As someone who's been playing console games since game consoles were created, I can very safely say that there's been a massive market for used video games market since day one. Before game shops became an important part of the retail chain, pre-owned titles were either sold/traded between friends at home, school, work and yes, garage sales or flea markets. In the 80's, a number of used game shops across the country such as FuncoLand, BRE and others began the huge boom in dealing in large amount of pre-owned titles along with new releases at brick and mortar locations. Even back then, many consumers complained because they weren't given the best value when trading in recently purchased games and accessories even if they were in fantastic condition.
These days, most of the ire seems to be pointed towards GameStop and other retailers online and off that force consumers to take not so hot trade in deals only to turn around and resell those titles at only a few dollars off the price of a new release. Yes, these companies need to turn a profit and yes, five bucks off a game is less expensive if you simply look at the cost factor. Nevertheless, exploiting consumers for a few too many years has left a legion of more informed gamers to seek out other (and better) trading options. The more recent attempts by some industry suits to demonize/regulate or otherwise control how pre-owned product is treated only shows too many people who don't have a clue of how huge the used games marketplace is. It's NEVER going to go away and trying to put the hammer down on those of us who want to buy pre-owned, older or ANY game past its release window is one reason many are seeking out better means of finding deals.
GameStaq is a relatively new, but well done addition to a number of game trading web sites operating today, but unlike others, they deal primarily in used titles in overall excellent condition. I was able to shoot over a few questions to GameStaq's Joe Gindi, and here's what he had to say about the very promising trade site.
GW: What was the inspiration behind GameStaq's creation and what makes it different from other game trading sites?
JG: I grew up gaming, and in recent years became frustrated with the brick and mortar pricing structure for used games. We make it different from other sites in that all “trades” are performed with cash, no trade tokens or game points. We scour the net and set a fair market price and a secure platform for buyers and sellers. Buyers transparently see the cash value for every game, just like in a retail store, and then we handle finding the seller for that game. With no interaction needed between the buyer and seller, GameStaq controls and guarantees the transaction from beginning to end.
GW: Currently, what's the approximate size of the active user base and what sort of user is the site geared toward?
JG: We currently have about 10,000 users after being active around seven weeks. Our core user base is the hardcore console gamer who desires the latest systems and games. However, our site is not just for core gamers, and was designed from the ground up with many different user profiles in mind… from the 15-year old gamer to that kid’s grandparent who is looking to buy him a birthday gift.
GW: In terms of setting up an account, how quickly can a new user set up listings and get trading?
JG: It takes a new user about 30 seconds to sign-up and about another 15 seconds to post a game for sale. They enter a user ID and email address and then posting the game is just a two clicks process. They choose the game, confirm the condition, and that’s it. Our site is built around simplicity and efficiency, so we ensured signup and selling games was as fast and easy as possible.
GW: How are fees calculated and paid for by users and is there some sort of verification process that keeps the not-so-honest out of the service?
JG: Fees are based on a tiered pricing system that corresponds to the price of the game. For example, for any game priced $25 to $40, GameStaq charges a $2 fee to both the buyer and seller. GameStaq was built on being FAIR; something gamers aren’t really used to seeing when dealing with other companies and used games. Based on this philosophy we split the transaction fee between the two parties, since both buyer and seller are benefiting equally from the service. As the price of the game lowers, the fees also are dropped.
We are implementing a system to verify seller credit card information in advance, so they would enter that information as soon as they post a game for sale. This tells us you are a serious seller, and allows us to send you the buyer’s funds as soon as the game ships out. These verified sellers can receive funds up to three to five days quicker, and at the same time provides us a great verification process as well as a way to remedy any transaction issues that may arise.
GW: Some gamers are pretty particular about the condition of their used games - Will Gamestaq have some sort of means of assuring both parties that what they're trading or paying for is what they're getting?
JG: Since we are avid gamers ourselves, we understand the frustration that can be caused by scratched games. We only allow games qualified as “good” condition that have minimal scratches. We of course demand any game posted for sale on GameStaq is in working condition and also require the original box art and manual. If there is any issue between buyer and seller, GameStaq will always jump in to ensure an equitable resolution to any problems
GW: Additionally, will new/sealed games be able to be traded or sold on the site and will they be priced at full retail or another market value?
JG: We do not have current or future plans to offer new games.*
GW: Can boxed retail versions of PC games, older "classic" console games, game systems or other software/hardware be traded or sold on Gamestaq?
JG: We are currently focused on providing games released after September 2009, as well as most of the titles in the main gaming franchises for current gen consoles. As our community grows, we will be rolling back to older console systems and titles. We will not be offering PC games at this time, and will keep focused on the console market. Offering systems is a longer term possibility, and offering accessories for sale is a nearer-term possibility for us.
GW: With the push toward digital downloads and "cloud" game delivery services such as OnLive, where do you see game retail headed in the next five to ten years and where do you see GameStaq evolving during this transition period?
JG: We see game retail being very relevant for the next five to ten years. There are a massive number of titles and systems out there that will continue to be enjoyed by millions of gamers. Additionally, console game sales continue to be a multi-billion dollar business. We certainly do see the big move towards digital downloads and foresee five to ten years being the time those will become more of the norm. We will always function as a business that responds and evolves to a changing market, so digital downloads and social gaming offerings will certainly figure into our future.
GW: In terms of the Gamestaq community, are there any message boards, game reviews or other features that casual to core gamer can enjoy on the site? If not, any plans for these in the future?
JG: We do not currently have message boards or forums. We do have original content on gaming posted multiple times a week in our blog. We do offer users the ability to review any game on the site. Each user also has their own profile page where they can showcase the games they have in their library and also show off their PlayStation Network gamer tags and Xbox live scores. Also offered is a “wish list” where gamers can let others know what titles they would most like to have. Future enhancements will include more ways for the GameStaq community members to interact and compete with each other.
GW: Anything else potential GameStaq users need to know?
JG: Users should know that our team is made up of bunch of gamers who understand what you are looking for when buying/selling your games. Our customer service is unparalleled. We want to make sure all of our users are happy with all aspects of buying and selling games on GameStaq, and we respond to all inquiries/questions within hours.
One of our favorite things is to receive user feedback, good or bad. It helps us improve and grow, and it helps to make sure we’re providing the best possible product for our users.
GW: Finally, Just for fun - Besides the obvious mega-hits (Call of Duty: Black Ops) - got any Game of the Year or other favorite 2010 picks to share?
Many thanks to Joe and the folks at GameStaq for taking time out to do this. Dopey technical issues on this end delayed this piece for a bit, but it's (finally) up, so go check the site out. Currently, there's a GREAT promotion for GameStaq users where you can nab a new/sealed copy of THQ's upcoming FPS Homefront for $45 by making a $15 purchase through the site, That's a mighty fine deal worth signing up for, I'd say!
We actually have a blog post up at blog.gamestaq.com with our picks of the top 10 titles of 2010, including some favorites like Uncharted 2, AC Brotherhood, Mass Effect 2, Black Ops, Mario Galaxy 2, Red Dead Redemption, and Halo Reach.