Exclusive: first look at digital game trade-ins

Behind the scenes with Green Man Gaming, the service that could change the way gamers purchase their games.

By Kikizo Staff, May 7, 2010

You know those times when you can literally see history being made? This is one of those times, and nothing to do with the UK election. At some point on Sunday, a little London-based web service called Green Man Gaming will introduce gamers around the world to the idea of the digital game trade-in.

You thought the Natal unveiling was big? Pah. We think gamers will come running to hear about this from miles and miles – except they won’t, because the whole point of a digital trade-in is that you can do it from your desktop in the comfort of your own home. No fuss. No worries about the disc being too scratched to trade in, and no hunting for the instruction manual. Just a handful of clicks, and hey presto: Fresh credit in your account to spend on new games!

We’re sure you have questions. We’ve certainly got some answers. This week, Video Games Daily paid a visit to Green Man Gaming to get the full scoop and demo of exactly how it works and why digital trade-ins won’t be coming to any existing digital retailers any time soon (hint: it might have something to do with a patent on the entire concept).

First, though, a quick disclosure: we’re running a blog for GMG, and have also entered into an affiliate agreement with them (in the same way any game site refers readers to a partner retailer). In theory this means we’re bastard sell-outs, but don’t forget that we’re also scrupulously honest, as you may know from some of our recent reviews. And we’re going to be honest about GMG as well – right now it does have some downsides.

But the appeal of being able to instantly swap old PC games for a new release without leaving your home (and no boxes in sight) is enough to arouse the interest of any PC gamer on the planet.

Without further ado, then, here’s the need-to-know in our handy quick-fire Q&A format (note: this is not an interview with GMG, it’s us… well, talking to ourselves).

Well it’s about damn time. I thought they were launching in March.

You’re telling us. They’ve been cancelling meetings on us like there’s no tomorrow. But then again they have built a new team, business model, site and download client from scratch, to say nothing of negotiating product deals with every publisher under the sun.

Speaking of publishers, which ones have they got on board?

The current list includes 1C Company, Focus Home Interactive, Paradox, PlayLogic, JoWood Productions, Midas, Namco Bandai and N3V Games to mention a few.

Sorry, I meant REAL publishers – the ones with all the PC titles I care about, like EA, Ubisoft and Activision.

Yeah, this is just the launch line-up. All three of the companies you mentioned, plus THQ, Rockstar, Sega and Koei, are hammering out their own deals with GMG, and – well, we’d love to say more, but we can’t for Important Legal Reasons. Besides, you’re a narrow-minded elitist. 1C Company is brilliant. Didn’t you play Cryostasis?

No. But why are these publishers interested at all? I thought publishers hated the thought of trading in games – it deprives them of revenue, doesn’t it?

Not this time. For every game you trade in via the GMG site, the publisher gets royalties. Everybody wins, even David Braben. Besides which, there’s a lot of evidence that the trade-in market is actually good for sales of new releases. After all, people are more likely to buy a game upfront if they know they can recoup some of the cost later. And the games industry knows that empowering gamers to buy more of its new games is always a good thing.

So how does trading in a digital game work?

Well, essentially you’re just trading in an activation code. There’s no actual data transfer involved when you sell back a game – GMG just scuffs the original code off its list and generates a new one for that game.

So are there separate ‘preowned’ and ‘new’ versions of each game on the site?

No. What happens is that the price of the game goes down if people trade their copies of that game in.

How does GMG calculate what you get for selling a game back?

The same way most retailers do – in accordance with demand. If every bugger is buying Dark Sector, you’ll get more cash for it. If the contrary, you’ll get less. The prices will probably be subject to some fluctuation as demand ebbs and flows, so check back often.

OK, let’s go through this blow by blow. How do I buy a game on the Green Man Gaming site?

Pretty much exactly the same way you’d buy a game on any download site. First you create an account – it’s free, but you’ll obviously need a credit or debit card. Then you find a game you like and hit ‘buy’. At this point (if buying for the first time), you’ll be prompted to download the ‘Capsule’ client, which is eight megabytes in size. Once the client’s installed, the game will follow suit. Pretty simple.

How quickly will the game download? Will there be ‘premium’ accounts who get faster service, or anything like that?

Nope, everybody gets the same account and the same download speed – as fast as your connection. There are no queues either, although you’ll have to wait 10-15 seconds after purchase for the server to lock down the price, so the price you actually saw is the price you paid.

OK, my game’s downloading. Will it install automatically?

Almost. After the download’s complete, you’ll be asked to authenticate the install using SecuROM -

SecuROM? But that’s digital rights management software, isn’t it? Screw you guys, I’m going back to Gamestation / GameStop.

Calm down cupcake, we aren’t talking Ubisoft levels of customer inconvenience here. To verify your install, all you need do is three clicks, that’s all it takes.

3 Responses to “Exclusive: first look at digital game trade-ins”

  1. Ic4ruz says:

    This is going to be awesome!

    I mean seriously if it’s done right it is a win-win-win situation.

  2. Brush says:

    Good concept, and also, terrible

    why digital trade-ins won’t be coming to any existing digital retailers any time soon (hint: it might have something to do with a patent on the entire concept).

    1) This ^ Is rubbish, for one it means they have a monopoly to control your trade in price, and hence the whole thing turns into a crock of shit for the consumer, a market for selling changes to whatever trinket price they want to offer. The bad thing for them is done like this it won’t catch on.

    2) This ^^ Is rubbish, publishers control their sales rights, and your liscence that they sell you when you buy a game. Such a liscence agreement is probably legally a lot tighter than this patent, and i’m sure overrides them being able to sell their wares second hand on any internet portal they choose.

    The only chance of making money for this site is if a bigger site wants to buy them out for the patent. But their flaw is steam and co could get round that so easily they really would not bother buying unless they get a valuable, customer rich site out of the bargain…and…i don’t think that’ll happen. Good luck to them n all….in general the concept of 2nd hand digital sales is a great one, and at least this starts the ball rolling, am sure it won’t be too long before steam and co follow suit.

  3. Brush says:

    Erm, I’m obviously looking at the negatives there….there are a few. Not that I wouldn’t want a patent etc if i was doing the same thing, it makes sense to protect your business, it just also goes against the principles of how a 2nd hand market should work.

    But, i suppose if it catches on, it’ll make the publishers sit up and listen.


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