During Eurogamer I had the pleasure of meeting with Matt Precious and Ben Grant from the Trade In Detectives. Read on to find out a bit more about who they are, what they do, which way they’re heading for next gen and which one of them is a closet Viva Pinata fan.
For people who may not have heard of you, who or what are the Trade In Detectives?
Ben: The Trade In Detectives is a comparison website that searches all the UK retailers that do trade-ins for cash and basically shows you all of their prices together to get consumers the best deals.
What made you start the company up and where did you get the idea from?
Ben: Our background is that I used to be the Commercial Manager for Game across Europe and Australia and I looked after growth areas, so pre-owned and Gamewear brands. My last role was at Game Australia as Marketing Director.
We had 125 Game stores in Australia and we were the challenger brand down there, the big retailer was Gamestop but they’re called EB Games down there, they’ve got 400 stores. The issue was that nobody had heard about Game and nobody knew about our offers, we had by far and away the best trade in prices and the best deals in Australia, yet people weren’t shopping with us because they simply didn’t know we existed. So what we thought at that time was it’d be great to have a comparison website, independent, nothing to do with us, that compared out trade in prices to EB Games and that would drive a lot more customers to us, why would anyone shop anywhere else when they knew about our offers but, alas, one didn’t exist.
When we came back from Australia about a year ago we couldn’t believe how many comparison websites there are out there, Go Compare, Compare The Market, Confused.com. All of these sites are spending millions and millions of pounds on TV advertising, whether it’s car insurance, house insurance, health care, broadband, energy bills. You name it, you can compare anything you want through these comparison sites, but there wasn’t a site to do with trading in computer games or consoles, so that’s how it came about.
Matt was the General Manager for Game and Gamestation in the UK and globally. What we knew was in the UK market there was 43 million units of games and consoles traded in every single year. That made it a market of around 800 million pounds a year just in pre-owned and second hand games. So we got back, realised there’s a massive culture around comparison sites, knew how big the trade in market was, we also knew how much gamers we being ripped off with the difference in pricing between shops that are next door to each other in the high street so we decided it was a good idea to launch Trade In Detectives and investigate the best deals and name and shame the worst ones.
Did it shock you how much of a difference there can be between different retailers?
Matt: I think it did because being in the industry, especially when we were in Australia as the challenger brand, and we really built the foundations of our business on giving customers good value on the trade ins. What shocked us back then was not only were our competitors giving much lower prices but just how unaware anyone is of trade in prices and it’s the same here.
I used to run pre-owned for Game globally and, to be honest, every week I’d have someone check the competition. I would employ someone full time and all their job was ringing up checking trade in prices. So if I’m a customer, how do you find out what the price are you can get for a game? You’ve got The Last Of Us or whatever, you’re ready to trade it in, not only do you have to ring every retailer, the majority of retailers won’t even give you a trade in price over the phone, they say you need to come in so they can check the quality. You would have to walk around your high street to find the prices, so it doesn’t shock me the difference in prices, the shocking thing is how customers aren’t aware of the difference in prices because no one’s told them.
There’s not one single place they can go to that will show them that. We’ll use The Last Of Us here as an example because it’s the number one viewed game on the site, fantastic game, but this is the game that people are looking to trade. You can see the difference in prices, you’ve got Amazon offering £23.50, CeX £23, then go down down and there’s £10 or £15 difference. Then you’ve got the other retailers who can be next door to each other offering over double the price of the same game.
This was the whole point of what we wanted to do, we wanted to show the difference. Not because we’re favouring one retailer over another and to be honest, if you look all the pricing, I don’t think there’s any one retailer who’s giving ‘the best price’, but there is a massive difference in pricing on exactly the same product.
I can see what you mean because I’m looking through the price here (Ben and Matt had provided some print outs from the site) and I’m stunned at the difference between the top and the bottom.
Matt: Look at GTA. So, CeX are giving you £40 trade in, £36 Grainger, but then you’ve got We Buy Books are giving £15. It’s a massive difference, but unless you’ve done this how are you going to find out? Most people are unaware and even while we were at Game we found it difficult to get competitors prices and it’s because I don’t think competitors actually look at their competitors pricing and I think that, at the end of the day, it’s the consumer that’s missing out. The idea of this is, it is a little bit of a name and shame and as I said there’s no particular retailer that you’d pick on because they’re often as bad as each other depending on what you’re doing, but the idea is if it’s more visible what we hope is that these guys at the bottom start pulling themselves up to the top. If consumers are aware of this, if they get savvy to what’s on offer, they will voice their opinion in where they buy.
And where they spend their money.
