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The practice of trading in games is so common that is impacts how consoles are developed. When Microsoft announced a plan that would effectively end the practice on the Xbox One Microsoft Xbox One Review And Giveaway Microsoft Xbox One Review And Giveaway The console wars are officially raging, and we've had sufficient time with both of them. That begs the question: how does the Xbox One compare? Read More , for example, gamers were so opposed that the company had no choice but to back down. Millions of people trade millions of games and for many stores, like U.S. retailer Gamestop, it’s the backbone of the business.

But does trading in a game really make sense for you and your wallet? Or are you leaving money on the table by handing your used games over to a retailer? Let’s take a closer look to find out.

A Basis For Comparison

To look at this topic objectively I need to round up some games that I’m hypothetically trading in and see what value we receive for them. For this I’ve selected the five best-selling Xbox/PS3 games of 2013.

They are, in order from most to least popular, Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty: Ghosts Are Gamers Sick Of The Call Of Duty Series? [MUO Gaming] Are Gamers Sick Of The Call Of Duty Series? [MUO Gaming] Call of Duty is huge. Every November for the last 5 years, a new Call of Duty has hit store shelves, and every year it sells better than the year before. Even the years that... Read More , Madden NFL 25, Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. To keep things equal I’m using the Xbox 360 version of each game for this comparison.

Trading In To Gamestop

gamestop

Gamestop is the most popular game retailer in the United States and, for many people, the go-to for trading games. They stock a ton of titles and offer some pretty good values at certain times. They don’t offer values on their website, so I called a local store and received the following numbers. All quotes are valid towards store credit.

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  • Grand Theft Auto V: $20
  • Call of Duty Ghosts: $14
  • Madden NFL 25: $15
  • Battlefield 4: $13
  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag: $9
  • Total: $71

There’s more to this than simple addition, however. Gamestop has a $14.95 per year memebership which gives you 10% more on trades and a 10% discount on used game purchases. With this included the total would be $78.10.

Also, Gamestop provides a 30% trade in value bonus if you trade towards the value of a pre-order. That would increase the value to $92.30.

Finally, these bonuses stack. Together they put the trade-in value at $99.40.

Trading in to Amazon

amazongametrade

Amazon has a very convenient trade-in process that includes free pre-paid shipping to Amazon. Customers are paid in the form of Amazon Gift Cards. Here are the values currently listed for each game. Values are in U.S. dollars.

  • Grand Theft Auto V: $.38
  • Call of Duty Ghosts: $9.06
  • Madden NFL 25: $.74
  • Battlefield 4: $6.50
  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag: $5.73
  • Total: $22.41

Ouch. Here we have five extremely popular games which are valued together at barely a third of a new game’s full retail price. As you can see, the value of some games is laughably low. This is apparently a supply-and-demand issue. The PlayStation 3 version of GTA V, for example, is $17.36.

Trading In To Best Buy

bestbuygames

Big-box store Best Buy is a relative newcomer to the trade-in market but has been pursuing the idea vigorously. Trade-ins are accepted in-store or online, and there’s usually an entire row dedicated to used games. The values I’m listing below are for the online trade-in program and are valid towards a Best Buy gift card.

  • Grand Theft Auto V: $20
  • Call of Duty Ghosts: $15
  • Madden NFL 25: $15
  • Battlefield 4: $15
  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag: $11
  • Total: $76

The quoted values at Best Buy beat even Gamestop, providing a total of $5 more. However, you’d receive more from Gamestop if you became a member and if you traded in towards a pre-order. Best Buy does not offer an equivalent program, though there’s a store-wide rewards card that provides points for purchases.

Selling The Games Yourself

The total new value of the games is about $300, while the best trade-in value offers almost $100 back. In most cases, though, you’ll receive closer to $75. That’s a quarter of the original $300 value.

