I was out at the flea market last night and it brought to mind a common thought in my head. How much is this game REALLY worth? Sure it has X-amount of dollars price tag on it, but is it really worth that?
There is much to consider when looking at the price of a game. How old the game is, condition of the game, demand for the game, the quality of the title, how foolish the seller of the game is, how much you want to play the game, has it been re-released, what system it's on, etc. So lets start out with how old a game is.
A game's age doesn't necessarily spell it's value out. It can go either way. A vintage, classic title such as Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time, holds it's value somewhat because there is always someone who wants to play it. But think about an old game like "Paperboy" and you get something that is nothing short of shovelware. Use it to wedge open your door and you'll get more value for it. New release titles tend to have higher sales values unless it's absolute garbage. If you were to want a new release title, generally it's just as well you buy the title new instead of used, as the savings is generally $5 or less.
Condition plays a huge role in the value of a used game. Why would you buy a game that is scratched up? Why get a game with no case or book? All these things will reflect on you as you try to resell the game yourself after you've used it, and lessen the value of the title to you as well. Take a copy of Gears of War 2. It's holding a nice sales value of $34.99 at most retailers, giving it a $24.99 or less tag used. If you go into the flea market or used shop and pick it up and notice a big scratch down the side. Apparently it doesn't affect gameplay in the least, so it's a safe buy if you just want to get it for yourself. But, if you are going to flip the title after you are done, you'll be stuck with it or have to accept lower value for it because of said scratch. Given that there are so many copies of the game available, why bother getting it at all? If you still want to get this copy, you should easily bargain the $24.99 pricetag down to it's actual value of $14.99. Less $5 for the scratch, less $5 for the abundance of available copies.
New games less than a month or two old are generally in great shape, so you won't get any discount beyond the 5 or 10 dollar discount for used pricing.
Next, let's talk about demand for a game. This generally is something that would be looked at on a case by case basis. In a shop like EB, if there are:
1. Lots of copies available
2. They sit on the shelf for a LONG time
3. A price drop hits
Then generally the demand for the title is very poor. The problem is... EB will not bargain. So, given your little piece of knowledge on demand, you go to the flea market or pawn shop, notice the same title there, and it's been in their games bin almost as long as EB has used the game as a dust collector on their shelves, you can now talk to the guy at the flea market and bargain a title down in price. He may have a $15 price tag on it (say... Tomb Raider Underworld), but that game isn't worth the dirt on your shoe because of demand, age, and quality. So... given that they guy has to make SOME money, and you want to bargain some, that title is worth maybe 10 bucks, see if you can get it for 8.
Quality of a title is something that literally drives the value of a game up to almost double what a title may typically be worth. Great example: Anything Nintendo puts out first party. Think the Marios, the Zeldas, the Donkey Kongs, the Metroids. You can still pay as high as 40 dollars for an old copy of Super MArio 3 on NES depending on demand at any given time. Insane, yes. But you have to think, someone who wants mario 3 really bad WILL be stupid and pay this price tag. Also, quality has the reverse effect for crap games. The price on lower quality games will drop substantially and quickly. A great example of this would be the new Bionic Commando. You can get your hands on this title for as low as $9.99 now adays, and this was only released the past summer. Similar competing titles that were released around then still go for as high as $59.99 used (see: Batman: Arkham Asylum).
Sometimes you'll get lucky in your rounds for games, and find a crazy seller who wants to make a quick buck or has no idea the true value of a title. This generally only happens at flea markets or the occasional pawn shop. A great example for me recently was I got a copy of Wolverine for 360 for 20 bucks at the flea market when there are shops still selling their used copies for as high as $54.99! This is the sort of thing that happens very rarely, and should be jumped on quickly given the chance. Under-valued titles go a long way towards you developing the value of your collection greatly, and help towards trade-3's and trade specials.
Re-releasing of a title can affect values as well. See all the wii-ware, Xbox Live Arcade PSOnline stuff you can get your hands on these days. Mid-ranged quality titles like Super Punch-Out (yes, it IS mid-ranged for those who don't like boxing) or Ready to Rumble are easily attained for as little as $5 through these download services, so why spend the what can be as high as $10 to $20 higher for a title just to have it in cartridge or CD version? This perceived value of having "hard copies" of games is created by vendors playing on nostalgic thoughts of bored people who use nostalgia to fill their boring nights. The only problem with downloaded content is that it has ZERO trade value, as you cannot trade it after the fact, save for selling the whole system it resides on, and this is still not much.
One wildcard element to valuing a game is how much you yourself want to play a given title. I myself want to play Divinity II really badly, even though it's quality is suspect and it's a new release title. For me, given I want to play it so badly, the price I'm willing to pay for it goes up. I'd pay as much as 40 to 50 dollars for something I want to play, because to me it's worth it. I'll enjoy the game. I can lessen the cost of the game with smart trades (see a previous post on the art of trading) but still it'll be more than I'd typically spend.
Different systems have different values for their games. All last gen stuff (PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox) will have lower values and you are better off just buying and keeping titles for these machines. Next-gen stuff (Wii, 360, PS3) all tend to have different "overall" values to their titles. Wii titles trend towards being about $10 cheaper new, $15 cheaper used, than 360 or PS3 titles. Sometimes, PS3 titles can even be a bit more expensive than 360 titles, given the perceived value of bluray over standard DVD.
Like I said, there is much to consider in knowing the perceived value of a game. None of these points stand on their own very often, as it usually is a mish mash of each. If a seller of a game is nuts, and the value of the title is low, but it's in great condition, instead of the real value of the title being $10, this guy might try and get as much as $25 for it. It's all a matter of being smart with your money, and knowing what you want.