market will grow."

The Reuters story speculated that these type of downloads will help publishers through this recession:

These additional payments may be a key driver of revenue for publishers and retailers in the video-game industry, which has seen slow overall growth amid the tough economy. The idea is that consumers are more likely to pay to enhance beloved games than they are to experiment with unknown new games.

GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo said he expects the company to have a strong business next year because of the impending release of some high-profile titles.

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GameStop Eying Acquisitions to Bolster Digital Distribution

October 22, 2009 -

As part of a plan to bolster its digital distribution offerings, GameStop may look to acquire or invest in an established company or service already involved in the sector.

At a recent analyst meeting, the videogame retailer outlined three ways to accelerate its digital distribution plans reports IndustryGamers: Increase in-store sales of online point cards, expand GameStop’s current digital distribution platform and make a strategic investment in or acquire a current provider of online games.

In an opinion piece in its newsletter, GamesIndustry speculates which companies/services make sense for GameStop to acquire. Metaboli, which purchased GameTap last year, might be one logical answer, as the French-based company would provide double the pay off for GameStop, offering a way into the European market in addition to its digital catalog of games.

The other acquisition possibility? GamesIndustry writes:

Unconfirmed industry scuttlebutt suggests that Zenimax - the parent company of Bethesda, which made headlines back in June when it acquired legendary PC studio id Software - is still on the acquisition trail, and has been making eyes at Half-Life creators Valve across the bar. Whether Bethesda, a hybrid developer / publisher itself, would want to keep Steam on board, or spin it out to a third party, is unclear - as are many other aspects of a potential deal…

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Newsweek Green List Includes Game Companies

October 20, 2009 -

A handful of game companies and retailers are listed within Newsweek’s Green Rankings list, which rates the Top 500 environmental companies in America.

While the list, with 500 entries, is hardly exclusive, each entrant was awarded an overall hard numeric score. The company that fared the best overall? Hewlett-Packard with a Green Score of 100, followed by Dell in second with a 98.87.

In the gaming (and related) business sector, Microsoft came in at #31 with a score of 83.79, followed by retailers Wal-Mart (#59) with a score of 80.38 and Best Buy (#61) with a score of 80.33. GameStop clocked in at #228, with a score of 71.37, with Electronic Arts (#381) and Activision Blizzard (#416) following. EA and Activision Blizzard had scores of 65.58 and 63.80 respectively.

Image via otherpower.com

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GameStop Director Shedding Shares

October 13, 2009 -

On the surface, GameStop appears to be doing well, even gathering positive assessments from financial analysts on its prospects for the holidays in a weakened economic market.

But, according to an article on Gamasutra, GameStop Director Leonard Riggio has sold 2.3 million shares of company stock, netting him more than $60 million, and dropping his stake in the company from 6.9 percent to 5.5 percent. Riggio is also founder and board chairman of Barnes & Noble.

From Gamasutra:

"Unless he desperately needs $60 million," it appears that he doesn't think the stock is going to be performing very well, insider trading firm Form4Oracle co-founder Alex Romayev told financial magazine Barron's. "He's got a lot bigger stake in Barnes & Noble. Clearly he thinks selling GameStop is better than selling Barnes & Noble."

Even more interesting was a note at the end of the Gamasutra story:

But Romayev told Barron's that the last time Riggio made a GameStop shares sale not related to options, he divested just in time to avoid a 62 percent loss.

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PC Version of Manhunt 2 May Carry an AO Rating, But How Will It Get Sold?

August 26, 2009 -

As noted by Joystiq, the ESRB is currently listing the upcoming PC version of Manhunt 2 with an Adults Only (AO) rating.

GamePolitics readers will likely recall that the console versions of Manhunt 2 generated a major controversy in the summer of 2007 when the game was banned in Britain and tagged with an AO here in the States. Rockstar subsequently released a toned-down version that earned an M (17+) rating for the U.S. market.

That was a critical milestone, because the Big Three console makers won't license AO-rated games for their systems, which makes it tough for a publisher to earn a return on its investment. That's why you don't see any AO-rated console games. While the open architecture of the PC negates licensing concerns, an AO-rated Manhunt 2 would still get thumbs-down from major retailers like GameStop and Wal-Mart.

