How It Started
The video-game market has had many shifts in the last 30 years, such as Atari ruling the arcades in the 80’s to personal computers ruling gaming in the 2010’s. Those who have watched the video game market notice a trend that has been going on for the last 10 years: Nintendo products all the way up to the Gamecube have swelled up in price tremendously.
People have decided that it’s normal to charge 30$ for a dirty cartridge (no box or manual) copy of Super Mario World. A game that has so many copies out in circulation that it contends with games like Pac Man in the amount of copies out there. This has been caused by the increase in demand by people being influenced by video game reviewers and resellers cornering the market on retro Nintendo games.
One of the first video game reviewers to jump up prices is Mr. James Rolfe, who plays the angry video nerd. He’s not fully culpable of this but he was the catalyst. Mr. Rolfe would review games with an angry persona mocking their flaws. Almost every online video game reviewer was inspired by his character “The Angry Video-game Nerd”.
People realized that games from the past can be just as fun. This phenomena started in the mid 2000’s but didn’t really hit mass peak until 2010+. People were being influenced to collect older games but the prices didn’t thunder up until resellers started to flood the market.
Ebay Prices Are Based On Fantasy
Almost every game reseller prices on “ebay”. This would make logical sense if ebay prices were based on objectivity. You could list a plain jane 30gram gold nugget for 30 million USD. This wouldn’t cause the price of gold to skyrocket to 1 million USD per gram. Yet for retro videogames this is sadly the case.
Hypothetical “video game x” is worth 4 USD. A reseller buys it for about 3 USD. He knows he can jump up the price by buying the remaining cheap copies on Ebay and up the price of his listing. The seller top bills his “video game X” for 30 dollars when the actual price is much lower. This sets off a domino effect where people who sell games see that price and base it of 30 dollars. This leads to all outlets labeling the game for around 30 dollars. A simple market move manipulated the perceived value of this game by 750%.
I could list hypotheticals all day. I picked 10 games that were popular on the SNES. These weren’t super rare games or prototypes. These were common AAA games of the time. I decided to compare the cheapest Amazon games which were most likely not mint condition quality to a Funcoland list published in 1998. Funcoland and Amazon would have the same type of quality control on the cartridges. They wouldn’t be fresh in the box nor would they most likely be in mint condition. This allows a level playing field in comparing prices.
|SNES Title||1998 price||2014 inflation translation||Amazon Used Game Price(Cheapest w. Shipping)|
|Super Mario World||$4.99||$7.29||~$20.47|
|Tecmo Super Bowl||$4.99||$7.29||~$11.48|
|Mega Man X||$9.99||$14.59||~$31.98|
|Ninja Gaiden Trilogy||$34.99||$51.08||~$165.00|
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4||$6.99||$10.20||~$58.00|
|Star Fox 1||$6.99||$10.20||~$16.95|
Almost all the games bounced over the inflation translation besides Shaq Fu. The real losers of retro video game speculation were those who weren’t able to afford new SNES games 20 years ago, the kids who were lucky to get one game a year and wanted more. Those kids are grown now and some of them even have decent jobs.
Yet, these game prices are so high that most go to piracy. A moral few buy the limited retro console ports but not all games have that privilege. Many great games are in legal limbo and can’t ever be re-released. It’s sad that if you want to enjoy games from the past, you have to hope that game resellers and online video-game critics don’t find what you love.
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