It's a tradition as old as gaming: you buy a game, play it until you've squeezed every moment of sweet enjoyment out of it, and then sell it to finance your next round of gaming.
But, who gives you the best value?
Time was, there was one answer, and only one answer: GameStop. But recently, everybody from Best Buy to Amazon has been after GameStop's control of the used game market.
The good news is that this means you have a lot of options. The bad news is that nobody has really put them head to head.
So we did it for you. We went to a whole bunch of used-game traders with ten games, to see what they'd offer us and how easy it was to get a deal. The results were...surprising.
image via Digipedia on Flickr
We had with us these games, all on PS3, and all in good condition with manuals:
Red Dead Redemption
God Of War: Origins
Dante's Inferno: Divine Edition
Dead Rising 2
Saint's Row The Third
In other words, a mix of old, new, popular, and unpopular (Hey, "Bionic Commando" was actually pretty good, OK?). "Bionic Commando" was the butt monkey of the group, and, surprisingly, "Saints Row The Third" was the star.
And how did it work out?
Our first visit was, surprisingly, not our least satisfying.
GameStop wouldn't even take some of the titles: "Bionic Commando", "Uncharted 2", "Dead Rising 2", and "Ghostbusters" were no-gos. The manager explained apologetically that they had enough of these games and couldn't sell them at a profit.
That left six, and while they were eager to take them, they weren't eager to give me more than ten bucks apiece for them. Ultimately, for the six titles on offer, Gamestop wanted to give me approximately $45 in store credit, and roughly $35 in cash.
On the flip side, I will say that the manager and counter staff were friendly, polite, and knowledgeable; financially it may have been annoying, but hey, they didn't hit me up for a preorder and they explained the situation clearly and intelligently. We even had a nice chat about "Dishonored" and "Kingdoms of Amalur". That's more than GameStop has a rep for doing: maybe they're learning.
You'd think a bricks-and-mortar retailer fighting for their life and staking their profits on game sales would be easy to work with, and you'd be miserably, awfully wrong.
First of all, the service stunk. We had to actually track down a blueshirt, and once we did, we had to wait around five minutes for somebody to show up.
Then, the fun really began. Half the games were dismissed for being "damaged", which they weren't. Since these were the less popular titles, we're assuming there's a little more at work here than just the contempt of the counter staff, which by the way, it's a lot of fun to have a guy pulling minimum wage sneering at your taste in games and treating you like you're annoying; they wouldn't even engage me in conversation. Of the games they wanted, the counter staff actually tried to haggle with me over pricing and were overly aggressive about it. Ultimately, they offered me even less than GameStop: $40.
Cash? Sorry, you can only get a Best Buy Gift Card.
To give you an idea of how bad it is, Best Buy will happily accept "Saints Row the Third" as a trade-in for $15...which is almost half of what other sites we tested will give you.
An option for gamers in bigger cities, we decided to give the local record chain here in Boston, namely Newbury Comics, a shot.
The result? we had to wait around while they checked their inventory system, but Newbury took nine out of ten of the games (no love for "Bionic Commando"), and offered us $80 in cash, no haggling.
It may not be a choice for many gamers, but if there's a regional chain that sells games and takes used ones, it's definitely worth a shot.
For the hell of it, we put up an ad on Craigslist, just to see if there were any bites. We offered all ten games at $60, and made it clear we weren't going to sell titles individually, you had to pick up the games yourself, and the price was non-negotiable. This was written in all caps. And underlined. And bolded.
Here, have a sample email:
Hey, Cap, what do you think of this guy?
Just to be clear on something: Greenfield is two hours away by car. We got his mailing address and told him we'd send him an Elder Scrolls game for free.
We're sure he'll enjoy our DOS copy of "Arcana", plus we finally got rid of that thing.
We're not sure what we're going to do with the other twenty emails we got saying pretty much exactly the same thing, but we'll think of something. Maybe a nice sail frog from their troubles.
You might remember Glyde from their campaign arguing getting kicked in the balls was better than using GameStop, and to their credit, Glyde might actually be a fair, workable solution. The problem is largely in the details.
It works like this: you list the game for sale on their site. Once a buyer is found, you get sent a pre-paid mailer, drop the game in the mail, and collect the cash.
Glyde's prices are fair; in fact, across the board, Glyde came up with the most money after they took their cut, which was usually three to five bucks, at approximately $115. And that's cash; no gift certificates or any other crap.
The one downside is timing: yeah, popular games will go fast, but you might be waiting weeks or even months to get some of the less popular games out the door. Still, if you don't like GameStop and have some patience, Glyde will get you cash up front.
And here's the option that you'll probably wind up using.
Amazon has some downsides; its game trade-ins are handled by a third party, so it can take a week or so for you to actually get your store credit. Also? Amazon will only offer you an Amazon gift card: you can't get cash.
On the other hand, Amazon does offer a lot of games at a discount price. "Mass Effect 3" has already dropped to $40. And they also offer fair market price: Amazon offered approximately $105, and it even accepted "Bionic Commando". OK, so we got $1.25 in credit for it, but hey, they still got it off the shelf.
It was also quick: you handle it through the website, print out a pre-paid mailing label, drop the games in a box, and that's that. It may not be ideal, but for a lot of gamers, it'll probably be convenient enough.
If you want the most money out of your games and have some patience, Glyde is your best bet.
If you just want to trade everything in and don't care about getting cash, then go for Amazon.
Or, if you need instant gratification, try your local record shop or gaming store, if they sell used games.
Anything else is either too frustrating, too much of a rip-off, or just too stacked against you to be worth it. GameStop had decent service, but the prices were just too low. Best Buy was, pure and simple, a nightmare. And Craigslist will introduce you every entitled ass on the Internet. Good luck and good selling, true believers.
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