That means that Rockstar is either planning a digital distribution campaign for Manhunt 2 or that it will edit the PC version - as it did with the console editions - to earn an M from the ESRB. Of course, there is a third scenario: Rockstar could ship an M-rated version to retailers while distributing an AO-rated version online.

We wonder how Valve might react to handling an AO game if its Steam service, which currently distributes Rockstar's GTA IV online, is under consideration as a potential digital distribution source for Manhunt 2.

Best Buy Pilot Program Will Sell New Games at Used Prices

August 10, 2009 -

The used game debate rages on...

Joystiq reports that big box retailer Best Buy is testing a used price matching program for new releases at its store in West Jordan, Utah (see pic).

In the pilot deal Best Buy will sell customers new games at used prices offered by GameStop and Game Crazy. This should save game buyers at least five bucks, and maybe more for certain games - and saving money is always a win for consumers.

There's more discussion of the Best Buy test program at CheapAssGamer.

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Games Sites Get Behind Used Game Sales

July 16, 2009 -

A pair of video game websites weighed in on the controversy over used game trades this week.

Crispy Gamer serves up a well-reasoned two-parter by David Thomas:

The price of a game is, at the end of the day, exactly the balance point between what someone is willing to pay and what someone is willing to sell... The trouble is, the publisher wants back in on the deal, and goes out of its way to convince you that it still owns a piece of that junk you bought from it...

 

The used market, it turns out, isn't screwing [game] publishers... Instead, the used market helps keeps people in the game by letting them play games that they wouldn't otherwise bother buying... Used games help make game fans out of game tourists...

Meanwhile, Destructoid's Jim Sterling has a bit of a rant on the topic:

Have you considered what happens to a publisher when you buy a secondhand game? They lose money! Oh, you might argue that publishers already make money off the original sale of the game, but they don't! In fact, whenever a secondhand game is bought, the original $60.00 transaction disappears from our corporeal plane of existence, erased from history as if it never happened...

The main issue with secondhand games is that no other industry ever has to deal with a similar problem. Think about it -- have you ever bought a used car, or even heard of a store selling used clothes or music? Of course you haven't! The very idea is preposterous...

GameStop Shrugs as Best Buy Enters Used Game Biz

June 24, 2009 -

In a move that has been anticipated for some time, big box retailer Best Buy has jumped into the used game business, reports gamesindustry.biz. Best Buy will apparently be using a kiosk system similar to that now employed by Wal-Mart.

Used game trade leader GameStop is not bothered by the new competition, however. A spokesperson for the retailer told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

GameStop understands that trading in used games and consoles is a highly-assisted activity. We are very confident in our business model that allows our expert associates to help consumers trade in product, a fact not addressed with a self-serve process.

Meanwhile, gi.biz reports that analyst Colin Sebastion of Lazard Capital Markets sees no threat to GameStop with Best Buy's move into used:

While we believe that Best Buy’s entry into the used video game market will create a new overhang on shares of GameStop, we expect Best Buy’s initiative to expand the used videogame market rather than take significant share from the speciality channel.

GP: With the Best Buy announcement we can expect the obligatory round of hand wringing from certain game publishers and developers.

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Trade Used Games in Florida, Get Thumbprinted

May 29, 2009 -

If you want to trade in your used games in Broward County, Florida, prepare to give up your thumbprint.

The Broward-Palm Beach New Times reports that the local sheriff's office began requiring game traders to submit to thumbprinting in October, 2008:

Broward County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kayla Concepcion said the new requirement comes straight from the Florida Legislature, which enacted a law... that treated video games like second-hand goods sold at pawn shops. Now any store buying used video games has to collect the thumb prints, along with a bunch of other personal info about the seller.

Fun Facts From EA's Annual Report

May 22, 2009 -

The annual report of game publishing giant Electronic Arts landed in GP's inbox this morning. Typically, reading through these things is a surefire remedy for insomnia, but EA's contains a few tidbits worth mentioning.

1.) EA's failed bid to gobble up Take-Two cost the company $21 million:

As a result of the terminated discussions [with T2], we recognized $21 million in related costs consisting of legal, banking and other consulting fees...

2.) EA uses DRM (you knew that) and is watching for piracy online:

We typically distribute our PC products using copy protection technology, digital rights management technology or other technological protection measures to prevent piracy... We are actively engaged in enforcement and other activities to protect against unauthorized copying and piracy, including monitoring online channels for distribution of pirated copies, and participating in various industry-wide enforcement initiatives, education programs and legislative activity around the world.

