The cost of pre-owned games vs digital copies and DLC

Video games depreciate at an alarming rate.

If you’re willing to wait just a few months for pre-owned copies, you can pick them up for a fraction of their initial £40 or £50 price tag.

But downloadable versions of games and their downloadable content don’t seem to depreciate at nearly the same rate, meaning that getting the extra content can often mean spending much more than you paid for the main game.

I’ve had a look at how the pre-owned prices compare to the digital ones, as well as how they compare with the DLC.

Even these were expensive once. Photo credit: KaptainKobold on Flickr

Even these were expensive once. Photo credit: KaptainKobold on Flickr

Notes

  • I’ve limited this to the best-selling Xbox 360 games, taken from this table.
  • I’ve not used the following in my analysis, because they are not available on the Xbox Marketplace: Dance Central, Kung Fu Panda, Mass Effect 2, Battlefield 3, Guitar Hero 3, Forza 2 and 3, Madden NFL 10 and 11, FIFA 10, 11 and 12.
  • I’ve also used standard versions of the games rather than Game Of The Year versions, which often come with DLC included.
  • I’ve taken the pre-owned prices from CeX, which deals in used games. I’m aware that it’s often cheaper to use eBay or other sites (I tend to do this), but I wanted a consistent source for the prices, and CeX is accessible for most people in the UK.

Pre-owned vs Games On Demand

This table compares the cost of the game at CeX with the cost of the Games On Demand version on the Xbox Marketplace.

Game Year Published CeX Cost Games On Demand Cost % Difference
Kinect Adventures! 2010 £0.50 £14.99 2898.00%
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 2011 £5.00 £49.99 899.80%
Gears of War 2 2008 £1.50 £14.99 899.33%
Gears of War 2006 £1.50 £11.99 699.33%
Halo 3 2007 £2.00 £14.99 649.50%
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 2010 £2.00 £14.99 649.50%
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 2009 £5.00 £29.99 499.80%
Halo 3: ODST 2009 £2.00 £11.99 499.50%
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2010 £8.00 £44.99 462.38%
Sega Superstars Tennis 2008 £4.00 £19.99 399.75%
Fable II 2008 £3.50 £14.99 328.29%
Halo: Reach 2010 £5.00 £19.99 299.80%
Saints Row 2 2008 £4.00 £14.99 274.75%
Resident Evil 5 2009 £4.00 £14.99 274.75%
Call of Duty 3 2006 £4.50 £14.99 233.11%
Mass Effect 2007 £4.50 £14.99 233.11%
Borderlands 2009 £5.00 £14.99 199.80%
Fable III 2010 £5.00 £14.99 199.80%
Kinect Sports 2010 £5.00 £14.99 199.80%
Gears of War 3 2011 £5.00 £14.99 199.80%
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2007 £7.00 £19.99 185.57%
Call of Duty: World at War 2008 £8.00 £19.99 149.88%
Red Dead Redemption 2010 £8.00 £19.99 149.88%
Batman: Arkham Asylum 2009 £6.00 £14.99 149.83%
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 2006 £5.00 £11.99 139.80%
Fallout 3 2008 £5.00 £11.99 139.80%
Fallout: New Vegas 2010 £5.00 £11.99 139.80%
Grand Theft Auto IV 2008 £8.00 £17.99 124.88%
Assassin’s Creed 2007 £4.00 £8.99 124.75%
Assassin’s Creed II 2009 £4.00 £8.99 124.75%
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood 2010 £4.00 £8.99 124.75%
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 2011 £12.00 £24.99 108.25%
Grand Theft Auto V 2013 £25.00 £49.99 99.96%
LEGO Indiana Jones: Original Adventures 2008 £10.00 £19.99 99.90%
Left 4 Dead 2008 £8.00 £14.99 87.38%
Batman: Arkham City 2011 £8.00 £14.99 87.38%
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations 2011 £5.00 £8.99 79.80%
Left 4 Dead 2 2009 £10.00 £14.99 49.90%
LEGO Batman: The Videogame 2008 £12.00 £14.99 24.92%

Key points:

  • Just look at Kinect Adventures! This is a game which came bundled with every Kinect, and there will be more than 20 million copies floating around. You can pick it up for 50p at CeX, but Microsoft want £14.99 to download it.
  • And what about Modern Warfare 3? It’s two and a half years old now, but still brandishing its full price tag on the Marketplace.
  • Across all of these games, the median difference in price is 199.8%. This means latecomers to these games should expect to pay three times as much if they choose to download the game rather than pick up a used copy.

I understand that you pay for the convenience of getting the game there and then, and that you don’t have to worry about losing it, but are these things worth such an inflated cost?

Pre-owned vs DLC

This table shows how much the downloadable content costs in comparison to the entire pre-owned game, and notes what you’re getting for that price.

For this, I’ve only used what I’ll term ‘substantial’ DLC. This covers things like extra missions and multiplayer maps, but does not include small purchases like avatar items or in-game weapons.