Matt: Exactly. I think one of the other points to say about the trade in market and when we’re looking at prices, what we want to do, or what we want customers to do, is we think trade ins and pre-owned is really important to the industry and really important to publishers. We think that without pre-owned everyone suffers.What we want is for customers to see the best prices so they can trade in at retailers and buy new games.
The biggest threat to the industry at this moment in time is eBay. Here’s an example, this is how many games are on eBay currently. 304,000 games, used games, are currently on eBay. Times that by 52 weeks, that’s over 15 million games being ‘traded in’ on eBay and the majority of that money is not going back into the industry. If you trade in and Grainger, Amazon, Game, any specialist, you’re investing back into the industry because 99% of people trading in are buying a new release, the GTAs, the Black Flags, Battlefield and Ghosts. That’s good for the industry because the more people trade in the more new games that sell. It’s when people go to eBay or Music Magpie that they’re not getting the best prices but people aren’t aware of the alternative.
You’ll go on forums and you’ll see a lot of customers saying “I’m sick of being ripped off by retailer x, I’m going to go on eBay”, but the thing is they’ll go on eBay and say “I can get £20 here, I only got £18 or £15 at Game or Grainger, whoever”, but they’re not taking into account you’ve got to pay your listing fee, your 10% commission, PayPal fees of 3.4%, you’ve then got to pay your postage, buy the packing. You’ve then take your own time doing all of that, answering any queries, taking it down to the post office. Take that into account, is it still a better deal than Grainger or Game? I think people people get into this myth that eBay is a great seller and I think that the problem with that is that people haven’t been shown who the best retailers are out there, and if you’re a retailer and you’re not offering the best price then you need to step up because consumers will invest back into the industry if you give them the right price, and that’s what we really want to get to with Trade In Detectives.
In my time at Game we could use the reward cards to track customer’s behaviour. You would have a customer who’d never trade in and who’d buy new games, that customer bought 2.9 games per year. The customer that bought new games, and traded in as well, that customer bought 6.4 games per year. That’s the difference. It’s not because they’re richer, it’s because they use their old games as currency to buy new games. This isn’t buying pre-owned, this is them trading in against new games. So, do you want a customer who’s buying 2.9 or a customer who’s buying 6.4? You walk around this expo, you’ve got Batman Origins, then a few days later you’ve got Black Flag and then a few days after that you’ve got Battlefield 4. The customer who buys 2.9 isn’t getting all of them, something’s got to give. Trade ins allow you to do that, allows you to buy more games. The consumer gets to play more games, the publisher gets to sell more games at full price because the trade in is currency to the retailer. What we’re trying to say is that trade ins are good as long as they go back into the industry, as long as it goes back into the specialist and used for games. Not Music Magpie, not eBay. That’s how the trade in system should work, for consumers, publishers and retailers.
I traded in Batman Arkham City not long ago and was really impressed at how well it had held it’s price. Has there been any other games that over the year you’ve noticed have held their value?
Matt: The thing about games is that customers only trade them in when they don’t want them anymore. Which game has held it’s value over the year? Mario. You’ll still get the same trade in price for Mario DS today as you would on the 1st March 2005. It’s because the game never dropped in price, it still sells for the same, and no one trades it in because it’s a collectable title. Titles like that, or titles that last a long time…FIFA. FIFA doesn’t trade in until the launch of the new title and then everyone trades it in. You don’t finish FIFA, you just replace it. Titles like Call Of Duty have got such lastability past the one player that these games get traded in a lot less.
On the other hand, the one that stood out in my time at Game was Assassin’s Creed. Fantastic game, beautiful game, blew people away, but you could finish it within 6 hours and it had no online. Within 24 hours we had hundreds of them because there was nothing to keep the consumer going back.
When the player has had enough of something they’re not going to play it any more, they may as well move onto something new. We’re not saying people should give up games early, we’re saying that for example The Last Of Us, one of the most ground-breaking games ever, is the most searched for game on the site overall. That’s nothing to do with people not liking it, they’ve just finished it and want to move onto something else, GTA V for instance, rather than there being anything wrong with the game.
Apart from The Last Of Us, what’s being search for lots?
Ben: (laughs) This week it’s been GTA V (this interview was a week after the release)!
Ben: Already! I think it’s people just curious to see how much it’s worth rather than physically wanting to trade it in. I think they come across our website, get intrigued and think “I’ve just spent £35, £40 on GTA V, how much am I going to get for it now?” It does change on a daily basis though, so as we’re getting closer to FIFA 14 we’re seeing FIFA 13 quickly becoming one of the most searched titles.
One of the interesting things is, and one of the top tips we can give gamers, is FIFA 13 is worth the least amount of money to a retailer on the release of FIFA 14. If you can, go without FIFA for a month or so and get the best price possible because on the day of release it’s going to be worth hardly anything because everyone’s trading it in.
