After announcing it months ago, the Gamestop has finally launched their “Retro Classics” game section on their website. For the first time classic games can come to the forefront of game sales instead of sitting on dusty shelves of local shops and in overpriced eBay auctions. But we grow up with these games and talk about them like old friends. For some of us these titles were played at friends houses or with older siblings. These games aren’t just commodities for most of us, like they’re something to be priced and sold so we can afford the newest and latest ‘AAA’ title.
I’m lucky enough to have a variety of video game shops nearby and that means a local market for new and old video games. There are two Gamestops, at least two within a five mile radius, and a few locally owned shops that diversify their stock between modern and older video games. Every system is represented and most of their games, save for maybe a few “rare” titles, are reasonably priced, so I won’t need more than a $20 bill to walk away with a stack of games for my older hardware. Will Gamestop pick up where the market has begun or will they establish a new norm of cheaper, or more expensive prices?
As you might imagine, understanding the pricing of older games is somewhat difficult. Rarity and popularity, supply and demand, are what control the prices for almost any good or service in a free market, video games are their own beast. A game can be easy to find but priced much higher than a rare, but disliked, game. So how exactly is Gamestop going to handle this new, memory laden, market? Let’s find out.
We’re going to go through some of what Gamespot is offering, and for the sake of this piece I’m going to set an arbitrary amount of $20 for our “expensive” section. Why $20? Because that’s the price modern games bottom out at. Right now on Amazon you can spend less than $20 and buy Call of Duty: Ghosts, Titanfall, or LEGO Marvel Superheroes on current generation hardware. Keep in mind a lot of these older titles could be, and in the case of all these Rare games will be, available on modern consoles at much lower prices. Also keep in mind Gamestop’s retro selection is pretty small considering most of these systems boasted huge game catalogs, but small doesn’t mean poor, so we’re not going to worry much about the size of the libraries.
The selection for all these systems is pretty low considering most of them boasted huge game catalogs. Low doesn’t mean poor however. The NES starts at $6.99 for titles like Tetris, Yoshi’s Cookie, and Marble Madness and continues up from there. As we move up the price scale none of the games seem like overpriced stand outs. You can pay $12.99 for Simon’s Quest and Bart vs. The Space Mutants, which are both considered to be poor entries into their franchises but are classics nonetheless. North of the mythical $20 mark we start spotting more name recognizable titles and certainly not titles you’d see everyday in a used game store. Metroid, Final Fantasy, and Castlevania all sit at $24.99, but the real terror begins at the high end of the list. Mega Man 2 is for sale at$34.99 (about $30-$35 on ebay), Mega Man 4 is $39.99 ($20-$40 on ebay), and Mega Man 6 is $44.99 ($45-$50 on ebay). Overall these prices aren’t outrageous, but you aren’t saving money by going to Gamestop.
SNES games also start $6.99 but quickly spring up from there. At the $12.99 mark is when you see more meaningful titles like Paperboy 2, NBA Jam, and Mortal Kombat 3. What some would consider the rarer, or usually more expensive titles, for the SNES are somewhat cheap. Donkey Kong Country 3 is the same price as its two predecessors at $24.99. Then again titles like Turtles in Time are $49.99 and Chrono Trigger comes in at $89.99, which is more than what they’re selling the SNES console for ($59.99). The SNES is in that perfect nostalgia wheelhouse for so many of us, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that prices would be set so high. Gamestop isn’t doing any of our fond memories any favors however and it’s a shame to see more recent titles set at an average higher price.
A lot of classics are sitting below our magic price for the N64. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, Rogue Squadron, Blast Corps, and Turok all sit at $9.99. Even what I would assume to be sought after titles, but that are also relatively common, are pretty cheap. Mario Golf, Pokemon Snap, and WWF No Mercy are at $14.99. It isn’t until you go past $20 that things get a little crazy. Banjo Kazooie is set at $24.99 and it’s less owned sequel is at $29.99. Mario Party 1 and 2 are $44.99 which is insane considering those are crap games but yet, somehow, Mario Party 3 is $49.99 and currently sold out online. Games that are insanely popular, but not all that rare, like Super Smash Bros. ($30-$45 on ebay) and Majora’s Mask ($20-$90 on ebay) are $49.99 and for some reason people love Conker’s Bad Fur Day, which is $79.99. Again, like the SNES, we see a lot of beloved titles but we deal with fewer supply issues since the N64 was specifically targeted for the US with most of these games. Harvest Moon might be expensive but does Smash and Majora’s need to be so pricey?
Straddling the east/west divide in video games it shouldn’t come as a shock that some PSX titles are expensive. Japan still didn’t completely understand the Western appetite for games so more complicated strategy or RPG games were never released over here. Tales of Destiny and Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena are priced at $79.99 each and Tales of Destiny 2 and Suidoken 2 are both $89.99 each. While the remainder of the list does have some strange prices (stop paying so much for Digimon World 3!) it’s more respectable and makes more sense than the Nintendo consoles did. The Japanese import scene of older games may actually benefit from the stability in pricing that Gamestop brings.
When it comes to Sega consoles I am no expert. Looking over their prices they are almost all below our predetermined $20 and the only the few games that do are notorious for being difficult to find. Castlevania Bloodlines ($30-$80 on ebay) sits at a relatively low $39.99 and TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist ($60-$120 on ebay) is selling for a cheap $49.99. Like the PSX, the Genesis, despite being as old as the SNES, is priced somewhat reasonably. There is less of a selection, about half, when compared to the other systems which may explain why so many of these titles are cheap. The Genesis doesn’t have the library the SNES does and I wonder if all Gamestop could find were more common, more popular titles to sell.
The Dreamcast is it’s own strange market. Released in 1998 and already dying by ’99 the Dreamcast didn’t have a full cycle to build a complex and full library. Just like the Genesis the selection is about half of the others and Gamestop offers both cheap titles like Ecco The Dolphin and Virtua Tennis for $6.99 and Power Stone 2 at $69.99 and Cannon Spike for $79.99. And of course the beloved Shenmue is at a really cheap $29.99. It’s a shame to see such a small market get priced so wildly, but it’s hard to blame Gamestop since out of all these retro consoles I’d imagine the Dreamcast has the lowest inventory.
A few years ago I went shopping, with a roommate, for an arcade cabinet. We wanted to Frankenstein an older cheaper cabinet into a Mame one and always have our arcade favorites at our beck and call. While searching we found dozens of cabinets for sale but none with a worthwhile price. Since arcade cabinets, and now classic video game cartridges, are a relatively small market sellers could gouge buyers who weren’t wise to the realities of the market. In other words a Ms. Pac-Man cabinet was usually sold for $1300 online but in reality was maybe worth half that price in really good condition. Sellers knew buyers assumed prices would be high and thus sold their wares for high prices. The unsuspecting consumer would never know.
I have a feeling Gamestop is cashing in on the same scam. Without true knowledge of the rarity status for games like Shenmue, Smash Bros., or Contra 2 we cannot accurately place a price on them. Ebay and second hand gaming shops were our best best as a community but now a real, international, business is in the market. Gamestop can accrue inventory, set prices, and claim the market is being reflected accurately. Unfortunately for the local stores they won’t be able to compete. Since they can’t sell you a spare copy of Mario Party 3 from another store online they’re restricted by local inventory. Gamestop is about to establish what our memories and favorite games are worth and that sounds scary to me. Treating these titles like graphs on a computer screen whose prices can rise and fall based on the whims of a market seems underhanded. Don’t dive into a market so drenched with nostalgia and try to sell us a $1300 arcade cabinet just because you know some of us will buy it.