Two years after its presumed death, pre-owned is thriving

Boxed game sales are falling and the dearth of digital data means the true state of the market remains largely a mystery.

But one tried and tested retail sector is certainly in rude health.

As recently as 2013, retail feared that next-gen consoles might mark the end for pre-owned games. But while digital continues to claim a growing slice of modern console software sales and post-release digital content swells, pre-owned game sales are up 25 per cent year-on-year for the 12 months ending August 2nd, hitting a value of 126.3m.

That’s according to Kantar Worldpanel, which says that the number of pre-owned UK buyers has not actually increased. It stands steady at around 3.2m shoppers, but the amount these gamers spend is on the up. The average pre-owned outlay per shopper is now 40 – a 10 increase over the previous 12 months.

Perhaps more importantly, 72 per cent of these buyers also purchased a brand new game in the last year. And with GfK Chart-Track data showing a further 1.1 per cent decline in boxed new game sales so far in 2015, Kantar believes pre-owned still serves as a huge contributor to the software sector’s overall health.

Pre-owned facilitates greater activity from those with a keen interest in the games market,” consumer retail analyst Andy Saxton told MCV. Nearly three quarters of them still buy mint games alongside pre-owned, with their average spend across games much higher (127) than those who only buy mint games (82). This is due to them making twice as many trips to buy games during the year (4.6 to 2.3).”

"Pre-owned game sales are up 25
per cent year-on-year for the
12 months ending August 2nd,
hitting 126.3m."

The benefits of pre-owned don’t end there, either. Kantar added that 79 per cent of mint physical purchases are pre-planned. That means only 21 per cent are impulse purchases – compare this to pre-owned, where 44 per cent of purchases are made on-the-spot by impulsive consumers.

Pre-owned also remains a vital entry point for younger gamers. Among the under 25s, pre-owned accounts for one third of purchases. For the overall market, that figure stands at one quarter.

It’s not all good news, however. The pre-owned market is centred on last-gen machines such as PS3 and Xbox 360. Two out of every three games purchased for last-gen machines are second-hand. For current-gen, just one in three is pre-owned.

This could potentially point to some market pain down the line. If PS4 and Xbox One buyers have moved away from pre-owned due to increased digital sales and post-release DLC, then the continuing shift from last-gen to current-gen hardware risks bringing with it the gradual erosion of pre-owned’s market benefits.

It could be, however, that as last-gen consumers migrate to newer hardware – which will almost certainly happen as prices continue to fall – they bring their buying habits with them.

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