Cash or Store Credit? : The Fading Delight of Trading In Used Software

by Ben Beck

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As digital stores become more and more the norm in the video game world, what remains of the once-proud tradition of selling used games for a fraction of their value at a games store? Has this thrifty and mutually beneficial arrangement been lost to the overwhelming forces of modernity?

The answer is complex and layered, with no sure outcome in sight. While it’s true that less and less brick and mortar games shops operate in the world, and many that do don’t do used game returns, it’s also true that there are those fighting for the ability to sell used games digitally.

Blockchain-based companies like Robot Cache have slowly entered the growing field of digital reselling, with an array of over 20 publishers signed on. The logistics and legalities of digital reselling are fraught with issue, but Robot Cache’s above-the-board partnerships with strong software publishing houses like Paradox Interactive, 505 Games, Devolver Digital, Running with Scissors, and Modus Games showing an encouraging sign that this new industry could actually succeed.

But as previously mentioned and outlined in the above linked Polygon article, the publishers control all digital licensing rights. They will get to decide when people can buy and sell their used projects, and even the middleman companies like Robot Cache don’t have a lot of options for encouraging free and open trading.

So there’s a definite experimental feel to the entire venture, relying on the largesse of publishers to help keep a free and open market for used software.

The steady march toward the total dominance of digital media does have its advantages, but the importance of being aware of the issue of owning software versus licensing software cannot be understated. For those who have been purchasing analog games for decades, new and used, these problems simply don’t exist. If you own a cartridge for an N64 game, you never need to verify your ownership of it online — it couldn’t lock you out from playing it if you tried.

So as we look to digital solutions to digital dominance, let’s not forget about the relevance of analog gaming, and how physical software remains a strong option moving forward.