The Rise of Used Video Game Trading Networks

Kotaku has spotted a new trading network for used video games. At iTradeVideoGames, you sell your used games to other users for virtual currency, which can then be used to buy other games. iTVG charges a small fixed commission on each trade. That (and shipping fees) are the only cost. I’ve noticed several competing networks, all of which seem relatively new; for example, the Game Trading Zone and Nintari.net.

iTVG’s pitch is that it enables you to capture the full market value of your used video games by cutting out the retailer. This assumes a sufficiently large and active user base (which the network may develop over time, but which it seems to lack as of now). It also assumes that corrosive forces (fraud, pirated copies, etc) don’t overly infect the market during its early stages of development.

Furthermore, iTVG’s value-capture claims are not unique. Ebay effectively offers the same thing right now by connecting a great many buyers and sellers, and by featuring a reliable, established reputation system. You may get “less” currency (in this case, real dollars) for each game you sell, but each game you buy costs less as well. Ultimately, with a bit of caution, you can effectively “trade” games via Ebay and lose little value in the process.

The main differences between Ebay and iTVG are as follows: By taking real money out of the equation, iTVG might make skittish users feel more comfortable. (It certainly makes trading simpler by eliminating the process of collecting payment.) In general, iTVG is more focused and streamlined. Finally, iTVG reduces transaction friction by offering lower commissions and eliminating payment fees, which ultimately benefits the end user. Whether this is enough to attract a critical mass of active traders remains to be seen.

PS. I mentioned a few ideas for reducing the incentive to trade games in a previous editorial. One more: how about making it clear to customers that once or twice a year (timed perhaps with major holidays), new & interesting expansion content will be made free for download? For example, a new game level or feature? Nothing rivaling the typical retail expansion pack, but just enough to keep customers engaged, discourage game resale, and maintain excitement till the expansion and/or sequel is released. (Multiplayer-centric games have less problem with resale in general, but even they can take advantage of this strategy.)

4 responses to “The Rise of Used Video Game Trading Networks

  1. Unfortunately, game makers are making it clear to customers that once or twice a year, patches that fix major bugs will be made free for download. Or, in the case of Half-Life 2, that once or twice a month, patches that break half of the installations will be forcibly installed when you try to play the game.

    You’re absolutely right, though, that games wold benefit from moving to an episodic model. I guess it’s just harder to manage episodic games, and to program the distribution system for them.

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