Once a pillar of its business, the UK videogame chain Game will stop accepting trade-in games next month.
For years, there was one reliable way of making the ferociously expensive hobby of videogaming at least somewhat affordable: trading in your old games for new.
About a decade or so ago, the practice was so common – with the shelves at UK retailer Game stacked with second-hand games sold for a fraction of their original price – that think pieces regularly popped up questioning whether the pre-owned market was killing the industry.
There were even rumours that console manufacturers were thinking about blocking their users from running second-hand games on their systems.
It now looks as though that whole trade-in era is over – at least for the above-mentioned chain of stores, Game.
Eurogamer, citing several staff who work for Game, reports that the retailer will stop accepting trade-in discs and cartridges from the 16th of February. Customers will still be able to take their unwanted physical purchases into stores for the days leading up to that date, but after that, the retailer will no longer accept them.
It’s the latest phase of an evolution – if we can call it that – which has gradually unfolded since the ailing chain was purchased by Frasers Group in 2019. Since then, multiple dedicated stores have been closed across the UK, and several towns, the Game brand only exists as a handful of shelves tucked away at the back of a Sports Direct. The dedicated stores that remain are commonly piled high with Lego and Funko Pop figures.
Trade-ins were once a lucrative pillar of Game’s business; that the chain is abandoning the second hand market entirely suggests that those margins have decreased – or that the rival retail chain CeX, which specialises in second hand media and hardware, has grown too dominant to compete with.
The continued rise of subscription-based services like Game Pass or PlayStation Plus have almost certainly had an impact on the sales of physical games, given that they offer access to entire libraries of games for a relatively low monthly fee.
If a recent interview with Ubisoft’s director of subscriptions, Philippe Tremblay, is anything to go by, videogame publishers are only too happy to see their customers turn away from buying (and owning) physical games.
“One of the things we saw is that gamers are used to, a little bit like DVD, having and owning their games,” Tremblay told GI.biz, as his company unveiled its revised subscription-based service, Ubisoft+ Premium. “That’s the consumer shift that needs to happen. They got comfortable not owning their CD collection or DVD collection.
“That’s a transformation that’s been a bit slower to happen [in games]. As gamers grow comfortable in that aspect… you don’t lose your progress. If you resume your game at another time, your progress file is still there. That’s not been deleted. You don’t lose what you’ve built in the game or your engagement with the game. So it’s about feeling comfortable with not owning your game.”
As anyone who’s subscribed to, say, Disney+ in recent years will tell you, though, digital media really can be deleted. There’s a convenience to digital purchases and subscription services, but if there’s one upside to buying a physical game, it’s that it’s yours – and, to paraphrase Christopher Nolan, no evil videogame publisher can come and steal it from your shelf.