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Are massive mark-ups on used video games fair?

Man playing video game

If you’ve ever tried to sell on a video game to a high street store, you may have been disappointed by the price offered. Our recent investigation backs-up that feeling, adding huge used game mark-ups to the equation.

Used video games are an interesting proposition. You can’t take second-hand DVDs to HMV and expect to get money in return. Yet, not only is this a common practice for games, it’s a growing business.

Supermarkets are now in on the action, letting us return our pre-owned games for either cash or store credit. But are we actually getting a good deal?

I’ve asked whether pre-owned game sales are only good for retailers before on Which? Conversation – high-street retailers enjoy healthy mark-ups and don’t send any of the cash back to the games makers. But apart from whether game creators are losing out on used game sales, are we?

Video games lose value quicker than cars

Well, one of our recent investigations at Which? delved into the prices high-street stores pay for used games and it’s not good news. The research found that brand new games lose more value in three days than a car does over three years.

Using Which? Car’s depreciation calculator, a Ford Focus can lose up to 60% of its value in three years, compared to the recent game Red Dead Redemption, which lost over 70% of its value in just three days.

Blockbuster offered just £6 in cash for Redemption, after we bought it new for £27.99. The store went on to sell the pre-owned game for £29.95 – a massive mark-up of £24! It’s a similar story at many other high street stores, which you can find out about in the full investigation.

Are we being ripped-off?

No wonder retailers are happy to grab second-hand games out of our hands when they enjoy mark-ups like that. Is it fair to give us a few pounds for our games and then sell them on for huge profits?

Well, when I want to get rid of one of my games I put them up for sale on a website like Amazon or eBay. This lets you set your own price and you’ll only have to pay a fee to the online retailer, which is usually pretty reasonable.

In fact, I’ve found that I can buy a recent game from an online sale at a great price, play it, and then sell it on for a small profit later on. That definitely puts me one-up to the high street!


As far as I’m concerned – it is far better to buy and sell used DVDs CDs and Computer Games on Ebay or Amazon (though Ebay is much easier to do)

I often get a very reasonable price – and – I’ve never had a bad transaction – either as a Buyer or Seller. I’m the only one interested in a “profit” not some company.

I sometimes manage to sell on an item for more than I paid for it – but generally only slightly less than I paid for it – even taking P & P into consideration.

Waylander101 says:
4 January 2011

It’s a con we’ve all been buying into for years. Though saying that you can get some serious bargins on older titles if you can wait for that long.


I am kind of surprised by the comparison between video games and cars – since they differ so much that to me this seems a pointless argument to make. Compare to DVDs or other media types and it would be the same – after all media is very of the moment and you pay a novelty tax – cars have a long and ongoing use (even past the showroom point) – it is entirely unsurprising that video games depreciate quickly and more so than cars.

I agree selling on ebay / amazon gets you much more value but then trade-ins are easy and you pay for that convenience – If people were not happy with the value they wouldn’t do it.


I think it’s more the extreme difference between the two – sure if a game was losing more value in three days than a car does in three days it wouldn’t be that relevant. But if a game loses more value in three days than a car does in three YEARS, then it’s significant. It’s more about the time difference than the type of product.

But shouldn’t people be getting value for money on the high-street? Isn’t it a bit of a con for retailers to offer £6 for a £28 game and then sell the game used for £30? (Plus none of it goes to the developers.) That can’t be fair.


Well cars tend to lose 20% as u walk out of the showroom so like games the depreciation is top-loaded – and as I said games are for the moment so if you look at the lifetime of the product would days of a game not equate to years for a car? (for example if you put the depreciation graphs for games /cars next to each other they both have roughly the same inverse exponential shape, just differing x-axis scales)

As for shops fleecing punters , again I would be surprised if they didn’t – they operate in a competitive market and if people were not willing to accept the trade in prices then they would find other ways to realise that value – personally I did trade ins once and saw how poor the deal was and have sold product on myself ever since. This is obviously too much hassle for some and they pay the price for that. Companies will look to maximise their margins just as consumers will look to minimise the purchase price – we all know the rules of the game (see what I did there ;))


Again, cars are known for their quick depreciation – so it’s somewhat surprising that games depreciate even faster and to a bigger degree – in these stores at least. I actually think that games can hold onto their value pretty well – if people still want those particular games. As I said in the Convo, I often sell games second-hand at a profit 😉

I still don’t think people should be fleeced by quite such a large margin – and not everyone wants to sell items on the internet. Though I have heard of a good high street tactic – lots of these stores price match, so why not print out the price offered at CEX and take it on down to GAME if you haven’t got a CEX near you. Win, win?

Daza says:
4 January 2011

Why would anyone ever buy another new game after being offered £6 for their used one – surely that would make you stop and realise that if that’s all the shop can give you paying full price again is just a plain silly thing to do. I learnt this when moving and trying to sell my CDs/DVDs/Video collection – they are worth nothing second hand so I’ve pretty much stopped buying full price – £3 DVD’s at the markets are my limit now.

Becky says:
4 January 2011

The shops do gouge the customer but the customer does have a choice whether to trade in their game or not. They can choose to take a massive hit on their purchase or choose to sell privately. I choose to trade in games and take a hit because it is convenient for me but then I also choose to trade in on early days and get a better price than £6. It’s down to the individual as to whether they want quick convenience or a better price.

Chris says:
9 September 2011

I don’t really “buy” games anymore, just put a deposit down, play for a week, go back to the store and they will give me a full refund on the trade in card, I will be getting myself dead island tomorrow, play through the story on that, take it back in mint condition, play Pefect Dark Zero which I got for £2.98 off the gamestation website and then I’ll probably get myself Call of Duty.