Reddit: the internet’s great equalizer. Where a good cat picture can make you king for a day and an asshole comment about Bill Nye can see you down-voted into oblivion. The online community which goes by “The Front Page of the Internet” can accomplish horrible things (see r/space-dicks. Actually, don’t) and achieve wonderful things such as pooling $80,000 to help protect a Kenyan orphanage.
One such bright spot to come from Reddit’s vibrant community is the online game-trading website, 99Gamers.
99Gamers, run by brothers Brandon and Jon Kruzeniski, markets itself as an “infinite video game collection.” The whole thing basically began as a meme. Jon saw a fellow Redditor post about a true first-world struggle: having difficulty choosing which game to play out of their extensive library. That’s when inspiration struck the brothers.
“I realized that this random person had a bunch of games that I would love to play but just haven’t had the chance to,” said Brandon. “I turned to my game collection and thought that this person would probably feel the same way about my game collection.”
And thus 99Gamers was born. Brandon posted about the concept on the gaming section of Reddit and it shot to the top of the subreddit, earning the brothers thousands of users for the young site.
At its core, it’s a pretty simple concept: once you’re done playing a game, list it to sell on the site. You can set your own price and it suggests listing rates by what similar games are going for. The economy of the site is based on virtual coins (one coin = one dollar) which you can buy or earn by selling games. Prices can vary drastically depending on the condition and popularity of the game. Have a new copy of Bioshock Infinite? You’ll probably make about 55 coins. Semen-encrusted copy of Vampire Rain that you’ve been using as a coaster? There’s probably not a huge demand for that- free market can be a real bitch.
99Gamers partially addresses a huge flaw in the state of console gaming. In order to make a profit from games that can have multiple-year development cycles that require hundreds of developers and hundreds of millions of dollars to create, your average console game goes for about $60 new. Often times that sizable investment only brings you a solid weekend of entertainment and an angry girlfriend. Console developers are constantly trying to extend a game’s lifetime value by leveraging downloadable content and pushing in multiplayer, but that’s seldom done right and often feels forced.
Dedicated console gamers have two options- 1.) Put that copy of Dead Space up on the shelf in the off-chance you’ll come home drunk in a few months and feel like stomping some necromorphs or 2.) Brave it in the secondary market.
Arguably, the biggest company to pop up in the secondary market for console games has been GameStop. GameStop has made a viable business from buying used games for cheap and then selling them for profit. Right now, you can sell a copy of Borderlands 2 on Xbox 360 to them for a $16.90 in-store credit. They’ll pop a new sticker on it and sell it for $37.99 the same day- a $21.90 profit. Conversely, you can sell a copy of Borderlands 2 on 99Gamers for $21 and but it for $21. You’d make more money selling it and save more money buying it. Although you can’t actually pocket the cash with 99Gamers, you can earn coins to buy more games.
“We would like to offer the solution where the money consumers spend at GameStop could instead be saved and passed on to other gamers in the form of more games to play,” said Brandon. “99Gamers fills the need of those who just want to keep playing new and interesting video games without worrying about where they will get the extra cash to pay for them.”
So, how is the site able to offer better deals for gamers? There’s a long answer and a short answer. Short answer is they don’t make money off the trades so you’re not giving them a percentage for using the site. The long answer goes back to the site’s roots: community.
There’s a lot of trust involved in buying and selling games with fellow gamers. You have to have faith in them that they’ll take the time between school or work and 15-hour Black Ops 2 sessions to pay for the postage and packaging then ship their old copy of GTA to you. You have to believe that the $12.00 version of Left 4 Dead you’re buying really is in excellent shape and hasn’t been used for an impromptu game of disc golf. Community is also one of the things sets the site apart from earlier competitors like Goozex and Glyde- which both don’t have the peer-to-peer focus and crisp design of 99Gamers.
The site does a lot to ensure the reliability of the trades, such as asking users to take photos of the games, submit tracking numbers once shipped, and using a peer-to-peer rating system to weed out any bad seeds. Brandon and Jon even mediate any problems themselves if a game turns up missing in the mail or a copy of the game doesn’t work for some reason (I’ve been at fault for both those occurrences since using the site.)
However, without a solid community, none of this would have worked as well.
“The community has been amazing so far,” said Brandon. “They give great ideas and feedback for the future and are quick to help point out any bugs or problems that arise. A few members even send drawings when shipping games, which I think is pretty cool.”
The site’s success is also closely tied to Reddit. They got a lion’s share of their users from the original posting then another wave at the 9-month mark, where another Reddit posting doubled the site’s user base.
“Everyone is super polite,” said (name deleted as per request), a 21-year-old student who trades on 99Gamers. “But that’s probably because most [users] are from Reddit.”
Going forward, Brandon says they’d like to eventually allow for trading whole consoles and open the platform up to PC games- Steam included.
At the end of the day, 99Gamers is more a labor of love for console gamers than a thriving business model. If you’re looking to sell your meticulously accumulated collection of Xbox games and buy a plane ticket to start a new life in Costa Rica, it’s probably not the site for you. If you want to dust off some of your old titles and trade them to get your hands on a new (to you) game then come on in, friend. It’s got some trades for you.