If hell is administrated by game publishing executives, I'm sure they're saving especially hot seats for the folks who founded Waygoz, a clever new in-person, peer-to-peer game trading service that just started a beta program in downtown Toronto.
Here's how it works:
Sign up (it's free) and provide a few personal details, such as your postal code and how far you're willing to travel to trade a game. Then begin developing a list of the games you have and are willing to trade – including information on the condition of the disc and whether it comes with a case – followed by a list of games you'd like to trade for.
Now you can begin looking for local swap opportunities. The site can hook you up with local traders by automatically matching up "haves" with "wants," or you can search manually. When you find a trade, just set up a place to meet – Waygoz provides a list of public locations, like a nearby Starbucks or McDonald's – and exchange games. Rate the experience, close the trade, and you're done.
I can imagine an especially gifted barterer never spending money on software again. Instead, he or she would engage in an ongoing series of crafty trades with fellow gamers for the latest and most coveted games, play them quickly, and then trade again before they lose their value.
See why game publishers will hate it?
This potentially money-saving concept will surely appeal to some avid gamers, but it's not without obstacles.
For starters, setting up meetings between strangers – some of whom will almost certainly be kids – sounds like a recipe for disaster. Users can only set up trades in public spaces, and the community is designed to let people know which users other traders have vouched for. Still, web sites that bring strangers together in the real world have a history of generating headline-worthy calamities.
Second, I can't help but wonder how the site will make money. As already noted, it's hard to imagine any game publishers being particularly happy that Waygoz even exists, which counts them out as potential advertisers (though they might be interested in accessing the user data Waygoz collects).
That means Waygoz will likely need to find a way to collect money from its traders. In a brief chat with Waygoz Product Manager Josh Kerbel I was told that the primary trading service will always remain free, though the company may eventually begin offering features "above and beyond the basic service."
Maybe some kind of low-cost trade-by-mail service is in the works. Perhaps Waygoz will offer to guarantee the condition of games traded with a subscription. Or maybe they'll begin to buy and sell games on the site, offering instant satisfaction to those who get fed up waiting for a suitable swap.
For now, Waygoz's priority is to build up a concentration of users in specific geographical locations so that it's easy for traders to find and set up swaps. To that end, the site is offering a brand new copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 free to registered users who get a bunch of their friends to join the service and carry out a few swaps with different people.
Gamers who want to save a little cash while sticking it to game industry suits can sign up now. The site went live at the end of October.