Why do People Buy New Games (rather than rent or buy used)?


As a consumer deciding what to buy, It’s your job to get the most value while spending the least amount of money. You are not the president, you are not chairman of the federal reserve, so no one cares about your big picture economic philosophy, you just need to decide what to buy.

That’s why I rent most games that I play. I get to enjoy everything, even though the developer who put in the hard work to create the game doesn’t see a single dime.

There are a few good reasons to actually buy a game new:

  • New Releases: You like getting games close to release. If a new game costs $60, and a used game costs $55, there’s not much point to buying used unless you have trade-in credit.
  • Longevity: You plan to play the game for a long time and don’t want to rent.
  • Guilt: You are a nice guy or a fan and want to support your favorite developers or simply feel guilty about enjoying a great game without letting the developer earn a single dime: I fall into this category a lot. I bought Uncharted after people on this site guilted me into it. Great game, but I could have gotten the same enjoyment by renting and saved myself $60.
  • Gifts:Buying someone used goods as a gift is generally considered very cheap, so people would rather buy new.

Beyond that, I can’t understand why people buy so many new games.

To me, the issue is simple. The used/rental markets have a perfectly legal way to provide reduced cost access to copyrighted IP. Used/rental markets are basically a legal and controlled whitehat form of piracy. This is great for consumers in the short term but it siphons off a lot of money from publishers and developers. As a result, I would expect that publishers strongly push towards network distribution with stronger DRM so that they can keep a larger share of consumer revenue.

What absolutely baffles me is how many people really think that used/rental game markets benefit the developers. Sure, I can see how some of the money consumers get from used games can be used to buy new games, but overall, it’s obvious that the publishers would pull in far more money from new sales if they didn’t have to compete with used and rentals.

To pick one post on the subject:

Here’s a grown-up approach: focus on adjusting the benefits of the relationship between the parties. Grow the relationship with Blockbuster and Gamestop and everyone else

The developers or publishers who legally own the IP, currently have no leverage or bargaining power whatsoever in the used and rental markets, so naturally, they get nothing. The used and rental market providers have full control over their own revenue streams and have no motivation to forfeit any of that. What kind of healthy positive relationship is there to grow between the two? That sounds like a bunch superficial business-speak blather around nothing.


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Mike on November 23rd, 2008

    For me it has come down to the lack of value in used purchases or rentals. If I want a new game, I’d rather pay the extra five bucks to not have fingerprints all over it or part of the plastic that holds the disc in place be broken. If I’m going to wait, I’d rather buy it for $20 and play it at my leisure then rent it for $8 plus tax and have to rush through it before it goes back.

    The one game I’m considering ditching my usual criteria for is Mirror’s Edge. It doesn’t have the replay value to justify a $60 purchase to me, but I’d rather not wait several months to experience it either, so I may rent it over the long weekend.

    The big fly in the ointment is Gamefly. I don’t use it but if I could have two games out at any time for $14.99 per month and play them as I see fit, that most certainly would cut down on the number of new releases I buy. I may actually end up getting it soon if publishers keep insisting upon releasing so many damn games at the same time. They are undermining the value of their own products by putting it in a situation where people aren’t going to have time to play it until the price drops anyway.

  2. #2 by Consumer on November 23rd, 2008

    I would buy far fewer new games if I was not able to sell them. I rely on being able to sell my games once I have finished with them in order to buy new games, as do a lot of people I know. For this reason publishers directly rely on a healthy 2nd hand market wether they realise it or not. The choices for publishes are either rely on DRM and cut the price of new games or keep the market as it is. They cannot have it both ways as sales will slump.

  3. #3 by Segitz on November 24th, 2008 [ 1470 Points ]

    I can tell you why… the feeling to get something new is awesome…

    but, to counter your points… a new game has an MSRP of 70€ here in Germany, which is too bloody much for a GAME that often doesn’t even get you 20+hrs playtime.

    I never buy games full price, be it new or used. I just bough the new Motorstorm for 33€ from England (yes, the same England which always says it is getting ripped off!) NEW. That is a price I pay and not much more.

    I also buy older games used often, because they are bloody cheap. After half a year, you can get games for at least half the price on Ebay (or 5€ less at Gamestop… whoever buys and sells their used there is a damn idiot, because Ebay is always cheaper and always nets you more cash!

