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Online pre-owned

Ben Parfitt
Online pre-owned

It was only a matter of time before Amazon’s UK website began buying and selling used games.

The online retailer’s US arm has been offering the same service now for almost two years, allowing users to mail in games in exchange for credit. But now that the UK site has entered the online pre-owned market, other retailers are already joining the bandwagon.

HMV has expressed interest in offering its range of used games online, while Play.com, ShopTo, Game, Gamestation, Argos, Ebay and more already allow internet shoppers to order used games online. There are also plenty of game swap websites that have emerged over the past few years, providing more competition in the online space.

But with supermarkets taking their largest ever share of the used game market last year – with Tesco and Asda announcing their own trade-in schemes – the internet provides a stronger alternative to the High Street for buyers of pre-owned games than ever before.

“Trading-in with Amazon.co.uk is quick and easy, giving customers a great way to exchange their games and save money on future purchases,” Amazon UK’s director of video games Chris Poad explained to MCV.

“It’s a hassle-free experience with Amazon.co.uk paying for postage and putting a gift card straight into the customer’s account once the item is received.”

Online challenges

Selling previously played titles online may open businesses up to a nationwide – or even worldwide – customer base, and provide an extra opportunity for making margins. However, the practice of trading games online doesn’t come without its challenges, specifically the postal aspect of such a service.

“There is always a risk associated with buying games blind,” said trade information site The Game Guide’s editor Chris Ratcliff.

“And as long as the merchant is prepared to send unsuitable games back to the sender, there should be no misunderstanding or problems between the seller and the buyer.

“Generally, members of the public just want to sell or trade-in a game and walk out of the shop with money or another game in their hand. They cannot always be bothered to post off a game and wait for a gift card to be credited to them.”

The view that online trade-ins could deter consumers who are used to quickly selling games in-store is one that is shared by specialist online games retailer ShopTo.

“Online trade-ins will always have issues and delays involved, which many consumers will find intolerable compared to store trade-ins,” said ShopTo’s marketing manager Phil Driver.

“While the idea of simply posting games as opposed to going into a store might seem easy, the reality is that consumers have to wrap the item, possibly insure it, travel to a postbox or post office and wait for it to be processed – which may take several days – before being credited.

“The cost to the company running the trade-in scheme can also be expensive. Postage costs, claims and customer service enquiries make it a difficult proposition.”

Instead, ShopTo provides its own service – SellTo – which enables users to buy and sell games to one another at their own discretion.

HMV’s Re/Play games manager Martin Baxter, who is considering introducing used game sales on the HMV website this year, raised another concern.

“Difficulties may arise within the timeline of posting a game and receiving credit, thus impacting on the potential value of the games as well as the condition they may arrive in,” Baxter told MCV.

“However, Amazon’s move comes as no big surprise given that some  of the major players do not offer an online trade-in service.”

Tough at the top

Industry insiders also believe that, regardless of the risks of online trade-ins, the biggest retailers such as Amazon can make it work.

“I cannot think of one overly successful dedicated service that relies on people to send in their games, but as part of an existing online business, it will compliment this,” said Ratcliff.

“Maybe Amazon UK’s will be one buying service that will work, especially as it is associated with a global brand. However I am concerned by the small print, which says that if the item sent in is not as described, it may be disposed of by the merchant and not returned.”

ShopTo’s Phil Driver added: “I am sure that Amazon believes the margins, which are very good on pre-owned games, will cover any extra expense.

“As a large international concern it will have taken this long to come to market simply due to the size of the endeavour and the reputation at stake.

“I have no doubt that Amazon has researched it extensively and other sellers of pre-owned will be keeping a very close eye on how it expands.”

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