Wally World Gives a Thumbs Up to Used Games

Walmart put out a press release to announce that they will soon be taking used video games in for store credit and refurbishing those games to make them “available for purchase in like-new condition at a great low price.”

WalMartLogo_450

This is no doubt a blow to those who like to frame the used game market as the moral equivalent to software piracy.  And it was always easy to vilify GameStop and its stereotyped raging gamer clientele in that argument, casting them as parasites and thieves respectively.

And while other companies, including Amazon, have dabbled in the use game market, when the largest retailer in the world steps up to the plate on used games… well… things get a bit ugly.

Not that it isn’t easy to vilify Walmart.  They were a customer at a past company I worked for, and they are every bit as difficult to deal with as they have been painted… though often in surprisingly stupid, shoot themselves in the foot sorts of ways.  But when their mind is set, they will get their way.  And if you think somebody is going to be able to pressure them to share a cut of used sales with game studios… something that was being suggested with GameStop… well, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, some companies, including EA, have grudgingly acknowledged in the past that the ability to trade in used games for store credit may, in fact, be propping up the sales of new games.

Using Used to sell New

Using Used to sell New

So one might wonder if this move by Walmart will prove a boon for the gaming companies, despite their grumbling.

Of course, this won’t be any sort of boon for GameStop, which lives in a tight little niche that depends heavily on being the only place close by to take your used games.  But now the big box on the edge of town, where your mom probably shops already, will take them as well.

Anyway, starting on March 26th you will be able to take used games to your local Walmart for store credit.  At some future, as yet unspecified date, Walmart will begin offering “Certified Pre-Owned” video games for sale, with the promise of them being refurbished to “like new” condition.

12 thoughts on “Wally World Gives a Thumbs Up to Used Games

  1. grimmash

    I wonder what the break point is for new game price, used game price and trade in credit. Would lowering new game prices to $30 or $40 prompt more sales of the new titles, or is it more effective to get copies out and let trade ins subsidize each new crop of games?

    I buy lots of games at $20 or less, but have only bought a few at retail price in the last few years. I also play pretty much on PC because I find console games too expensive in conparison. So I am not the target audience anyway.

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  2. grimmash

    I wonder what the break point is for new game, used game and trade in prices is. Does a lower new game price than the current $60 foster more new sales, or is the current trade in model better for publishers?

    I am not the target audience either way. I buy lots of $20 games, but only pay full retail once or twice a year. And i rarely buy console games because of this. I think i last bought a console game two years ago, at full retail.

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  3. wowstorylines

    This is really interesting and wonder what the criteria will be for the “old” games. I have two cases of games and a couple of shelves full of games that I would like to “sell” because I no longer play them. Not to mention, they aren’t compatible with my current operating system. Interesting, I’ll be watching for more info.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @wowstorylines – I think this line from the press release might make you put those two cases back in the closet.

    “…the new trade-in service will accept thousands of games for popular consoles like the Sony PlayStation3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.”

    Walmart will only be cherry picking the good stuff, and only for consoles. Popular consoles! No Wii U in there I bet.

    But then, consoles are where most of the used game action is in any case. PC games are messy when it comes to the used market.

    BTW, the video they produced for this announcement seems almost comically aimed at the stereotypical Wally World shopper in its simplicity and lack of detail. Or maybe that is just the cynic in me again. It could just be a TV spot.

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  5. Jenks

    Seems pretty late to be hopping aboard this train, although the PS4 and Xbone have delayed the inevitable demise of games on physical media by at least a few more years.

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  6. grimmash

    Sorry. It was an iPhone+Wordpress login issue on my end. I thought the page wiped and rewrote the post.

    “Certified Pre-owned” seems silly if you take that phrase literally. “Yep, dinged case and scratched disc, certify that one, Jack!”

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jenks – Inevitable yes, but when publishers are effectively admitting that used game sales are inflating the numbers for new game sales, you have to wonder where the real push was for physical media in the current generation was coming from. Maybe it wasn’t all direct user feedback.

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  8. Xyd

    Everyone is Walmart’s customer, and Walmart is everyone’s customer, or so it seems. One of our technical guys was preparing to leave Walmart’s office one day and a decision-maker walked by and gave him a message to pass to the account exec: Walmart would be needing another 5% off their last quote and would then be able to move forward. The tech replies, “I’ll tell him, but I think you already own his left nut on this deal”, to which the decision-maker doesn’t miss a beat and replies with “I know. I want both.”

    This will be interesting to watch play out. I have a couple good used media stores (DVD’s, old cart games, console/PC games, etc.) and I’d hate to see them go away, but if Walmart is successful in this then that’s exactly what will happen. I think (hope?) the complexity of it may be the downfall with things like DRM, license keys, etc. and the compatibility issues with things like video cards will surely only make that even worse. I enjoy the knowledge level of my local boutique store and can’t see how Walmart could possibly replicate that.

    And @grimmash hit spot on one of my favorites: certified pre-owned. “Yes sir, we are absolutely certain this was owned by someone else. And we’ll stand behind that claim.” It’s used. Call it used. Or, maybe, Used With Warranty or Gently Used. Damn marketing-types.

    @wilhelm – do you remember a certain marketing email that gave us some good chuckles from the mid-90’s? I lost my print-out of it, but I recall the phrase that struck the funny bone: “…our currently shipping problems…”.

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Xyd – I have any number of tales about Wally World squeezing us to do something for free or give them something for free if we wanted to be considered for some potential deal down the road. That was their favorite tactic. Eventually we realized that any deal with them was a net loss for us, and that potential future deals were often outright fabrications, so we walked away. I work in a niche in the industry, so I knew the people who had the deal before us and knew the people who got it after us, and we all had the same story.

    While Walmart doing the used thing won’t do anything for me either way… not only isn’t there one anywhere close to me, but I don’t do console games very often… it will be annoying if they kill off GameStop. Not that I am very sympathetic to GameStop, but they are the only place to go for a refurb game controller or some out of production game.

    Hrmm, “currently shipping problems” rings a bell, but I cannot place it. I will have to dig through old email.

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