    There are very little games I’d consider buying day one… This year it was GT5P, MGS4LE (Euro LE :D I was sooo happy that day!) and GTA4. But two of those were deals.

  4. #4 by Gary on November 24th, 2008

    Due to limited finances, I trade in the mass majority of games in order to fund new releases. The reason I don’t go for used games is they are generally in crap condition.

    Rentals don’t appeal as I have very limited time and I prefer to enjoy games rather than rush through because I have to return the game by a set time.

  5. #5 by Segitz on November 24th, 2008 [ 1470 Points ]

    Well Gary, there are “flatrate” rentals (fixed monthly fee for 2 games or so)… this might be interesting for you then…

  6. #6 by Gary on November 24th, 2008 [ 1780 Points ]

    Nah, I would still need to finish the game within that time period. That might be useful for some games that I know I would play once and get rid off but most games I get now will be played 4 or 5 months down the line.

  7. #7 by Henning on November 24th, 2008 [ 0 Points ]

    I buy new games when:

    1) I want to support the developer for a really good game.
    2) I want a game soonest.

    I buy used games when:

    1) I can wait for the price of used games to come down.
    2) I’m short on cash.
    3) The game isn’t an A-list game, but I want to try it anyway.

  8. #8 by Purist on November 24th, 2008

    It’s simple really. You want the game while your friends are still playing it. Does anyone play GTA4 anymore? Thought so.

  9. #9 by Taco on November 24th, 2008

    I don’t think you can just lump wanting to support developers into the “Guilt” category. That’s just silly.

    Games now take such an enormous amount of resources and time, and if I think a game looks great, I’m going to damn-well buy it because I want them to be able to create more great games in the future(as well as support the ones they already put out).

    I’ve got friends in the game development industry and it’s a harsh and fluid world, and I think we need to keep that in mind.

  10. #10 by Paranoimia on November 24th, 2008 [ 1285 Points ]

    I’ve only ever bought one pre-owned game, and that was for my PS2. I even made the guy get another copy of the game, because the disc he was going to sell me was marked.

    I rent DVDs from LoveFilm (previously Amazon), and that’s what puts me off renting or buying pre-owned for my PS3. I won’t even rent Blu-rays from LoveFilm. Some of the DVDs I get are in a terrible state; if a rental game/Blu-ray was in a similarly poor condition, I simply would not put them in my PS3.

    I often wonder just what people do with a rented disc. Considering that you transfer the disc from the cover to the player and back again, the amount of fingerprints, scratches and dirt is unreal! I even received a disc once which had what appeared to be strawberry jam on it!

  11. #11 by francois on November 24th, 2008

    I commit myself more to a game when I buy it because I want my money’s worth. I will make sure I complete the game and I will not go through the it as fast as I can like it is often the case with a rental.

    I also always buy new to support the vg industry but I often wait for the price to go down before buying.

  12. #12 by darrin on November 24th, 2008

    Taco, ok, the “Guilt” category could be renamed to “good will”.

    I have huge respect and sympathy for game developers so I like to support them, but relying on good will is never a good busines model. Can you imagine if electric bills or phone bills or gas stations relied on their customers’ good will to receive payment? They would go bankrupt.

    Sure, most people would happily pay another $5 to get a freshly minted disc and case, but if the difference is like $20 or more, most people will deal with a used disc, and the small possibility of scratches or dirt or whatever.

  13. #13 by harrykid32 on November 24th, 2008

    LoL.
    My mom is like “why don’t you just rent games” I’m like…NOOOOO.

  14. #14 by mpz on November 27th, 2008

    Renting – requires more effort – you have to return it at some point. And the limited time doesn’t make sense unless you’re playing games all the time, and my game playing is very bursty. I also have bad memories of going to video rental places with friends trying to find videos to watch, so I have a natural aversion to the whole process!

    Used – used used to be quite cheap, but these days used games are getting too expensive. At some places the used of recently released games are more than competitors new prices. And here in a small city the used range is fairly limited. I have bought a few used games, but only when they were particularly cheap/something I was after – and i’ve had absolutely no problems with them, the discs have been in good nick and worked fine.

    New – these days I refuse to pay full price, so I look around – some shops consistently have new releases 10-20% off – e.g. LBP could easily be found for $89, vs $109 rrp on day 0 (not fantastic, but it’s ok), or just wait until discounts. For the more limited release games there’s always the risk you miss out, but if I really wanted I could order OS.


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