Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 16, 2017

Email: Retro game prices going up, yet Game Industry ditching physical a.s.a.p

Master Malstrom,

You’ve made some recent comments about Switch being “the last stand” against The Game Industry’s push to digital. I’m curious to hear more from you on the retro-game market in light of what’s happening with the Switch. Prices seem to be going up exponentially for any of the old stuff nowadays, and I wonder if it’s the same undercurrent driving the Switch success: people just wanna play good games without all the b.s., and they’re happy to pay for it to own it.

You’ve done a lot of collecting yourself and have even dropped hints about “knowing the next big system to collect for”, so I know the topic is on your mind. You’ve pointed out — during your Turbografix 16 collecting posts a while back — that physical copies keep going up up up. I’ve gotten a few co-workers into collecting over the last year simply by pointing out “look, you’re not going to be able to find this stuff at garage sales for much longer. Get it now if you want it”. We’ve all observed prices going up in our systems of choice. Games we plucked a year ago at $5 and $10 a piece are now $20 and $30. Shmups, for instance, are not cheap anymore. Several years ago an easy way to build up an excellent-but-inexpensive Saturn shmup collection was to import. You’d still have some expensive ones but you could get a lot of the desirable stuff for pretty cheap. Not anymore. That Salamander Deluxe collection you linked several posts ago? I imported it for $20 in late 2013. Now? Goes for $60 or more. Dirt-cheap genres like Competitive puzzle games are going up in price, strangely. Magical Drop, Puyo Puyo (prices about to go up with PPT coming to Switch…), and Puzzle Fighter are going up. The DS is currently a diamond mine for niche, dirt-cheap puzzle games that were ignored at launch.

I’ve seen more bootlegs and “repros” on the market in the past 2 years. The crazy thing is that some of the repros out there are also going up in price along with the “real copies”, even though customers know they’re not original. To be fair, they’re still cheaper than the real copy. It really demonstrates that people still want to own it physical, even if it’s not a genuine copy. Isn’t that crazy? People buy a bootleg, knowing it’s fake, instead of download a rom and playing it on a laptop keyboard (or whatever). I have a friend who collects arcade hardware. Neo Geo cabs, Blast City cabs, CPS-1, CPS-2, Naomi, Atomiswave, etc. Self-repair and bootlegging are a way of life in that scene, apparently. He has learned how to flash blank ROM chips. You can get them dirt-cheap from China, flash them with Neo Geo or CPS-1 or whatever ROMs, and put them on existing boards. Although it’s sometimes used to create a bootleg, it’s also necessary to maintain some of that old hardware and a lot of collectors are learning how to maintain the hardware themselves since it’s becoming scarcer. If your copy of Twinkle Star Sprites breaks, it’s simply too expensive to run out and grab another copy, if you can even find another copy. That same friend has told me arcade stuff is stupid to try to collect now. It’s more expensive than many people can afford. He’s glad that he got his collection years ago. Arcade boards that were $60-70 when he bought them are now going for $200-300, easy, and he’s sold off a handful of lesser-desirable games like that in order to fund other parts of his collection.

I read an article a few months back about how vinyl record sales just surpassed digital in 2016. What? Part of me couldn’t believe it. I read another article today about print book sales in 2016 being 3% higher than 2015, and that’s the third year in a row. People apparently like physical stuff, much to the amazement of all the pundits claiming digital games, digital music, etc would wipe physical off the face of the earth. But you won’t read any such business analysis in The Game Industry, no. Only thing you’re likely to hear is about how well Steam’s digital market is doing. It’s weird how there’s so little talk about customer still buying physical in the modern age. If some customers prefer that medium, doesn’t that seem like valuable market data that these supposedly-business-minded Game Industry folks would want to know? You’d think the “journalists” would ask themselves why console gamers overwhelmingly prefer to buy their games from a store. It doesn’t fit their paradigm of a digital future, so you’d think they’d at least be curious why the facts aren’t adding up.

Sorry for rambling, but this all circles back to the Switch. I think the cartridges really do resonate with people. I’d pay through the nose for physical copies of Blazing Star and other Neo Geo ports. I’d much rather pay Nintendo $50 for a solid port with some modern conveniences. Industry journalists would screech “overpriced!” but in my mind I’m getting a deal. That game goes for $100+ and needs to be played on outdated hardware. $50 would be a bargain. Game journalists are so stupid! Gimme collections. Gimme compilations and “Best of…” cartridges. Namco Museum will be my first chance to play Galaga ’88 and I’m really geeked for that. For people like me who collect to play, not collect to collect, I’m more than happy buying a physical release of a game if it’s a good port. A lot of these older gems are too expensive for an average person to own. It’s kinda sad, like seeing a movie or hearing a song as a kid and then growing up and literally being unable to get that media without tracking down decades-old copies. That’s what it’s like for gamers who grew up with arcades and early cartridge-based consoles. Why doesn’t Nintendo (and anyone else, really) want to capitalize on that market? If a friggin’ fake bootleg being sold as a fake bootleg can still go up in price by 200% over the course of a year, then it stands to reason that an officially manufactured product would also sell, right? Nintendo proved this when they released the NES Mini. It just boggles me how Nintendo can’t see this market staring them in the face. Does this go back to Nintendo being afraid to compete with their old products, something you’ve brought up before? Since I’m straddling both sides of the fence currently — buying retro games while also buying physical games on modern systems — it just puzzles me how there isn’t a much bigger push to porting old games to modern hardware.

 

Nintendo’s perspective is that of the game creator. They want to make NEW stuff. I get it. I am fine with this so long as it is QUALITY new stuff. I am glad we got Breath of the Wild.

But I do raise a flag when Nintendo makes a remaster of Wind Waker or Twilight Princess and not Link to the Past, Legend of Zelda, or Zelda 2. Wouldn’t it be great to have HD remasters of those? And add in second quests for them too! (Third quest for Legend of Zelda.)

We are getting some ports. There was the Mana port for the Switch of the three Mana games.

One big problem is due to older technology. Chrono Trigger may be ported, but Chrono Trigger will never be ‘remastered’… ever. Each battle area has its own unique scripting which was a pain in the ass when making the game. Remastering it? No way. Still, Chrono Trigger DS was made in response to the absurd costs of the SNES cartridges of Chrono Trigger. So there is SOME response.

I would like Konami to get its head out of its ass and give us compilations of Gradius, Salamander, and Contra (three NES games, the Gameboy ones, Genesis, and SNES version and throw in DS version and WiiWare version too!).

A major retro game dealer in the houston area told me, “Never sell your physical stuff now. Everyone is going to be rushing to buy anything that is not digital.” He told me even the prices for the worthless sports games are going up.

Especially, go buy the original hardware and controllers while you still can. The games can be done through reproduction carts or flash carts at least. But the original hardware is the original hardware.

Game Industry has a herd like mentality. Remember, they are sooo stupid that they thought Switch was ‘dead on arrival’. Game Industry is about ‘industry’, not about gaming.

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