The new value of these five titles is, at the time this article was published, $230, so trading in the games provides a little over 30% of their current new value.

amazonusedgamesell

That may not sound great, but what happens if you sell the games yourself? To find out I looked up the current lowest used price for each game on Amazon.com. I ignored online sellers who make a business of used games and only selected prices from listings put up by individuals.

  • Grand Theft Auto V: $28
  • Call of Duty Ghosts: $20
  • Madden NFL 25: $17
  • Battlefield 4: $18.25
  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag: $20.25
  • Total: $103.50

This is obviously a better deal overall. You’ll receive about 33% of the original new value and 43% of the current new value. On the other hand, we’re talking about a difference of around $25 compared to trading in – a notable amount, but the gap’s not huge.

There’s also the issue of time and money spent selling the games. Amazon takes a cut, and so will other online stores like Ebay. I’ve sold a lot of games on Amazon and, in my experience, I end up losing about 10 to 15% of the sell value once the cost of shipping materials, postage and Amazon’s cut is subtracted. If we stick on the conservative end of this estimate the cash value from selling is reduced to $93.15.

You may be able to work towards more money over time. I’ve noticed I can sell at a decent mark-up over the lowest prices, probably because I have a lot of positive feedback on Amazon from selling games frequently. However, this takes a commitment to customer service. I’ve twice had games returned to me because the customer said they were not expected, and that really hurts my cut because I have to re-list and pay for shipping all over again.

Another option is to list on Craigslist 5 Used Things You Can Feel Safe About Buying On Craigslist 5 Used Things You Can Feel Safe About Buying On Craigslist Read More or some other local venue, which avoids giving a cut to a store, but you’ll spend more time posting the listing, talking with buyers, and potentially meeting them somewhere to make an exchange. And, if you live outside an urban area, you may find going local to be a complete non-option.

What About Independent Stores?

The independent game store is a wild card in this equation. One-off retailers and small chains exist all over the world, and they are rumored to provide a better value.

Speaking from personal experience, however, I don’t always find this to be the case. I frequently visit three different small shops in Portland, Oregon. The first, which is closest to me, offers good trade-in values, but also sells most used titles for more than their new price on Amazon. They offer half value on cash transactions and half value towards a new or pre-order purchase. I’ve abandoned the place because, frankly, it’s a rip-off.

videogameindie

The second provides good trade-in value and good used pricing, but has poor selection crammed in a small space. And the third is incredibly unpredictable, at times offering great value, and other times providing just $15 for almost brand-new, popular games.

I’ve grown a bit frustrated with the scene. Calling around can take dreadfully long due to the poor customer service that’s epidemic in the video game retail industry, and the extra value from my trade-in – if there’s any at all – seems hardly worth the effort. Worse, as mentioned, some indie stores have atrocious store policies concerning cash value trades or trading for new games.

What’s The Verdict?

There’s no real surprise here. You will receive more money if you sell the games yourself – unless you have a lapse of sanity and post everything for a buck. Trade-in programs are run by retailers, and they have to make money too.

However, the money lost from trading in is not as much as you’d expect. Let’s say, for example, that you bought five popular titles, and then got rid of them a few months later, for five years. If you went to Gamestop you’d end up “losing” about $125 compared to selling on Amazon (if you did not participate in any special offers).  And this, again, does not count the cut taken by Amazon and the time and hassle of shipping the games, responding to customers, and dealing with possible returns.

For many people – even broke gamers – $125 over the course of five years is nothing to lose sleep over.  Trading games to a retailer typically takes five to ten minutes and provides immediately usable credit for other titles. Put simply, it’s convenient, and the price paid for the convenience is not extraordinary.

What do you think? Would you rather avoid the hassle and trade in, or do you count your pennies and sell the games yourself?

