Game Collecting: Don’t “Invest” In Vintage Games
In the first of my rants (How The Internet Changed The Hobby) about the lessons I learned from collecting hobby-related items, I discussed how the Internet has changed the way we collect and how are collections are perceived by others.
This time around I want to show you how buying “valuable”� and “rare”� games isn’t necessarily a good investment, but that you should instead focus on collecting games that you enjoy.
There are a handful of games from virtually every console that are treasured by collectors because of either their rarity or their cult status — or sometime a combination of both. The first examples that come to my mind are Radiant Silvergun for the Sega Saturn and Rez for the Dreamcast and PS2.
If you have one of these games that are rare or have a high value, congratulations are in order. However, you should avoid purchasing games primarily because they are valuable or rare. Sure, Radiant Silvergun might be worth a lot now on eBay, but what happens if the game gets a deluxe re-release on the Xbox 360? The Saturn version won’t be dirt cheap, but it won’t hold its value as well as it once did. However, if you still enjoy the game and/or it holds a special place in your heart, you shouldn’t care nearly as much if the value does go down for some reason.
Over the long term, original copies of somewhat rare and popular games can decrease in value for a number of reasons. The first example that comes to my mind is Gunstar Heroes for the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive. I first when shopping for this great shooter in the late 1990’s — well after the system was out of the mind of most gamers. The game had a bit of a cult following online and fetched about $20-25 for a complete copy. A number of years have passed since then and instead of the value increasing, it has gone down to around $10 or so. The value is only half of what it was well after it was already “old”.
What would cause an already-old game to decease in value even though it is still regarded as a semi-rare classic? First of all, even after the Genesis was off the retail scene, there were still a number of gamers that wanted to play it. This kept the demand up and the prices fairly high. However, over the years, more and more of those games played it and less were buying it (and many of those who bought it used are re-selling it again). It is a classic case of more supply and less demand.
Also, emulation of the Sega Genesis is become more common, accurate, and easier than ever before. More gamers are emulating Genesis games instead of playing the cartridges on their original consoles. I imagine that this will only increase as Genesis titles are easily playable on the Nintendo Revolution’s Virtual Console, XBox Live Arcade, GameTap, or other similar services that bring emulation to the masses. While this may not be happening yet to newer systems like the Sega Saturn or Dreamcast, it is only a matter of time.
In addition to this move away from original copies of games, there is also a growing market for game reprints, which has a controversy of its own. There are companies out there such as Game Quest Direct that have worked out deals with publishers to re-printing games that originally had a low print run and subsequently commanded high prices on eBay. While the reprints have only been games for current systems such as the PS2, the publisher has expressed interest in reprinting any game that fetches over $100 on eBay.
What is interesting about these reprints is that there are not any distinguishing characteristics to tip off collectors, and they are marketed as a legitimate commercial game (which they are). Because of this, there are a number of games that were once thought to be rare but are now in much higher supply. Once the average game collector realizes this, the value of the game will decrease substantially.
I just read a comment today on Digg.com from a person that bought the PS2 version of Rez for $8 because he heard it was rare, but was disappointed to find out it had been re-released. I’m not sure why he was complaining since $8 for a copy of Rez is an excellent deal no matter if there are a ton of reprints. Also, unless Rez really wasn’t his type of game, I wouldn’t think $8 would be too much to ask for such a great gaming experience.
Anyway, between the fact that interest in most original copies of older games gradually decreases and the number of game reprints (legal and illegal) are on the rise, I would strongly recommend that you focus on collecting games that you actually enjoy as opposed to looking to vintage games as an investment.
Read More Of My Collecting Posts:
Game Collecting: How The Internet Changed The Hobby
Game Collecting Tibits