While many of us were in lockdown we had to find new hobbies to pass the time. For some they learned new skills, others watched movies or shows they wouldn’t have watched otherwise, and some dug out their old video game consoles. People who completely forgot about their old retro systems suddenly fell back in love with them again. While that is something to be celebrated, it also is the reason this is being written. While the pandemic was in full swing, people started scouring eBay to buy older games. They wanted to play that one game from their youth because now they had nothing BUT time. Some even found how fun the hobby is and started collecting in earnest. While the retro community was growing, there was something else lurking in the shadows. As the vaccines rolled out and stores started opening up again long time retro fans noticed something. The prices of retro games were going up, with no sign of coming down.
There are many different reasons as to why retro video games started to go up in price. Sellers upping the price because more people are buying, the news about WATA selling games in the millions, and streamers/YouTubers talking about a certain game and why you should play it. There are so many variables to this that this subject can be simple like a high school economics class or as difficult as a grad school lecture. While retro gaming is enjoying a newfound resurgence, there is one thing us gamers and collectors need to be wary of. Prices are going up, and there are many who would love to take advantage of us. At the time of this writing, retro game conventions like Too Many Games and Retropalooza already occurred in both the East Coast and Texas. While scrolling through my twitter feed I saw tweets from attendees and there was 1 thing most were complaining about. The bonkers prices for certain retro games. Attendees from these conventions were posting pictures on how much games were and conversations were happening on Twitter. Hobbyists were upset on how these games have become so expensive and how it may deter newcomers. Others were mad on how some people buying these games are seeing it as an investment and are waiting to sell it off later. While I can’t speak for collectors/investors, I know what kind of collector I am. I collect to play my games. If a game is super expensive then either I’ll wait and hope the price drops, or I’ll save up. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky like I did recently with a Mega Man game.
Now even with tools like Pricecharting and GameValueNow, you still don’t know if people are just inflating the price. Especially with WATA being a buzzword that has definitely gotten some collectors on edge. Case in point, I recently bought a copy of MegaMan Star Force 2: Zerker X Saurian for the Nintendo DS at GameStop. The game was in the original case and it had the manual. Granted 1 insert was missing (the Nintendo DS safety one) but since the manual was there and for sake of argument, I consider this CIB. I paid $14.99 for it and when I bought it, Pricecharting had a loose copy of the game averaging $72 and CIB for $98. So one of 2 things is happening here. Either people on eBay are overcharging and inflating this game’s price, or I truly got a steal at a GameStop and they royally messed up. I told some friends about it and they told me what I payed for at GameStop is what the game is really worth. Yet continuing to look at eBay and OfferUp the price for this game is still high. So I even don’t know what to believe. Even though I bought this at a chain store who knows what this game is actually worth. I don’t plan to sell it (Mega Man is one of my favorite franchises) and truthfully I still feel I paid a good price for the game. It just means when I go into the secondhand market I have to be über careful.
As great as they are, dedicated game stores and collector shows can have dodgy sellers. I was visiting my favorite collectible show and saw a vendor selling the new Legend of Zelda Game & Watch. However, the vendor was selling it (brand new/sealed) for $100 and had a sticky note saying “SOLD OUT SYSTEM”. This made me rub my head a bit, because earlier that week I went to GameStop (same one I got Mega Man at) to pre-order my copy of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and walked out with the Game & Watch at retail price. Retail price if you didn’t know is $50. Whats more is before I left my house, I checked to see if my local Target had some in stock. They did and it was serendipity that GameStop also had some in stock. The system was just released too, so maybe when the vendor got his they were sold out and I got lucky with a new shipment that just came in. Either way, why would this seller claim that the system is sold out everywhere, when I can just go to Target and buy 5 of them? I understand the vendor may need to charge a little extra for overhead, but double the MSRP is pretty shady.
You may recall a pair of articles I wrote in the beginning of 2020 on starting a new video game collection on the cheap (you can see part 1 here and part 2 here). The more time that’s past the stronger the urge to properly update them. Sure there are some good tips in there, but they were written pre-pandemic. Console prices have gone up and some are harder to get than ever before. Pre-pandemic finding a Wii U was easy as can be. Now it’s one of the most sought after systems. According to Pricecharting back in September of 2018, a loose console (black 32 GB model) would cost you about $62. Now a loos one is about $150. Prices fluctuate, which means for us collectors and gamers we need to constantly be researching. Making sure a game is worth it or setting a limit on how much you’re willing to spend are good ways to start. I hope to the pixel gods above me that game prices go down again, but if they don’t, that’s just something myself and millions of other game collectors have to deal with. The world is opening up and things are slowly getting better, but we must be ready for the changes that follow.