Image Credit: Wikimedia/Brokensphere, Wikimedia/Myke2020, Wikimedia/Evan-Amos, Flickr/Rob DiCaterino

  1. Jakamac
    March 27, 2016 at 3:51 am

    Overall if your like me and buy most games new for $60 (bad idea seing as how when you buy the next one you will more than likely forget about until the next one.)gamestop will only give you half back within first month of initial release, after 3-5 months around $16-$20, but after 6 months forget it. But the best time to trade in is right before the next console comes out when they will give you $250 trade in credit towards next console and just hand over all your games. WORD OF ADVICE IF IT IS A CALL OF DUTY GAME WAIT 2 TO 3 WEEKS AFTER RELEASE IT WILL GO ON SALE LIKE MOST GAMES

  2. Maria
    December 27, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    I recently traded a new game I only got a buck for it wth was that!!! Yea so it's a d's game but my son never played it ever. Game stop is not worth trading games at they are just great place to shop from. Other than that I rather sell my games myself. At least I'll get more for my money

  3. Paul Middleton
    November 4, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Its criminal what they give you for games. and there doesnt seem to be a set price for how old a game is or it seems to go on games like grand theft auto. they set prices on games they have heard about and what they think will sell well. for instance looking at CEX. in uk. there still selling gta5 for £40 they will give you £18 only in cash. for a game they are selling for £40 gta5. so lets pick a game that is newer than gta5. lets pick UNTIL DAWN Last week they was giving £27 for it. cash. i was gonna hurry up and get that but had to finish it first. anyway. just looked today and now they are giving £17 for until dawn. its alot newer than gta5 until dawn selling it at £38 yet they only give you £17 for it. if your like me you go out and buy these games new. at £45 and upwards. then when you finished with it your lucky to get £20 for it. very lucky. most of the time you be looking at around £10 there needs to be some protection for customers. some kind of law that sets prices up to be fair shops are making massive profits on games giving us next to nothing for them yet there still selling them for a good price. it is robbery we should be protected against this somehow. the games industry should be protecting us against this kind of robbery.

  4. Steven Cooke
    April 29, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Great article! UNLESS you are already into relatively high volume self-sales on Amazon r eBay, or trying to make a BUSINESS out of it, remember that you bought them for FUN (I hope)! Using trades to feed the gaming habit more cheaply is great, and why not use the most convenient sources. IF you are not going to play them again, or want an archival museum, they are a "sunk cost" anyway. ANYTHING you get back is better than zero. So, remember that a convenient discount on your next game is the objective, not profit!

  5. Prem
    April 28, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    There is special app called PONTEFY built for trading games, books or anything. It is available in iPhone and Android. Users don't have to rely on retailers who gives pennies in return. With PONTEFY you can trade in with nearby users at your own terms through anonymous chat and location enabled services, barcode scan etc. Very cool app, must check out. Here is the link.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pontefy/id660611525?mt=8
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.touchstone.pontefy

  6. Anonymous
    April 28, 2014 at 12:43 am

    I never traded in games before but tried it last week at GameStop.

    Admittedly, I was trying OLD games. They offered nothing over .25 cents and offered me .02 for BulletStorm.

    I decided to keep the games

    • Matt S
      April 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Trades on old games suck. But selling them used sucks, too, because shipping cost can destroy your profit. Selling them in-bulk on Craigslist is usually the best efficient option.

  7. Jacen
    April 27, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Buy game on Steam during summer sale: $X
    Subtract $.10 per trading card from the game: $X-Y*$.10tc

    Now, using this formula, we can take the average cost of Steam games during a sale: ~$2.50 and the average number of trading cards for those games 4 and find that most Steam games cost approximately $2.10.

    Why bother selling games when it costs less to keep ownership of them?

    Oh, and the above ignores bundles from places like humblebundle.com where you can get 8-12 great games for $5 a bundle every month.

    • Matt S
      April 28, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Steam sales and Humble Bundles are great value and certainly make you wonder what the point is of used, but they're not really relevant if you're on a console.

      They also present the problem of "can you save money by spending money?" I used to dip into Steam sales and thought I was getting a deal...until I realized I had a huge list of games I never played and probably never will get around to.

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