The rage of retro gaming prices

James Matson examines what it is about high retro game and hardware prices that make us all so FREAKIN’ ANGRY, and asks – is the rage really worth it?

Everyone has something that gets them Defcon 1 pissed off.

For Republicans, it’s rational arguments.

For Eddie Murphy circa 1987, it’s when you flush that toilet and one chunk come back.

For retro gamers, it’s the ever upward march of prices for games and hardware. That gets us crazy incensed.  We’re talking kid that didn’t get his apple pie at Burger King mad.  So what is it about stuff costing X dollars that makes us so dirty filthy angry? Let’s look at the three headliners, shall we?

You know better

When you see that guy on <Insert Your Local Area Here> Facebook Buy & Sell group posting a ratty, scuffed Super Nintendo with one mangled controller and a copy of Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing (cart only) for $250, your blood boils. Why? Because you know better. You’ve been a collector for a while and you’ve learned how to provide an approximate and balanced valuation at a glance. Time and time again you see overvalued games and systems clutter up Facebook, Gumtree and eBay feeds. In a way it’s an affront to the hobby you hold so dear to see arbitrary, inflated values placed on nearly anything that bears a Nintendo or Sega logo. More than just the price, the descriptions are far fetched too.  RARE is plastered across the description of just about everything. Original Gameboy handheld RARE! (there were 118 million sold), Zelda Majora’s Mask for the Nintendo 64 RARE! (there were over 300,000 copies sold in the first week alone).


You know what’s rare? Painite. That’s what. First discovered in the 1950s, by 2005 there will still fewer than 25 known specimens of the gemstone found worldwide.  So unless your copy of Mega Man X is stuffed to the brim with Painite, get the hell out of here.


It’s hard seeing people conned

Generally we’d like to think the retro community on the whole are good people. Like any group of like-minded people, we tend to hope that if we share a hobby, we also share as set of values and morals associated with that hobby. For instance, “don’t rip people off”. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth. Opportunistic sellers will and do charge crazy prices for rubbish games and crappy consoles and they’ll find ignorant buyers willing to sink their hard earned cash without a second thought. That’s hard for us to see, and many of us want to step in. Some of us do, and chaos usually ensues. Lots of angry words back and forth and eventually if things escalate enough, someone’s head always ends up being put through the tacky LCD of a poorly built MAME cab. Every time.


It denies us our pretties 

Perhaps a more selfish reason than most, we get angry about overpriced retro games and consoles that we really, really want. Drawing from personal experience here, it has taken me years to put together a half decent Nintendo Game & Watch collection. Now don’t get me wrong, Game & Watch units are highly collectible and in many ways deserve a reasonable price tag, but when you’re hunting around for ‘Fire’ and eBay fiends are charging $300 for a loose unit you begin to lose hope. It has taken careful planning, opportunistic hunting and immense patience to build the Game & Watch collection I have. For many people, the story is similar. Prevented from having a ‘fair crack’ at the consoles and games they so sorely want thanks to an inflated market, many lament for what they see as the future of a viable hobby.


The conclusion? 


It all sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? A tale of greed, denial and con artists. It’s not all bad though, and to be perfectly honest we don’t think it’s worth getting too berserk about. Why? Well, a few reasons really, starting with the fact that the continual rise of retro game prices is unsustainable. It may not happen tomorrow, or the next day, but eventually prices are going to level out, and probably start to fall. As more and more people become content with their collections and begin to buy less, sellers will find fewer and fewer avenues to sell the goods they’ve been raking up from op shops and garage sales. As the buyers dry up, the sellers will probably start to dump games and consoles – at least the more common stuff – onto the market with reckless abandon.



The other thing to consider is that sometimes having a reasonably priced Atari XEGS or Vectrex be the exception and not the rule, makes the acquisition all the sweeter.  Is the tale you tell your friends about the day you found Terranigma at a garage sale for $5 not made that much more epic for the fact that it’s street value is anywhere from $100 – $200? The point is, that sometimes to make the hunt for retro games the thrill that it is, you need the almost out of reach expense of items in order to drive you to creative avenues to find your games, to form close friendships with collectors you can trust and trade with, and ultimately to add to the dynamic of the hobby itself.

Although, in saying all that, we’d sure like it if we could grab a copy of Great Giana Sisters on the C64 for a tenner.