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Market for used video games is hot and growing hotter
Anchorage Daily News


December 26, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Brandon Mommsen, 10, looked all over Anchorage for a Gold version Pokemon game for his Gameboy. He called stores and pawn shops. He even looked on eBay. If it were a new game, he could wait for later shipments. But the Gold version is a used game, and there's no telling where, or when, he might find one.

He heard a friend was willing to sell a copy. Before Mommsen could close the deal, another friend snagged it for $10.

"I didn't have a chance to offer more," Mommsen complained good-naturedly, playing in the snow Monday with his game-snagging friend.



Because of gamers like Mommsen, the used-game market appears to be growing, nationwide and in Anchorage.

"We know it's a vibrant sector," said Sean Bersell of the Video Software Dealers Association. Retailers reported a solid business in used DVDs and used games, he said, pegging used DVD sales last year at $1.5 billion. Bersell said the association doesn't have matching figures for used-game sales.

The used-game market is a win-win situation for gamers like Mommsen who want a bargain on their favorites, gamers who want to upgrade and the retailers who broker the deals.

"I buy sports games, so when they get outdated, I bring in the old ones and get some money," GameStop customer Max Collins said last week.

Laura Washington, 33, said when she's in town from her home in Buckland in Northwest Alaska she looks for bargains for her three sons, who play video games.

Patrick Robichaud, 21, said he buys new and sells often.

"As soon as I can beat it," Robichaud said as he left GameStop in Dimond Center last week.

Across the mall, Kathy Judge, manager of music store Sam Goody, said her employer sells used games in some outlets, though not yet in Alaska.

Top national game retailer GameStop reported strong growth in used sales in its most recent annual report.

The company sold $512 million worth of used-game products in its last fiscal year, up from $296 million two years earlier.

Mommsen said he's interested in new and old versions alike.

"Yes, everything," he confirmed. Why does he like older games?

"They're cheaper," Mommsen said. But as game publishers evolve a game, the charm of older versions goes beyond financial appeal. "They have different stuff they forgot about in the newer ones."

Used games sell for around half their new price, depending on how much fun they are, said Greg Brown, owner of Microplay, an independent store in South Anchorage that sells and rents new and used games and game systems.

"The margin is much better on used games," Brown said. Instead of buying games from a middleman, he said, "I'm the middleman."

Aaron Kiefer, 14, said he brought a used Nintendo Game Cube and four games in to Microplay and bought a new $50 Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness.

Why that one?

Keifer said he'd done some research on it, it looked fun and he "had enough in-store credit for it."

Used games were about 10 percent of his total sales last year, Brown said.

"True gamers still have their original game systems," he said.

At Bosco's in Dimond Center, employee Scott McClure said the turnover at the used-game counter is better than for most of the store's merchandise. Some customers would rather spend $50 on a used system plus games than on a single new game, McClure said.

Titles lined up behind the chrome-and-glass counter ranged from Bible Adventures to Addams Family Values. The games, for a range of outdated systems, illustrate video game history: Frogger, Pole Position and Pac-Man.

"Retro is chic these days," said McClure's co-worker, Carl Wilson. Some customers like seeing games they used to play.

"A lot of people come in and buy them for their kids."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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Ketchikan, Alaska