Published on July 19th, 2013 | by Tony Monero
New vs. Used: The Cost of Video Game Ownership
It’s the dilemma that every game buyer has grappled with at least once: should I go with a new or used game?
Unforgiving frugalists will tell you that “A new title loses 10% of its value the second it’s taken from the store” and consider the case closed. Quality-of-life seekers will argue that the value they receive from owning the game that they’ve always wanted since its prequel is priceless.
Wherever you stand on the issue, it’s important to at least crunch the numbers, understand your purchasing style and take a holistic approach to deciding on your next game.
Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor of a video game website confusedgamers.com ran a test looking at the four month total ownership costs of buying a new $60.00 game and playing it for 76 hours weekly versus buying a used version for $45.00. Reed didn’t clarify how old the $45.00 copy would be, but based on common resale value percentages and retailer markup, we estimate that it would be about four months old (which is important later on in our analysis). What he found was intriguing from a financial-geek point of view.
What’s not as clear, despite the wide price difference and conventional wisdom, is whether buying a new vs. used game makes more financial sense. When you factor in market value in the confusedgamers example, the new game value after four months was $45.00 while the used game’s value was just $35. That would bring your total monetary commitment, if you were able to sell both games, down to $15 for the new and $10 for the used. Still a big difference, though: $5 in favor of the used game.
Here’s where the confusedgamers example leaves you hanging. If you had bought a used game at nearly half the price of the new, played it four months, and it is now worth just $35, the odds are good that it probably doesn’t have much life left in it. It would have been roughly 5 months old based on a 50% resale value (and retailer markup) when you purchased it. On the flip side, the new game might give you a run of another four, five or even seven months, particularly if you are a conservative gamer who follows all of the proper gaming ethics. Suddenly, the picture is not so clear.
Some people think of their games as much more than a rainbow disc that gets them from boredom to entertained. There is an emotional connection and joy factor that is hard to put a price tag on. Some also like the peace of mind of knowing exactly what their game has been through — vs wondering how it has been treated by previous owners.
If you plan on playing the game into the ground (that is, keeping it for the life of the console), it might make a lot of sense to buy new versus used. If you want to swap games more frequently, buying used makes more financial sense. The qualitative and emotional aspects of game ownership may yield a different outcome altogether.