3.) Only 3% of EA employees are unionized, and they all work for DICE:

As of March 31, 2009, we had approximately 9,100 regular, full-time employees, of whom over 5,100 were outside the United States... Approximately 3 percent of our employees, all of whom work for DICE, our Swedish development studio, are represented by a union, guild or other collective bargaining organization.

4.) GameStop and Wal-Mart are EA's biggest customers; each accounts for 14% of EA sales:

Worldwide, we had direct sales to two customers, GameStop Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which each represented approximately 14 percent of total net revenue for the fiscal year... the concentration of our sales in one, or a few, large customers could lead to a short-term disruption in our sales if one or more of these customers significantly reduced their purchases or ceased to carry our products...

5.) EA worries about game content legislation and its potential effect on sales:

Legislation is continually being introduced in the United States... for the establishment of government mandated rating requirements or restrictions on distribution of entertainment software based on content... Other countries have adopted or are considering laws regulating or mandating ratings requirements...  Adoption of government ratings system or restrictions... could harm our business by limiting the products we are able to offer to our customers...

6.) EA worries about falling victim to a Hot Coffee incident but has taken steps to prevent it from happening:

If one or more of our titles were found to contain hidden, objectionable content, our business could suffer... Retailers have on occasion reacted to the discovery of such hidden content by removing these games from their shelves, refusing to sell them, and demanding that their publishers accept them as product returns.

We have implemented preventative measures designed to reduce the possibility of hidden, objectionable content from appearing in the video games we publish. Nonetheless, these preventative measures are subject to human error, circumvention, overriding, and reasonable resource constraints.

Report: GameStop Loans Games to Employees, Sells Them as New

April 10, 2009 -

Kotaku reports that a GameStop corporate policy of selling games played by store employees as brand-new may be a violation of federal law:

GameStop's "check-out" policy, confirmed to Kotaku by a number of the chain's managers and employees, could fall under scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission.

Kotaku cites GameStop's policy, which it reports that it obtained from several employees of the leading video game retailer:

Associates are allowed to check out one item of store merchandise for personal use for up to four days. Merchandise checkout is a privilege, not a right, and may be revoked at any time...

If the product is returned in unsellable condition, or if anything is missing from the package, or if the product is not returned, the Associate must purchase the product...

When asked by Kotaku, the Federal Trade Commission declined to say whether GameStop's practice of selling employee-played games as new might be considered deceptive. The FTC also declined to say whether it was looking into the practice.

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Noted Developer David Perry Adds Voice to Chorus of Used Game Whining

March 6, 2009 -

This week's news that Amazon, Toys R Us and Best Buy are all jumping into the used game business apparently got well-known developer David Perry (Earthworm Jim) fired up enough to post a bit of a rant on his blog.

Like many others on the developer/publisher side of the business, Perry seems to feel that used game trades are drinking his milkshake. We don't see it that way. Indeed, quite the opposite. Low cost game buying options help build the pastime.

In addition, Perry has specific trust issues with trade-happy retailer GameStop:

"Sure, [GameStop,] let me go make you exclusive content, let me advertise to send buyers into your store, let me pay to put standees and posters everywhere, so you can sell them used games and stab our industry in the back." Now you've shown that the industry won't stand up to you, everyone else can copy this practice.

Trust me, I know these guys I've been in ALL their offices. I just don't hide, and kiss their behinds...

Where the heck is the ESA when we need them? They should be all over this like a rash. Based on the emails I get, you already have the support of the industry!

At least Perry doesn't seem to want to deny gamers the right to dispose of their used games in some fashion:

The gamers however have the right to sell their games to anyone they like, or trade them. I have no issue with that aspect. I've bought plenty of rare games on Ebay, and I have no problem with Ebay, because we're not doing co-promotion with them. Ebay are not our retail partners.

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Comparing Amazon's Used Game Trade-in Value to GameStop's

March 6, 2009 -

Amazon's new used game plan offers gamers a clear jump in trade value, reports What They Play.

The site analyzed a variety of games across multiple systems and concluded that gamers can get more in trades with Amazon than they do currently with GameStop.

