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July 1, 2005

Filed under: gaming»media

NGJ: The Economics of Used Games

As I noted below, I'm planning on doing freelance work while the Bank has retained me for another year. Freelance is primarily difficult for two reasons: motivation and sales. The former has to be present at every step of the way, and the latter determines what you will write and who you can sell it to, both of which are stressful.

In the past, although I've technically worked freelance, my primary experience has been as a stringer, so I knew with confidence what my editor would and wouldn't buy, and I was often given assignments (I had a semi-specific "beat," which helped). It's really disorienting being cast off into the wild, not sure what to write or where it can be published. I don't like it, and I tip my hat to those who do it successfully. As you may have guessed from my content, I have a tendency to take on a million personal projects and finish 3 of them, so I'll need to improve my discipline.

However, I had an idea last night for a piece and some of you might be able to help (crickets chirp). I want to do research and eventually draw conclusions about the economics of the used game market(s). Clearly, it seems to me, there's the underground eBay/trading market and there's the corporate Gamestop/EB-run market. But what's the relationship between these two? To what pressures is the former reacting? For the latter, what influences the prices set at each store, and at what level are those prices decided? Although the institutional game market theoretically reacts to supply and demand, are there other forces at work? There are a lot of questions here that I'd like to see answered--and I'm guessing others might be curious as well.

To that extent, I plan (at some point) to start tracking a small set of newly-released games, their reviews and sales figures, and their new and used prices in each market. With this information over a period of months, it should be possible to make some general observations about the market. I also want to interview the people responsible for setting prices at the company, possibly retrieving information on the margins and financial rewards of the used vs. new sales role.

This is a long-term project, but it's one I think is marketable to a tech mag (Next Generation or Wired would be my targets) or a few mainstream news sources. But perhaps you can help: is there anything I'm forgetting? If you have access to this kind of information, or can offer insight into investigative directions I might not be considering, I'd appreciate that help. Please visit the comments or send me a note to let me know.

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