In recent months news stories have circulated all over the internet on old retro games being sold for millions upon millions of dollars. I first found out about this when news broke that a sealed Super Mario 64 game sold for over 1.5 million. The news struck me as insane and I wondered who in their right mind would buy a game for such a large sum. Sure it was “graded” and sealed, but Super Mario 64 was a mass produced game. It’s not a hard game to get your hands on like Clayfighters: Sculptors Cut. At the time I didn’t really look into it. I just go on with my day with the headline going in my head and thinking how bonkers it was. Then I started noticing more people on Twitter getting concerned. More graded, mass produced games were making headlines and selling for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Then, the video came out and I am now very worried as to what the future holds for this beloved hobby of mine.
The video I’m talking about is from YouTuber Karl Jobst who posted this video on August 23rd, 2021. It is a claim that video game grading company, Wata Games, and Heritage Auctions have been artificially inflating the price of graded retro video games. The video is about a hour long and the evidence Jobst gives certainly puts Wata Games and Heritage Auctions in a villainous role. Kotaku also published a piece on the video recently which included some statements from Wata and the PR company they hired to help with the situation. You can read that article right here.
Now this piece isn’t me defending Wata or wanting to debunk Mr. Jobst. This is about the subject matter of how these mass produced games are being sold for huge sums of money and that scares me. I’ve written pieces for this website on how retro gamers can save money and pinch pennies when needed (which you can read part 1 and part 2 right here). The fact of the matter is that this hobby can be expensive, especially when certain games are involved. Yet when news hits that a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. is going for millions its going to put ideas in peoples heads. Sellers are going to start charging way more for games that are easy to get and should be super cheap. Looking at Pricecharting.com, there was a spike in how much the average sealed Super Mario Bros. cost. In June of 2020, you could get a sealed/brand new copy of the game for around $200. Ever since November of that year the price skyrocketed and peaked to $900 in May of this year. Same thing with Super Mario 64, only that a new price has jumped to over $6,000 dollars in the recent months. A loose cart is will still only cost you around $25 or less, but the price of a sealed copy is just outrageous.
So what does this mean for us collectors and gamers? I’m no economist but what my gut is telling me is that it’s going to get harder for budding collectors to get a sealed or CIB copy of games that should be easy to get. Sellers are going to see the headlines of games selling for millions, and the price for those games are going to become insane. You can already see it happening on eBay for Mario 64. The most outlandish listing I saw was for a Not For Resale copy of the game. The seller wants $10,000 US for just the cartridge that says “NOT FOR RESALE” on it. Pricecharting.com has that version of the game averaging around $50. I would love some CIB/sealed NES classics, but I’m not going to pay extra just because the game is in a special case. I also intend to play what I buy, so if I snag a sealed copy of a game I want I’ll most likely (and have) open the game up. The only system I would buy for that I don’t currently own is the Atari 2600 only because I want certain games to preserve them. It did cross my mind to get those games graded, however now I’m reconsidering and might just get a protective case. Especially since if I did get the carts graded I would have to pay more money for them to look it over.
Retro gaming collectors and enthusiasts aren’t happy with the state of affairs either. I ran a poll on my Twitter about this and with 71 people voting over 83% said that they would not grade their games. Comments continued about how grading games isn’t for them and how you can’t really play them. The consensus was that graded games are good for preservation, but since those who normally get games graded are those trying to turn a profit. Many retro game collectors I follow on the platform have vowed to buy games from other collectors or sellers who care about the medium. There will always be some sellers who don’t care much about the games, only the profits they could make. While others may fall for their schemes, those who are a part of the retro community are standing strong and not supporting this practice. Only time will tell if prices go up again or not so until we know for sure let us hope for the best, but expect the worst.