Here's are some examples:

Nintendo Wii
GameStop
Amazon
   
Super Smash Bros. Brawl $20.00$22.00
Animal Crossing City Folk$23.00$25.50
Lego Indiana Jones  $18.00$20.00

 

Also of note, Amazon credits can be used for any product offered by the huge online retailer. GameStop credits limit traders to video games and associated merchandise.

Despite what would appear to be a competitive advantage for Amazon, GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo told Edge Online he was unconcerned about his company's new competitor:

I give the probability of this working at zero... [We tried it...] Electronics Boutique also tried it and failed. There's no consumer acceptance. With consumers, there is an immediacy for currency when they want to buy a new game.

It didn't work for us, and I can't see it working for them.

Investors weren't so sure. News of Amazon's entry into the used game business caused GameStop stock to take a beating on Wall Street yesterday, dropping 14%.

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GP Poll: Where Will You Trade Your Used Games?

March 5, 2009 -

If you're the kind of consumer who finds value in trading used games, for a long time GameStop has been your only option,

Now that other major retailers like Toys R Us, Best Buy and Amazon.com are getting into the used game business, where will you make your trades?

Be sure to vote in the GamePolitics poll at left...

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Toys R Us, Best Buy, Amazon Entering Used Game Market

March 5, 2009 -

GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo can't be happy with the news that his firm, which has owned the used game space for years, suddenly has not one, but three major competitors.

Indeed, financial website The Motley Fool reports that the entry of Toys R Us into the used market will hurt GameStop and likely force the retailer to give consumers a better deal - and we're all for that.

On the publishing side, used game sales hater Ben Feder, President of Take-Two Interactive, must be absolutely frothy now that four major retailers - not just one - will be pushing pre-owned copies of GTA IV.

While the news that Toys R Us, Best Buy and Amazon are all - rather suddenly - entering the used game market is terrific for consumers, the timing seems a bit... odd. How do all three happen to get into used games in the same week?

GamePolitics put the question to Entertainment Consumers Association President Hal Halpin, who, in a past life, founded a trade group for game retailers. In other words, he knows the retail side of the business quite well. Here's what Hal told us:

Toys R Us and Best Buy getting into the used games business makes sense because they really serve very different markets than GameStop, demographically speaking. Amazon getting in is especially bright because of their model - they're positioned really well to cut the market wide open.

 

For Toys R Us and Best Buy, it's likely just coincidence [that news of both came this week]. They're victims of the same economic turmoil as everyone else and looking for growth areas. They have examined the used business before, but [then] it was likely too far astray from their core. Now, it's a matter of exploiting high-margin business extensions, of which Used clearly is one.

 

For Amazon, my guess is that it's much more organic a move. I'm excited to see them invest so heavily in games and with gamers. Overall, it'll be really interesting to see how the landscape is changed by the news. And the bottom line is that it's great news for consumers.

Meanwhile, analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush-Morgan offered his take on the developing situation and agreed that used games are a smart move for Amazon.

It's obviously a great business.
 
Amazon is the only one that matters. The sweet spot of consumers who trade in games are 13 - 18 year-old boys, and they don't typically shop at Toys R Us or Best Buy, but they most definitely frequent Amazon.
 
It seems to me that the Amazon offer is pretty compelling, insofar as there is no cost to ship games to Amazon, and there is an opportunity for gamers to trade in games and purchase other stuff on Amazon.
 
With that said, Amazon's market share of NEW games is only 2 - 3% (around $200 - 300 million annually), and GameStop's USED game business is over $2 billion.  That means it will take a LONG time for Amazon to make a dent in GameStop's business

GP: Going forward, the developer/publisher response will be something to watch. Will a quartet of major retailers selling used games cause the industry to stop rattling their sabers (as they have been doing toward GameStop of late)? Or will it motivate them to fight harder?

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Microsoft Exec: Used Game Trades Are Part of Gaming Ecosystem

February 24, 2009 -

The great debate over used game trades rages on...

Sure, GameStop execs support used game trades; it's a huge piece of their business model.

But it's especially nice to see a member of the game publishing elites step up and support the consumer's right to choose.

Along that line, gamesindustry.biz has a multi-part interview with MS exec Chris Lewis, who comments thusly on used trades:

I'm a fan of the [gaming] ecosystem overall. I can see the positive in [used game trades], because I can see that what you then get is more and more people touching, playing, experiencing a game that they may not otherwise have access to.

