Although the used-videogame resale market booming, a new Toronto start-up site is hoping gamers will forgo the trade-in route in favour of swapping titles with a network of users in their neighbourhood. Find out how Waygoz works.
The key difference between buying a used game on eBay and trading a game with someone in your neighbourhood is that the latter is free. Well, almost—you’ll have to swap out one of your own games in return, but that seems like a fair trade, right?
That’s the root philosophy of Waygoz. Essentially a social network for gamers, the Toronto-based start-up allows users to connect, interact and swap videogames with people in their neighbourhood. Since the website’s launch last November, Waygoz has gained thousands of users in Toronto through word-of-mouth and social media alone.
“Waygoz basically replaces [the idea of] in store trade-ins with higher-value used-game swapping on our site,” says Waygoz co-founder Jean-Paul Rehr, who had previously worked in the videogame-distribution business for 10 years. “Videogames as physical products are going to, if not completely disappear, pretty much be replaced by digital downloads over the course of the next five to 10 years. We have embarked, with Waygoz, upon a transformation business to move towards digital products. The first step is to begin building relationships with consumers.”
The name “Waygoz” is a play on the Spanish word for games—juegos—spelled out phonetically in English. “It’s pretty hard to find decent URLs with [the word] ‘game’ in it anymore, so we decided to brainstorm cross-language,” Rehr says.
Though the industry experienced a slowdown last summer, videogames are still big business—in 2009, they generated $60 billion in revenue, and that figure is expected to rise to over $70 billion by 2015. However, Rehr says publishers are frustrated that they cannot take part in the lucrative used-game resale market. It’s a well-known fact that retailers like GameStop thrive on resales; the company saw a 12 per cent boost in used-videogame sales last year.
Still, despite the success of this business model, Rehr sees the market differently. “When gamers trade-in at stores like GameStop and EB Games, they trade a couple of games plus they have to pay cash [to upgrade to a new title]. We say ‘keep the used games separate from the new games.’”
With Waygoz, users create customized profile lists to let people in their neighbourhood know what games they have, what they want and what they’re willing to trade. In contrast to websites like Facebook that reinforce existing offline friendships, users on Waygoz mostly interact with complete strangers. “Waygoz is one of those breeds of social networks that is really about bringing strangers together with common interests,” he says.
Even with its rising popularity, Waygoz is still in beta mode for a number of reasons. Gamers worldwide can sign up for the site and create a profile, but Rehr says that the “swapping” aspect of the site is currently reserved for Toronto users. “We wanted to test out our technology and make sure that the swapping works well before unleashing it to the world,” he says.
As is the case with most websites that require users to meet up offline, there’s a perceived risk of “stranger danger.” Some users may feel uncomfortable meeting up with people they don’t know, while others might be too lazy to actually go out and trade their games (#speakingfromexperience). To combat this, the site requires users to meet up in public places like Starbucks or Tim Hortons to swap their games. “Because we’re located in Toronto, we can identify users’ needs and concerns,” Rehr says.
Waygoz also recently implemented a Twitter-esque social feature called “The Stream,” where all the conversations happen. Gamers can share videos, pictures and articles.
The site is expected to expand their swapping service across North America in early spring.