Matt: We’re not saying trade it in really early, the point is don’t wait until that day if you want the best price.
You’re both in the industry and both gamers, what games are you into in particular and how big is your pile of shame?
Matt: I’m a big Call Of Duty fan, love FIFA and buy it every year but I do also have Viva Pinata. It’s not cool is it, there’s nothing cool about Viva Pinata. Can that be off the record?
And do you have a big stack of unfinished games?
Matt: I’ve got more unfinished games than finished games, to be fair. Normally I’ll let my nephew come round and finish them for me…on my gamertag obviously, so I get the achievements.
The big question of this year; Xbox One or Playstation 4?
Ben: I’ve ordered both!
Matt: Yeah, both. There’s so many exclusives. Before, if you were playing Call Of Duty or FIFA it had to be Xbox. I just think the multiplayer works better on Xbox Live. Now you’ve got stuff like Ryse coming out that just looks fantastic. But the Playstation has got exclusives too…I think everyone needs both. Trade in all your games! I don’t think it’s a black as white as it’s been on the past. There’s strong exclusives on both sides, so everyone needs to buy both.
Ben: Yeah, I’m looking at Killzone, I think it looks fantastic, but I’m also a big driving fan and so does Forza. I just want to play them all, I can’t pick. There’s surely going to be a new Gears Of War too.
Are you a big Gears Of War fan?
Ben: I’ve played 1 and 2, but not gone to 3 yet.
Gears has been a really popular game within the Midlife Gamer community.
Matt: Gears was ground breaking back in it’s day, especially as it was one of the first put on a HD TV. I think what sold HD TVs was the World Cup and Gears Of War.
You’ve both mentioned the Playstation 4, how do feel about them making a Kinect-style camera for it?
Matt: It’s going to depend on the game. If I have to say, I’m a big, nerdy gadget fan. One of the most exciting things I ever saw at E3 was the Kinect.
The new one?
Matt: No, the old one. I saw it and I thought it was going to change my life. I thought that the world was going to change, that I’m now in Minority Report, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed. The software’s never come out to show what it does so I’m a little bit shy now, they’ve got to prove it. I love gadgets and if it’s got a blue light on it I’ll probably buy it but…I want to buy it, but I want to software to go with it. You get the new Kinect with the One but, come on, you’ve got to use it, got to develop for it. I’m still a bit bitter! I wanted Mylo!
Back in the day were you Mario or Sonic fans?
Matt: Sonic was the reason I bought a Megadrive. Sonic to me was cool, Mario was always a bit family for me, Sonic every time for me.
Ben: Sonic on Game Gear for me. I lost my teenage years on that. Cost me more in batteries than it did for the Game Gear! They’re collectors items these days.
Matt (to Ben): You brought back the Lynx at Game, didn’t you?
Ben: Yes, went to Atari’s warehouse and bought all the Lynx and Jaguars went they went bankrupt. I’ve still got one. The problem was at Game we decided to stock these retro consoles so we bought all these Lynx and Jaguar consoles and all the games, what we didn’t anticipate was people would buy the console and one game so we were left with a load of games! They’d be worth a fortune now, games like Aliens vs Predator.
Staying on a retro theme, what’s the oldest console you have in your house now?
Matt: Now? I still have an Atari ST. It’s in the loft but it’s still up there, with ET next to it. I was the guy that bought ET!
Ben: I’ve got an Amiga 1200 with Sensible World Of Soccer.
Matt: You were rich!
Ben: Still works as well, except the screen is green now for some reason.
Were these your first gaming machines?
Ben: Mine was a Spectrum 48k, with the rubber keys, and I had Brick And Ball.
Matt: I think I had…was it the 16 or the 24? It was like when you bought an Xbox 250gb or a 4gb, I got the poor kid’s version.
To finish off we’ve got a couple of key questions that we ask every new member of the community. Firstly, what’s your biscuit and beverage of choice?
Ben: Jaffa Cake…Ah, is it a biscuit or a cake?!
This is a contentious subject, you can’t have Jaffa Cakes!
Ben: Chocolate HobNob? And my drink is a Guinness.
Matt: Do they still do Millies Cookies? The ones that are all soft?
You can’t have Millie’s Cookies, you can’t pick them up in Tesco!
Matt: You didn’t say I had to buy them from a reputable supermarket! I would have had HobNobs but he’s picked them, so Millie’s Cookies. They almost weren’t made properly, they were still doughy like they needed another couple of minutes. They were a bit wrong, and that’s what I liked about them.
And finally; What sauce on your sausage sandwich?
Matt: Tabasco. Always Tabasco. Tabasco on everything, even Millie’s Cookies.
Ben: Brown Sauce, HP though.
That’s all we have! Thanks for meeting with us today.
Matt: Thank you!