I think you've got to try and extract some positive from it, and that's undoubtedly a good factor - a positive swirl of ecosystem that results. Clearly it's a reality, and certain retailers are very focused and spend a lot of time on it. It's good business for them.

 

I think things like premium downloadable content, and that kind of thing, will ultimately play a part in used games - and that's not me saying that it's a great way for us to try and minimise that. I think it will be a great enhancement to the way that people experience games. If some additional content is available via the Xbox Live service, for instance, that further enriches the game experience and might encourage folks to hang on their games for a bit longer.

GP: For showing a pro-consumer attitude on used game trades, we'll toss Chris a white hat...

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Utah Legislator Officially Submits Jack Thompson Video Game Bill

February 11, 2009 -

Utah Rep. Mike Morley has officially introduced video game legislation drafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson.

As GamePolitics previously reported, H.B. 353 would amend Utah's current Truth in Advertising statute. If passed, retailers who claim that they don't sell M-rated games to underage buyers could be held liable if they did. The measure would also apply to R-rated DVDs as well as tickets to R-rated movies.

The language of the amendment has changed slightly from that which GP reported on Sunday. It now reads:

[Deceptive trade practices occur when, in the course of a person's business, vocation, or occupation that person:]

 

(u) (i) advertises that the person will not sell a good or service labeled with an age restriction or recommendation to a person under the age restriction or recommendation; and (ii) sells that good or service to a person under the age restriction or recommendation.

For his part, Thompson issued a press release this morning which says that the purpose of the bill is to "punish major American retailers who falsely claim they do not sell Mature-rated video games and R-rated movies and movie tickets to kids under 17."

While Thompson claims that H.B. 353 has no free speech implications, that remains to be seen; the bill clearly targets certain types of media content.

As GamePolitics readers may recall, Thompson also claimed that his 2006 Louisiana bill was constitutional (it wasn't) and that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was a "device," not a form of speech, (he was wrong about that, too).

So, please excuse us while wait for a real constitutional expert to weigh in.

Hearings on the proposal may begin as early as next week.

GP: Thanks to Nathaniel Edwards of LegalArcade.com for the artwork.

66 comments

T2 Whines About Used Games - a Day After Industry Touts Record Sales

January 29, 2009 -

Can someone explain this to me?

Wasn't it just yesterday that video game industry trade group the Entertainment Software Association issued a press release high-fiving itself over record sales of game software in 2008?

Why then, today, do we learn that GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive is griping about used game sales?

Here's what the ESA said yesterday about its record-breaking year:

Overall computer and video game industry hardware, software and peripheral sales climbed to $22 billion in 2008, with entertainment software sales comprising $11.7 billion of that total figure—a 22.9% jump over the previous year— the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced today... on the strength of a December sales month in which industry revenue ($5.3 billion) topped $5 billion for the first time in any single month. By comparison, as recently as 1997, the industry generated $5.1 billion over the entire year...

And here's T2 CEO Ben Feder (left) whining (via Cowen analyst Doug Creutz) today:

"GameStop continues to aggressively push their used game business, which is having a meaningful negative impact on sales of new games," noted analyst Doug Creutz, following a meeting with Take-Two CEO Ben Feder this week.

"Management is frustrated with this trend and is examining ways to ameliorate the problem, which includes strategies around online play and downloadable content which extend the lifespan of AAA titles."

GP: We have to ask: how "meaningful" can the supposed "negative impact" of used game sales be with game publishers having just completed their best year ever?

Or, is this another case of a greedy media corporation trying to squeeze every last nickel out of its customers?

UPDATE: I should make it clear that "whining" is my characterization of Ben Feder's position. Doug Creutz merely reports on Feder's concerns in an investor's note detailing his Tuesday meeting with the T2 CEO.

ESRB, GameStop See No Loophole in Animal Crossing Racial Slur Incident

December 8, 2008 -

Last week GamePolitics reported on a bizarre incident in which more than a dozen prominent game journalists were sent Animal Crossing: Wild World Nintendo DS cartridges which contained a racial slur.

MTV Multiplayer's Stephen Totilo, who broke the story, reports that he subsequently queried used game seller GameStop and the ESRB as to whether the Animal Crossing incident exposes a flaw in the system whereby embedded user-generated content might exceed the content rating.

