There are, in fact, ways to profit from your used games that don't involve GameStop or eBay.
SwitchGames, a service that G4 has highlighted in the past for its consumer-friendly features, is one of them. The website's founder, CEO Jason Crawford, spent time on the phone with me today to help outline two new options SwitchGames is adding (both are actually already live, for the curious).
One, SwitchGames users will now have the opportunity to buy and sell games. It was previously trade-only. Two, SwitchGames is allowing anyone who sells a video game through SwitchGames to donate a portion of the profit, ranging anywhere from 1% to 90% of the sale, to the game's publisher.
You might have assumed buy/sell was already part of SwitchGames. To date, SwitchGames has been exclusively driven by trading between its users. Buying and selling was always on the roadmap, explained its founder, but building the trading part of the site took a while to completely build out.
"Building a trading thing was a lot harder than we thought, and took a lot longer to build," laughed Crawford. "We wanted to get the trading stuff as solid as we could, so the buying and selling is there now and we're really, really proud of it. It's very different than an eBay type of experience. We looked at all the issues that people have in a peer-to-peer marketplace."
Participating in the buying and selling of games isn't much different than trading. Buying and selling is just a new tab for users to have as an option; trading isn't disappearing. Prices aren't determined by SwitchGames, either, but the website does have an algorithm to help you come up with the right price. It's ultimately up to you, however, if you want to charge $100 or $10 for a copy of Uncharted 2.
SwitchGames is a limited middleman in this, so there are a few requirements users have to abide by, such as printing out a SwitchGames-created mailing label and shipping via the US Post Office. The label costs the seller $2.95 (it costs the buyer nothing) and is deducted at the time of the sale. The label provides a tracking number that allows SwitchGames to ensure the game arrives without issue. Thanks to the tracking number, however, as soon as the game arrives, the money's deposited into your account.
There's something unique to SwitchGames that can happen during that exchange, too. The seller can donate a certain amount of money to the publisher of the game, giving them an opportunity to profit from the used game sale. Publishers have often railed against the used game market, as retailers like GameStop are allowed to generate millions of dollars in profits off previously paid video games and are under no obligation to cut the creators of that game any money. That frustration has lead to the creation of things like Mass Effect 2's Cerberus Network, which delivers free downloadable content to gamers who buy new. To participate in Cerberus Network with a used copy, it's currently a $15 fee.
You don't have to do his, though.
"We have a direct path to a gamer being able to share a percentage of their game directly with the publisher"
"It's 100% optional," said Crawford. "You either do it or you don't want to do it. If you think a publisher should get a share of a used game, then so be it. Put in whatever percentage you want. ... This is all about empowering [the user]. What's great about it is is it illustrates the philosophy and the vision for SwitchGames and it's cutting out that middleman -- whether it's a retailer, whether it's a used game store, no matter what entitity it is -- there's always a middleman in the games business. We have a direct path to a gamer being able to share a percentage of their game directly with the publisher. There's no one in-between."
Crawford is making this decision without having talked to publishers. Activision, Electronic Arts, and the rest of the industry haven't signed onto the idea of getting a cut from SwitchGames. The current plan is to deliver a check to the publisher once per quarter, regardless of how much it is. That amount depends on the users.
"We didn't ask for permission to send money to the publishers," said Crawford. "We just said 'we're going to collect this money on behalf of our members and send payment on behalf of our members as instructed.' We'll see how it goes, we'll see how it evolves."
As this is a new initiative in the video game marketplace, SwitchGames also came up with a contractual line that developers can drop into their publishing agreements with companies to ensure any money their publisher derives from SwitchGames is passed along to the developer, as well.
It's too early to know how consumers will react to this new option by SwitchGames, but Crawford said his team has already noticed a surprising amount of pickup by users. Even if you're not a SwitchGames user, what do you think of the ability to pass on profits to the folks who made the game?