Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Ruining Retro

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 1:55 AM

Ruining Retro

I was checking out some stuff on ebay the other day, as I like to collect JRPGs for some reason, and started to notice the strange one or two ebay listings that would have something you could probably buy for 20 bucks, and that listing is selling for something like 1200. For example, say  you want a used Digital Devil Saga on the PS2, part of the Shin Megami Tensei series of games. You can buy that new on Amazon for, oh I don’t know, 30 bucks. Yet there it is on ebay, used mind you, for 250?

VGA grade. You see those on ebay a lot, and they’re always hundreds to thousands of dollars for a video game.

A videogame.

You you play. Also, if you like this art, check out Zac Gorman's other brilliant stuff where he captures the nostalgia of gaming. Nostalgia being a big factor as to why people collect games to begin with.

As a fan of gaming, and a collector of a pretty niche element of that gaming (collecting being niche already), let me say this: no video game is worth money. Now I can see some super rare thing that is hard to get, at most, being a hundred bucks or something. Hell, games today are upwards of 60 to 70 so that uptick isn’t unheard of. But in terms of something that’s valuable? No. Nothing. Nada. Like the collectors market that ruined comics in the 90s, the same thing is happening to video games.

The thing is, it’s not the collectors that are ruining it. The collectors just want to collect. It’s something that drives them to want a complete Mega Man set of games or all the Sega Genesis and Turbographic 16 libraries or something. They’re not going to buy it, then turn around and sell it. They’ll likely play it then put it on a shelf. That’s what a collector does, and they have no control over their own thing. In other words, what is “valuable” or even “rare” isn’t determined by them, it’s determined by the ones that will eventually make the bottom of the whole collectors market fall out.

The people that are ruining the fun for everyone are three types:

1) The Resellers. These people aren’t in it for collectors, they’re trying to exploit the fact that people want to buy retro games. They go out and buy the games that normally a collector would love to find, they have the money to buy in bulk on top of that, then turn around and resell it at their stores or, usually, ebay. They often slap a high price on it, higher than what they paid for it - not what it’s actually worth - and that price infects the entire pool of that one game. They decide what’s rare, what’s valuable and why you should have it. Not collectors or people who actually would appreciate the game to begin with.

You might think they're going by Demand, but if that were the case then why do so many pricey games go unsold at auction sites?

For example, Lufia II. Lufia II goes for about 150 to 200 bucks on Ebay if you want the full game and box and whatnot. Yet, there are a ton of Lufia IIs on Ebay. It’s not that rare of a game, I see it all the time, yet it’s over a hundred bucks because some guy at some put it out there at a high price and all followed suit, then nobody buys it and they just put it up again. Six years ago, you could buy the game for 40 - 50 bucks. Pretty reasonable.

Now? Well now you see what happens when resellers keep buying and turning it around, buying and turning it around, and buying an turning it around again. The game isn’t becoming more “valuable” it’s being held hostage from guys who are just wanting to resell it (and God help collectors if the resellers go through the VGA, #2 on this list). The resellers are in it for money, nothing else. Instead of those old games at the flea market or swap meet, where things are cheap and being bought by someone who actually wants them, they go to these scumbags - and all other people who own stores and have ebay shops have to follow suit because they have no choice. Then the cycle has begun for that particular game - some guy looking to sell off some old stuff finds some games, where does he go to check prices? Ebay. “Oh, they’re selling this for 200 bucks? Guess I better put it up for 200 bucks then.”  

A reseller will buy it, put it up for 250 and the price just keeps going up and up. It’s an endless cycle that began because someone, at some point, with no qualifications really, determined that Game A is more valuable than Game B for some reason.

Outside of the rare stuff, like a Nintendo World Championship where only a dozen were made, there’s no reason why a video game should cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. There’s no inherent value except to the collectors, who don’t give a shit how much it’s worth to begin with.

2) The Video Game Authority. The scam of scams. Who runs it? What are their qualifications? What do the numbers even mean? Who determines what is worth anything? Nobody knows, but they will take your money to “grade” your game anyways because lord knows you can’t ask questions.  This is someone, or a few people, trying to “legitimize” those ridiculous prices. How? By charging money, because once you start making a hobby a business, that’s when it has value, right?

There's a discrepency between the sellers and the buyers. The sellers want to say these things are worth money, but the buyers are just buying to collect, not because it's worth anything.

For a detailed look at how it’s a scam, you can watch this video from GameRave TV. It’s long, but it details it. People send them stuff, they “evaluate” it and lock it in a box, send it back and give it a number that nobody knows what it means as they poorly try to emulate the comic grading system. The problem is, the Comic Book Grading system is done by consensus from various sources. The VGA is just themselves. Comics, often, aren’t even that valuable to begin with - the difference being historical or significant ones and usually from fifty or so years ago. But the way VGA grades their games, you’d think damn near everything is rare and worth hundreds of dollars. I would have to assume they base their “pricing” and “value” based on what resellers are selling it for, not that the game actually has some sort of significance.

