When it quietly went online for pre-launch testing early last year, Glyde was a reseller marketplace built with a midwestern, middle-aged book or music lover in mind. Then the gamers found it, and practically took over.
"Even though we weren't really aiming at gamers, one found it somehow, told someone else, and they told even more people," said Simon Rothman, Glyde's founder and CEO. "They've clearly taken over the dynamics, and are buying and selling through us more than anyone else [using the site]."
Glyde, which officially launched to the public Nov. 16, got to this point almost entirely virally, and its appeal is one easily spread by word of mouth. Used games - a commodity that touches sentiments of gamers' rights and empowerment - can sell for more and can be bought for less through Glyde than in retail stores. And the transactions can be executed more conveniently than over eBay, Craigslist or Half.com.
Although Rothman, a seven-year eBay veteran who created eBay Motors, was mostly agnostic about what would be the dominant item sold through Glyde when he started the company three years ago, its model plays straight to gamer preference and against the pet peeves and hassles of selling valuable used games.
For example, listing an item on Half.com first requires a UPC search. On Glyde, just type in the game's name and select its platform. It's then listed forever, unlike auctions that expire on eBay or ads that time out on Craigslist. Sellers get an email when a buyer has been found.
A pricing decision is assisted by a custom algorithm that - speaking very broadly and simply - establishes a real-time market value of the item. Shipping a used game via eBay or Half.com involves having a padded envelope laying around or a trip to buy one, and then a trip to the post office to weigh and stamp it. Glyde sends you the packaging, postage already affixed. Just dump it in and let the mailman pick it up.
And of course, dealing with the GameStops and Game Crazys, there's the resentment of getting $20 - if that - for a $60 game that's only a month old. Finally, if a buyer is unhappy with the item, Glyde provides the means of return and refund - a process that's a lot stickier and depends a lot more on trustworthiness on eBay or Half.
Glyde passes the packaging ($1.25) cost to sellers, and the shipping costs (roughly $3.50) to buyers and takes a 10 percent cut of the sale price. Even with those costs, today a seller would clear $30 for a used, excellent-condition copy of Assassin's Creed II, whereas cash proceeds (not in-store credit) from taking it to GameStop are $12. At GameStop, a used copy of the game currently goes for $49.99; a Glyde buyer can get it, total cost, for roughly $38, with the shipping a variable. While those prices are similar to what the game's pulling on Half.com, Glyde's pitching a convenience service that Half doesn't offer.
The biggest drawback is the time spent waiting for the packaging to arrive. When I got rid of Demon's Souls (for $30.25 net) my email told me to expect this mailer by the end of next week. I'm supposed to drop it in the mail 24 hours after I get it, and then the buyer notifies Glyde that he's got the game and is happy. If Glyde hears nothing, it releases the money to me after a two-day waiting period. Worst case scenario, we're talking about 10 or more days from transaction to getting the game or being paid for it.
Still, Rothman and Glyde are fully aware of how disruptive their business is to GameStop's resale experience, and are going right after it. Price comparisons supplied by Glyde, drawing on market values of Feb. 10, show sellers getting $8 to $20 more than GameStop's cash proceeds on a wide spread of used titles. Meantime, their research shows GameStop resale prices roughly 25 percent higher than what games sell for through Glyde.
"GameStop has over 6,500 stores and 16,000 full-time employees, they have a lot of cost. They have to buy the item really cheap, to cover their expenses, and then sell it high," Rothman said. "In our case, we don't own the item, and we sell it for fair market value, and there's so much cost stripped out of the system that buyers and sellers both make more money."
The tiptoe-footprint Glyde strives for as a middleman is apparent in the site's design, which evokes Google-style minimalist design at every step. (You never scroll down; this is almost certainly deliberate.) Of course, gamers aren't limited to selling those items. They watch DVDs and go to college, too; used books and movies, as well as CDs, are also sold via Glyde. Seller options include sharing one's inventory over Facebook or donating proceeds to charity, adding a social element to the community.
Rothman says gamers have had a strong voice in how the site's design and use have evolved. "They're very engaged and active, and amazingly good customers and members of the community," Rothman said. "They're also very vocal, they tell us what's good, what's bad and exactly what they think.
"We could probably use fewer expletives," Rothman says with a chuckle, "but they're great and we love gamers. Movie enthusiasts and people who read books or listen to music are less animated early on."
Glyde is a privately backed startup, but its business model has attracted serious attention on Wall Street. A Barron's profile at Glyde's launch posited that GameStop could end up getting "Netflixed," the same way Blockbuster's physical business was decimated by a simple online alternative.
But that's for those two to battle out and determine a winner. For gamers, their early business with and input to Glyde has had a strong voice in establishing a resale alternative. That's already a victory for them.