Video Game Arbitrage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reselling Popular Games

sell video games online
Taylor McBride under Creative Commons
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I’ve played video games my whole life. It can be an expensive hobby, but as an adult, it’s easy to see where you use your knowledge of video games to make money instead of just spending it!

New video games hit the shelves all year, but the biggest announcements are made during E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, every June.

Since the end of this year’s E3, hordes of fanboys and fangirls have been itching for the chance to get their hands on the upcoming titles Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo previewed. However, great games usually sell out months before they actually arrive in stores, and are often hard to get for weeks afterward.

That’s where you’ll make your money: Preorder popular games, then sell them for anywhere from $50 to $150 or more in profit. Here’s how to identify, buy and resell high-profile, limited-edition video games — whether you do it year-round or just during E3.

1. Identify High-Profile Games With a Lot of Positive Hype

For this strategy to work, you’ll need to pick popular, in-demand games.

Big games often have a “Special Edition” or “Limited Edition,” usually with some kind of collectible item or downloadable content you can’t get anywhere else. They usually cost between $100 and $150, or even more — but they can sell for almost double if the demand is high enough.

Review popular gaming sites to get an idea for what’s popular. Some big sites to watch for E3 coverage include:

Also do a search for “E3 coverage” or “E3 highlights” to get a feel for the big upcoming titles.

For example, Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition was announced at E3 for Xbox One, PS3 and PC at $119.99.

2. Preorder Your Games

You can preorder games at nearly any store that sells them, but Best Buy is a great bet because of the Gamers Club Unlocked membership they offer.

For $30, you get two years of 20% off new game purchases (including preorders!), among other benefits. With the average limited-edition game running over $100, you make up the cost in no time.

Best Buy usually has a site dedicated to E3 preorders, so you can easily find all the new games. For example, here’s the 2015 E3 site. To make the most of your purchase, earn cash back by buying through a portal like Ebates or Discover Deals.

I already had a Gamer’s Club Unlocked membership, so here’s what it cost me to buy Fallout 4:

Starting price = $119.99

Gamer’s Club Unlocked membership = -$24

5% cash back using Discover Deals = -$4.80

Total cost = $91.19

3. Sell Your Games

After you’ve received the email confirmation for your preorder, you can either sell it immediately, or wait until you have the game in-hand to sell when it’s officially released.

Either option works, but the best time to sell is always when the game or preorder is sold out, because you’ll make the most money.

Sell the Game Immediately

The most popular way to sell your games is through eBay.

The site has a few rules for presale items. You must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Guarantee that the item will be available for shipping within 30 days from the purchase date. Be sure to clearly state this information in your listing

  • Clearly indicate in the listing that the item is a presale item.

  • The handling time specified in your listing should reflect the time from the end of the listing until the item is shipped to the buyer. Be sure to specify the correct handling time in your listing.

You can also sell presale games on local gaming forums, Facebook pages or Craigslist.

With the exception of eBay, you’ll most likely get paid when you can deliver the game. That means there’s a chance the person might also be able to preorder and change their mind about buying your game. So unless you sell on eBay, you might want to…

Sell the Game On (or Soon After) Its Release Date

The day of a game release, most people don’t (or can’t) pick it up off the shelf and buy it — they either walk in and pick up the game they preordered earlier, or walk away with nothing because everything is sold out!

After you pick up or receive your game in the mail, take pictures of it unopened and post your listing on eBay, gaming forums, Facebook or Craigslist. Gamers who missed out are usually willing to pay a lot more than the listed price to play the game on release day.

In either of the above cases, here’s how to set up your eBay listing.

Compare prices from other listings by filtering for other Sold and Completed listings to “Sell one like this” using an “Auction” post. See how much similar games sold for and consider what you paid for your game to come up with a starting price.

Going back to our Fallout 4 example, eBay listings were topping out around $290, which comes out to:

Selling price = $290

Purchase price = $91.19

eBay seller fee (10%) = $29

Total profit = $169.81

Not bad for a single game. Imagine how your profits could increase if you’re able to preorder multiple copies!

Stores often limit preorders of big titles, but you could buy more using another family member’s account or buy the same game for another console, such as XBox One, PS4 or PC).

Your Turn: Will you take advantage of high-profile game releases to preorder and resell video games?

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Amanda Edades is an engineer living in Anchorage, Alaska.