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Survey: What Makes Players Choose New Games Instead Of Used?

A new analyst survey looks at what motivates gamers to buy new retail games versus used, revealing that supporting the industry is a goal for only 16 percent of players.

Leigh Alexander

November 23, 2010

2 Min Read

In recent months, used retail video game sales have been rising, at least from a profitability importance point of view for big firms like GameStop, even as new game sales decline. Game publishers have watched this trend closely, hoping to learn what constitutes a value add for players to incentivize them to buy new. The answer might be surprise you, suggests a new analyst survey. According to the research conducted by analyst group Cowen and Company, one of the most-selected answers was "I want a new copy." at 54 percent, as players wanted to avoid the potential of scratched disks, missing manuals or they simply prefer new possessions rather than second-hand. Timeliness was important to 49 percent of players who saw getting a game on launch day as a motive to buy new. Cowen analyst Doug Creutz says that desire for immediacy alongside the rising share for used games helps explain why the recent pattern for game sales has been a very high launch day spike followed by a swifter drop-off than past trends have shown. It "speaks to the increasing degree to which new game sales, particularly for core gamer titles, have gotten frontloaded," he says. Only 33 percent of the respondents said there was a small price difference between new and used games such that buying new was worthwhile. "When considering some of the tactics the publishers have used to try and steer gamers away from used game purchases, our respondents considered them of lower importance," Creutz notes. "'I want access to bonus content' was selected by 26 percent, 'I plan on buying downloadable content' was selected by 21 percent, as was 'I want access to online play', and 'I want to get a collector’s edition of the game' was selected by 20 percent." The least popular reason to buy new? "In what is sure to be disappointing news to game developers and those hoping for moral enlightenment, only 16 percent of our respondents answered affirmatively to "I want to support the economics of the game industry'." However, 70 percent of gamers who responded to a survey by say they buy a game new "if they plan on playing it for a long time" -- a strange finding, notes Creutz, considering that whether or not a game is purchased new does not affect the amount of playtime it offers. "We suspect there is a behavioral psychology factor at work, where gamers have an easier time justifying the higher price of a new game if they expect to get more use/value out of it, even though the utility of new vs. used on that basis isn't any different," says Creutz. Cowen's survey was based on a population sample intended to represent the U.S video game marketplace: 1,300 individuals, 1,001 of which were video game players.

About the Author(s)

Leigh Alexander


Leigh Alexander is Editor At Large for Gamasutra and the site's former News Director. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Slate, Paste, Kill Screen, GamePro and numerous other publications. She also blogs regularly about gaming and internet culture at her Sexy Videogameland site. [NOTE: Edited 10/02/2014, this feature-linked bio was outdated.]

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