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Wal-Mart getting into the used game business… Too little, too late?

Yesterday, it was revealed through a GameSpot story that Wal-Mart will be getting into the used games business. I know what you're thinking: "Why now; used games are a thing of the past; who buys discs at all let alone refurbished ones; are there still people who aren’t getting every game for like a dollar on Steam," I know. But there’s something funny about Wal-Mart’s entry into the market, and it’s not just the fact that it's entering now--it’s the retail juggernaut’s attitude about it.

Of course, Wal-Mart wouldn’t choose to make a foray into the second-hand games market without believing it has something that sets it apart. The main differentiator--as Wal-Mart merchandising chief Duncan Mac Naughton explained--is the value of Wal-Mart store credit. Competitors like GameStop will offer store credit for game trade-ins, with the option of cash at a reduced rate. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, only offers store credit. But, see, Wal-Mart store credit is worth far more than GameStop store credit, because Wal-Mart sells everything. Food, clothes, appliances, you name it. Video games, even. GameStop just sells games. So, basically, trading in your games at Wal-Mart gets you cash, but not at GameStop’s reduced cash rate.

Did you know that, until 2008, Wal-Mart paid employees in its Mexico locations in Wal-Mart store credit?

Just to reiterate: Until 2008, Wal-Mart paid employees in its Mexico locations with Wal-Mart store credit exclusively.

The Mexican Supreme Court had to stop that practice. In 2008.

But I digress. My point: Wal-Mart is entirely delusional about this business. Thinking it can roll in and “shake up” the game, as Naughton claims, exemplifies just how deluded (and cynical) it is about the second-hand market, and its relative advantages in the market. Not only is the used games business clearly on the way out for those established, well-tread reasons; for Wal-Mart specifically, this clearly cannot be a long-lasting endeavor.

To counter that idea, GameSpot also points out that used game retailers are doing well enough, so the writing may not be on the wall for used games just yet. Wal-Mart also plans to pay out more money per game than competitors, with Naughton citing a specific figure of around $35 per title. That number doesn’t sound entirely unreasonable for customers, and it certainly adds value to the practice when compared to GameStop and the like. But, given the rapid depreciation of game values, it’s likely unrealistic to expect those kinds of returns on games that are more than a few weeks old.

Who knows; maybe Wal-Mart will provide a good value for game trade-ins, as GameStop and other retailers have failed to do. I’m not optimistic about that, but If I’m being honest, I think this story really only gets to me because the idea of trading games for food feels vaguely sad. And you know, Wal-Mart doesn't seem like the greatest company to get behind. In any case, it’s not something that you or I will have to think about for very long, because you, me, and the rest of the forward-thinking world will continue to happily download all of our games from here on out.

10 comments

  • bee2005 - March 23, 2014 3:36 p.m.

    It's not too late as long as people still have used games to sell.....Competition is good for customers
  • Shnubby - March 21, 2014 6:57 a.m.

    Wal-Mart owns ASDA here in the UK which has been doing used game trade-ins for some years now, for both cash or store credit so I am surprised to hear that Wal-Mart doesn't already do it in the US.
  • jedisamurai - March 20, 2014 3:21 p.m.

    I can't speak for the rest of the world, but after watching "The High Cost of Low Prices" I decided to never shop at Wal-Mart again. I wouldn't shop there if I was DYING of hunger. The company's object is to pretty much bankrupt the country and everyone who works there while making it's shareholders rich. No thanks, I have better things to subsidize with my money than billionaires. As for used games, they are on the way out for brand new games because of steam, GOG, and download services on consoles. There will always be market for old used games though, as long as every game every made isn't available for download (where's my PC Crimson Skies, Motocross Madness, Tie Fighter HD, Grand Pre Legends and Sim City 3000?) But don't worry, change is inevitable. If you really hate Wal-Mart, just do as I do and vote with your dollars. If you like Wal-Mart...you have my pity.
  • GwaR - March 20, 2014 noon

    Donny, I appreciate your opinion and would love to agree with you but... you are so very, very wrong. Do you know what happened when all of those horrible stories about Walmart's paying practices were published? All those stories about how they are a horrible place to work, about how they drive their competitors into the ground, about how they price fix, etc? What was the impact? Almost nothing on their bottom line. The majority people out there that shop at Walmart either still don't know or (more likely) just don't care. So Walmart just keeps on growing like a plague while the same people (that mostly never shopped there in the first place) keep screaming about how horrible they are. Thinking that Walmart won't be able to beat the current used game sellers and steal a large portion of their market is just wrong. They will. They'll make a sizeable gouge simply by offering used game sales/buys. That market may be on the decline and becoming smaller, but it's still huge. Massive. So yeah, until everything goes completely digital (which I expect may never happen in the console world), there will be a market for used games. Walmart, regardless of whether you like them or not, will be a huge player in that market so long as they remain there.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - March 20, 2014 9:42 a.m.

    The inevitably will soon strike
  • wittynickname - March 20, 2014 8:52 a.m.

    Yeah, I'd be in a hurry to hide my writing credit behind "Gamesradar Staff" as well, having written something with this myopic a view of the market. There are literally millions of people who still traffic in the used game market; surely you're being hyperbolic in saying that it's on its deathbed and that everyone is downloading all of their games through Steam for a pittance. This sounds just a couple of degrees removed from the "get over it" comments made by that asshat at Microsoft a few months back. Just out of touch with anything happening beyond the tip of one's own nose.
  • Dtarin - March 20, 2014 9:51 a.m.

    Hm, thanks for pointing that out, looks like my byline was removed. Just added it back. In response to your point, you're right; plenty of folks are still doing business with used games retailers. I actually pointed that out in the text. But there are far better alternatives to the used games market out there, and I think a lot of people (people who might read our site) have recognized that for some time. That was the basis for my assumptions. Not everyone has stopped doing the used games thing, but people who are invested in video games are aware enough of the actual value to look elsewhere.
  • g1rldraco7 - March 19, 2014 9:29 p.m.

    I don't see Walmart lasting long in the used game market.
  • codystovall - March 19, 2014 9:07 p.m.

    You cant stop walmart because secretly, deep down, we all want walmart. Its not a physical store but and idea, an open 24 hour idea, thats convenient, and if you have to sacrifice some orphans to power it, we really love that convenience.
  • bobob101 - March 19, 2014 8:30 p.m.

    It doesn't matter what year, country, or universe you are in, to pay people with store credit is really messed up. And no way on earth am I trading in my games at Wal-Mart. I wish I could doubt that Wal-Mart shoppers would by their used games there, but I have no such faith. This depresses me.

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