The VGA just slaps some value on it, from where they get it nobody knows, and then people will try to resell that valuable item on ebay, and like above that cycles out of control. You would think that someone looking and seeing a game they can buy used or maybe find at a flea market, or even new, for maybe 60 bucks suddenly priced at 3k, they wouldn’t dare do it. But the fact is, sometimes those games still sell which makes the price SKYROCKET even further.

If Ness and his friends represent the gamer and collector, the Starman is the reseller growing stronger thanks to the VGA and other people only in it for the money.

3) The Suckers. The people that fall for stuff like the VGA thing or willingly give hundreds of dollars to a reseller for one game because, supposedly, that game is valuable because of…well they’re usually say “it’s in amazing condition” or “it’s rare” which is hard to know what either of those mean when there’s no centralized way of knowing either element. The people that send in a game to VGA, pay them money, and then have their game sealed up in a box they aren’t allowed to open which kind of negate even owning it. Even worse are the other suckers that actually buy that “graded” game on ebay for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Plus, thanks to resellers listing everything as “RARE WOW!” as a selling buzzword - there’s no way to know anything.

Stuff like how “valuable” something is means the least to the people that want it the most. That’s what’s sad. Gamers and retro collectors couldn’t care less about how much a game is worth, they just don’t want to pay an astronomical fee to buy it. But, as mentioned, they don’t make that decision. They just have to ride the wave because once some guys ten or so years ago looked at the potential of siphoning money from game collecting, in other words turning it in to a “business” rather than something fun for people to do, it ruined it for everyone, and it will still continue to ruin it for years to come. Those games aren’t going to gain in value, but their prices will keep increasing.

There are two "values" - one the dollar, the other the possession. Collectors only care about the latter. Plus there's no centralized system to evaluate videogames to begin with. Just ebay, word of mouth and people looking for a buck.

Here’s an analogy. You have eight quarters in your pocket. Four of them are from 1990, two are from 1985, two more are from 1995 and one is from 1980. You look down and say “wow, I only have this one from 1980, the others are kind of common. Then you try to sell that 1980 quarter for a dollar because, to you, it’s the rarest. The thing is…it’s still only worth 25 cents. Doesn’t matter how uncommon it is, it doesn’t matter when it was made. You don’t have the authority (pun intended) to determine the value, but you do it anyways and you’ll sell it to some guy who doesn’t know any better.

Like comics and cards in the 1990s, once it was determined one can “make more money” out of it, and exploit the collectors market, the video game market and retro game collecting will implode and devour itself. It’ll turn away people who would otherwise be interested, it would make those that are currently interested, like myself, just shake their heads and leave it entirely and all those resellers will still be trying to hock NES Ninja Turtles, a game you can buy for a buck in some places, for 2500 bucks. It’s sealed in a box, which means you can’t play it either. Hooray! 

Pssst….you can buy the game for around 15 bucks, or 30 if you want the box and stuff…the exact same thing the VGA thing is selling it for. Why is the VGA one worth more? Nobody knows, but either way you don't get that free pizza.

People collect anything because it means something to them. For me, I like to own those old games because I have memories associated with them and I grew up with them. That’s why any nostalgic stuff is collected: from action figures to cabbage patch dolls, comic books to Hummel figurines. I used to know a little old lady that collected statues of clowns. No reason in particular…she just liked them. And that’s why people collect stuff - they just like to and there’s something in their brain that sparks and makes them happy as a result.

Now I could be mistaken here. I'm sure some games do have that demand that justifies paying a few hundred to get because that is simultaneously what drives collecting to begin with. You have things that are in more demand than other things. But the problem is the exploitative factor of it, it mutates from a fun hobby in to a business, and that's when all the fun is taken out.

Businesses don't thrive off of fandom, they leech off of it. One look at the film studios trying to sell us our childhoods again is proof of that. Video game collecting came up at the right time that the internet began to shill and market and sell everything under the sun, and you’re seeing the result. To the people that collect, it’s a hobby, like painting model cars or buying beanie babies. The value means nothing to them in the long run. But then you have the other side that says “this is valuable” and trying to make a buck by exploiting that open door, and it’s them that will cause the downfall of it all.


You probably noticed all the nifty art in this blog post. That's to show that the community for retro gaming is incredibly strong, and people are passionate about it. Here's a few of them:

Top banner is from Ry-Spirit at DeviantART

The second and last are from Zac Gormon's wonderful website. (PS, I've bought two prints from him).

The Eartbound painting is by Francisco Perez and you can see his stuff at DeviantART as well.

The image on the home page is done by an artist named R Smith, unfortunatly I couldn't find where it originated from.

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