Both GameStop and the ESRB view the Animal Crossing episode as an anomaly and deny a larger problem. MTV's Totilo writes:

ESRB spokesperson Eliot Mizrachi, told me... “Just as with online-enabled games that allow features like chat, ESRB ratings cannot anticipate and therefore consider user-generated content in the ratings we assign,” he wrote. “Besides, as you mentioned, saving content to the actual game medium is pretty uncommon in today’s games. Most games are read-only with the saved content being stored on the system and not on the game medium itself.”...

The ESRB may not have much reason to worry that questionable content will make it to consumers because gaming chain GameStop claims to be scrubbing the content from re-sold games. Chris Olivera, spokesman for GameStop, told me in a phone interview that his company has a “proprietary” process that wipes consoles and games clean before they are sold back to consumers...

GP: GameStop and the ESRB make a good case here. It's important to remember that the offending DS cart was not purchased through retail channels, but rather was mailed out by Nintendo's own PR department.

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Matthew WilsonI have said it before net nutrality will not be made in to law until Google or Netflix is blocked, or they do what they did for sopa and pull their sites down in protest.04/23/2014 - 8:02pm
Andrew EisenGee, I guess putting a former cable industry lobbyist as the Chairman of the FCC wasn't that great of an idea. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/technology/fcc-new-net-neutrality-rules.html?_r=204/23/2014 - 7:26pm
Andrew EisenIanC - I assume what he's getting at is the fact that once PS3/360 development ceases, there will be no more "For Everything But Wii U" games.04/23/2014 - 5:49pm
Andrew EisenMatthew - Yes, obviously developers will eventually move on from the PS3 and 360 but the phrase will continue to mean exactly what it means.04/23/2014 - 5:45pm
IanCAnd how does that equal his annoying phrase being meaningless?04/23/2014 - 5:09pm
Matthew Wilson@Andrew Eisen the phrase everything but wiiu will be meaningless afer this year becouse devs will drop 360/ps3 support.04/23/2014 - 4:43pm
Andrew EisenFor Everything But... 360? Huh, not many games can claim that title. Only three others that I know of.04/23/2014 - 3:45pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/23/another-world-rated-for-current-consoles-handhelds-in-germany/ Another World fulfills legal obligations of being on every gaming system under the sun.04/23/2014 - 12:34pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/04/steam-gauge-do-strong-reviews-lead-to-stronger-sales-on-steam/?comments=1 Here is another data driven article using sales data from steam to figure out if reviews effect sales. It is stats heavy like the last one.04/23/2014 - 11:33am
Andrew EisenI love RPGs but I didn't much care for Tales of Symphonia. I didn't bother with its sequel.04/23/2014 - 11:21am
InfophileIt had great RPGs because MS wanted to use them to break into Japan. (Which had the side-effect of screwing NA PS3 owners out of Tales of Vesperia. No, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?)04/23/2014 - 10:52am
RedMageI'm still disappointed the 360 never broke into Japan either. It had a bevy of great RPGs in the late 2000s.04/23/2014 - 9:48am
TheSmokeyhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/call-of-duty-swatting-hoax_n_5195659.html?utm_hp_ref=canada&ir=Canada CoD loser calls SWAT on person who beat him04/23/2014 - 7:13am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/23/xbox-one-reaches-japan-on-september-4/ Just give it up, Microsoft. You're NEVER going to be big in Japan, especially now that the notoriously clunky in Japan Kinect is MANDATORY.04/23/2014 - 7:10am
Cheater87Has this been posted yet? http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Lord+Spencer/ssv-saudi-arabia-bans-bravely-default-because-it-promotes-pedophilia--272016.phtml04/22/2014 - 9:31pm
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/133898-Fatal-Frame-V-Coming-Exclusively-to-Wii-U04/22/2014 - 8:50pm
Matthew Wilsonit is a game worth playing if you have a pc/360/ps304/20/2014 - 9:34pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/IGLevine/status/457552538343325696 The Lutece Twins show up in some of the most unlikely of places.04/20/2014 - 2:44pm
Andrew EisenAs it happens, Chinatown Wars is the only GTA game I've played.04/19/2014 - 10:43am
Papa MidnightWith GTA5 (to date) failing to even provide indication of a PC release, I'm realising that this might be the first GTA game that I have not played (outside of Chinatown Wars) since the series inception.04/19/2014 - 8:14am
 

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