Game Year Published CeX Cost Total DLC cost % Difference DLC Notes
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 2011 £5.00 £39.96 699.20% 6 multiplayer content packs
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 2010 £2.00 £13.38 569.00% 2 multiplayer content packs
Halo 3 2007 £2.00 £11.43 471.50% 5 multiplayer content packs
Borderlands 2009 £5.00 £27.00 440.00% 4 campaign extensions
Fallout: New Vegas 2010 £5.00 £27.00 440.00% 4 campaign extensions
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2010 £8.00 £39.96 399.50% 4 multiplayer content packs
Halo: Reach 2010 £5.00 £23.49 369.80% 3 multiplayer content packs
Gears of War 2 2008 £1.50 £6.75 350.00% 4 multiplayer content packs
Gears of War 3 2011 £5.00 £19.99 299.80% 4 multiplayer content packs, 1 campaign extension
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 2009 £5.00 £19.98 299.60% 2 multiplayer content packs
Fable II 2008 £3.50 £12.73 263.71% 3 campaign extensions
Fallout 3 2008 £5.00 £16.95 239.00% 5 campaign extensions
Batman: Arkham City 2011 £8.00 £24.87 210.88% 3 challenge content packs, 2 campaign extensions
Saints Row 2 2008 £4.00 £11.44 186.00% 2 campaign extensions
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations 2011 £5.00 £13.50 170.00% 1 multiplayer content pack, 1 campaign extension
Resident Evil 5 2009 £4.00 £10.17 154.25% 1 multiplayer content pack, 2 campaign extensions
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 2011 £12.00 £30.37 153.08% 3 campaign extensions
Grand Theft Auto IV 2008 £8.00 £20.24 153.00% 2 campaign extensions
Assassin’s Creed II 2009 £4.00 £10.07 151.75% 3 campaign extensions
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 2006 £5.00 £12.27 145.40% 3 campaign extensions
Call of Duty: World at War 2008 £8.00 £16.99 112.38% 4 multiplayer content packs
Fable III 2010 £5.00 £9.67 93.40% 3 campaign extensions
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood 2010 £4.00 £6.75 68.75% 2 multiplayer content packs, 1 campaign extension
Red Dead Redemption 2010 £8.00 £13.49 68.63% 4 multiplayer content packs, 1 campaign extension
Call of Duty 3 2006 £4.50 £6.78 50.67% 3 multiplayer content packs
Left 4 Dead 2 2009 £10.00 £14.07 40.70% 3 campaign extensions
Left 4 Dead 2008 £8.00 £9.38 17.25% 3 campaign extensions
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2007 £7.00 £6.75 -3.57% 1 multiplayer content pack
Mass Effect 2007 £4.50 £4.04 -10.22% 2 campaign extensions
Batman: Arkham Asylum 2009 £6.00 £3.98 -33.67% 4 challenge content packs
Kinect Sports 2010 £5.00 £2.69 -46.20% 2 challenge packs
Gears of War 2006 £1.50 £0.00 -100.00% 2 multiplayer content packs
Assassin’s Creed 2007 £4.00 £0.00 -100.00% No DLC
LEGO Indiana Jones: Original Adventures 2008 £10.00 £0.00 -100.00% No DLC
Sega Superstars Tennis 2008 £4.00 £0.00 -100.00% No DLC
LEGO Batman: The Videogame 2008 £12.00 £0.00 -100.00% No DLC
Halo 3: ODST 2009 £2.00 £0.00 -100.00% No DLC, both Cex and GoD versions are campaign only
Kinect Adventures! 2010 £0.50 £0.00 -100.00% No DLC
Grand Theft Auto V 2013 £25.00 £0.00 -100.00% No DLC

Key Points:

  • Modern Warfare 3 continues to be expensive digitally, forcing newcomers to hand over nearly eight times as much as they pay for the game if they want to enjoy all of the multiplayer content.
  • The median difference here is 145.4%, meaning the DLC costs around 2.5 times as much as the game.

I personally struggle to convince myself that buying DLC is justified when I spent much less on the full game.

Bonus: DLC vs Games On Demand

There are actually 11 games where the DLC even costs more than the game does on the marketplace.

Game Year Published Games On Demand Cost Total DLC cost % Change
Fallout: New Vegas 2010 £11.99 £27.00 125.19%
Borderlands 2009 £14.99 £27.00 80.12%
Batman: Arkham City 2011 £14.99 £24.87 65.91%
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations 2011 £8.99 £13.50 50.17%
Fallout 3 2008 £11.99 £16.95 41.37%
Gears of War 3 2011 £14.99 £19.99 33.36%
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 2011 £24.99 £30.37 21.53%
Halo: Reach 2010 £19.99 £23.49 17.51%
Grand Theft Auto IV 2008 £17.99 £20.24 12.51%
Assassin’s Creed II 2009 £8.99 £10.07 12.01%
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 2006 £11.99 £12.27 2.34%

While buying pre-owned doesn’t do publishers any favours, if the prices are so different then a good deal is likely to trump a moral one.

Surely a few permanent price drops for digital content would make sense, if only to bring everything more in line?

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One thought on “The cost of pre-owned games vs digital copies and DLC

  1. Keep Xbox 360 console flat, because air vents on one
    side would be blocked and game discs always get scratched if Xbox 360 stands in the upright position. Your games are expensive enough to warrant the best
    media. It’ll also be necessary to spend more time on Xbox Live because custom content, patches, and other
    downloadable content needs to be stored somewhere and
    a little 64MB memory card isn’t going to cut it.

    Like

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