Why would GameStop sell new games as used? Because they can charge more
Pre-owned copies of Xenoblade Chronicles have been difficult to find ever since it debuted on the Wii in North America in 2011. Circulation of the title was low due to the fact that it could only be ordered through Nintendo's online store and GameStop, so the average price of a used copy quickly balooned up to $90.
After that, copies essentially disappeared from store shelves and the game became something of a collector's item, until this week when a flood of pre-owned copies suddenly showed up in GameStop stores.
Kotaku is reporting that one source at GameStop said the company ordered a few thousand copies of the game without shrinkwrap. And now some customers are saying that their “used” copy of Xenoblade Chronicles feels brand new and includes unused Club Nintendo cards inside.
What seemed at first like a great opportunity to finally acquire one of the best RPGs in recent years now seems like GameStop may be trying to increase their margins on the sale of the game.
It's not uncommon to suddenly see an influx of copies of a once-rare game. Companies may buy the rights to reprint rare games long after their release, and in those cases the games were opened, marked as “used,” and featured inflated prices. Why mark the game as used? An article from 2006 talks about the weird business of reprinting games, and then selling the title in bulk to GameStop.
But if Game Quest Direct really is controlling the flow of these imports by acting as a pseudo-publisher how are they appearing at Gamestop? Simple, Game Quest Direct is selling them directly to Gamestop. A representative spokesperson has said that they decided to unload a sizeable amount of inventory to Gamestop at a bulk price. However since Gamestop sells used copies of these games at a higher price they’ve taken the liberty of unsealing and selling the brand new game as a used copy.
Someone licensing the game for reprints, or GameStop guaranteeing the purchase of new inventory from Nintendo in order to compel them to print more, is certainly a much more likely scenario than GameStop suddenly finding a few thousand long-forgotten pristine used copies of their most expensive game.
GameStop is taking new games, marking them as used, and profiting from the price difference in either of these scenarios.
The types of games that were reprinted back in the day match the profile of Xenoblade exactly. Games like Gitaroo Man and Rez were hard to find, considered collector's items, and went for much more than $50 or $60 on the second-hand market.
If Nintendo and GameStop have an agreement about the price of games, and new titles can't be sold for a price that's higher than most new releases, marking the games as used would be a wonderful way to skirt the language of the agreement. GameStop is able to sell its own inventory of used games for whatever price it wants; which is why the company has a history of buying rare games and reprints directly from sources like Game Quest Direct rather than official distributors only to open the package, mark the game used, and jack up the price.
It's a weird business, and the games seem to be in perfect working order, but it helps to explain why a company would sell something that could be better than advertised for a price that's higher than expected… but not more than the market will tolerate.