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“Rare” Video Games?

Once a year I like to buy some of the more pricier games on my Wishlist. Often, I would get a work bonus and buy more expensive games. In the past I’ve gotten Castlevania Symphony of The Night, Phantasy Star IV and Suikoden. This year, I went with Golden Axe Warrior and Star Ocean The Second Story. These have shot up in price recently which took me by surprise. I know I’m contributing to the issue but its become sort of an arms race to get games before they become too expensive. I’m lucky in that I can buy some of the more expensive games but for many the only way for them to access them now is through emulation. I did cover the “Rising Cost of Gaming” in August last year but I wanted to talk about something that has become more and more prevalent in purchasing games – “rare games”.

Castlevania Symphony of The Night

When I talk about “rare” games, I’m not talking about the studio that gave us classics such as Donkey Kong Country, Perfect Dark or Banjo Kazooie, but rather games that are hard to find. Or rather, the growing impression that retro games are hard to find. There is a certain organisation that has come to the forefront when talking about the rarity of games. This company has had a huge impact on the inflation within the community but its not just limited to them. In case you missed it, there was a picture that circled around not too long ago showing some boxed games at a convention. All of the games were expensive and, if I’m being honest, overpriced. Games that have vast amounts of copies in the wild are being showcased as “rare”. This isn’t just a one-time issue though. A scroll through eBay or an equivalent site will show a lot of common games for inflated prices with the tag that they’re “rare”. I touched on this with Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver but seeing games like Super Mario Bros, Sonic The Hedgehog or even a copy of Minecraft (a game that could still be bought new) listed as “rare” is disheartening.

Star Ocean The Second Story

There are some people out there who know what they have. People who have the likes of Panzer Dragoon Saga, Castlevania Symphony of The Night or even Conker’s Bad Fur Day will know it has value. Of course, these games are also over-inflated in price but at least they are rare enough thanks to a number of different circumstances. However, more and more you’re seeing games with stupid prices that are in terrible condition being listed as “rare”. They’re not rare in the slightest and I have a feeling the seller doesn’t actually know what they’re selling or is hoping a buyer won’t know the true value of the item. It’s not helped when grading companies are showcasing common enough games as being worth vast amounts of money. In turn, you then have articles talking about these games. These expensive games are graded, often complete-in-box and sealed, and sometimes have mistakes. However, in an age of clickbait, headlines will often have something similar to “Your old games could be worth thousands of dollars” and then have hidden in the article the actual games or consoles that meet this threshold. In fact, a recent article I read stated that people might have an old PlayStation game lying around the house worth €12,000. I clicked in for curiosity’s sake and after scrolling through their waffle and push adverts, I found out it was a game that only has 50 copies, was never sold to the general public and was only given away at a trade show. This type of stuff is pure nonsense but I have no doubt that people would read the headline and search out their copies of Bubsy 3D, Crash Bandicoot or Rugrats: Search for Reptar and think they’re worth a fortune. I’ve also seen this in relation to consoles and controllers. I’ve even had people who have no interest in games ask me what my collection is worth. Honestly, outside of a few titles, the majority is worth buttons but people see the amount and the condition of my games and instantly think there’s value in them. There’s value to me but not in terms of resale.

Panzer Dragoon Saga

As I’ve shouted about before, living in Ireland presents its own problems when dealing with game rarity. As the market is so small, a lot of common games in other countries can carry the “rare” tag here. PlayStation 2 games are everywhere in the UK but less so in Ireland. Some shops may carry them but I have on occasion found some that will have a small collection but the price will be steep. Even CEX has some stock issues here. In some stores, the PlayStation 2 section might just be a shelf. Xbox and GameCube get a much rougher treatment. Compare that to the UK where they can have a huge range of games from this generation to choose from. Heck, CEX here don’t even stock Sega console games. Then there’s the very limited eBay. If you see items from outside Ireland, chances are they’re the most expensive ones listed. This also affects certain stores as they will often use eBay as a pricing guide so if we’re only seeing the expensive prices, they may think that’s what they’re worth. You might think “just buy from the UK” but the postage and eBay’s ridiculous custom charges make it not worth your while. Often, it’s a case of getting lucky but without a big market or even a large retro community, it’s often a shot in the dark. That doesn’t mean you can’t find bargains, it just means you have to constantly keep an eye out for things, especially if its one of the more elusive titles. Rarity also changes by genre. Sports games are most certainly not rare (no matter how many “rare” FIFA bundles I see) but JRPGs are a different story. It’s a shame I love the genre because I certainly pay for it. Many people preferred action games or sports games in Ireland, so games like Suikoden, Star Ocean The Second Story or even Grandia can be a little bit harder to find. This isn’t just limited to Ireland though. The price increase in JRPG games over the last few years has been ridiculous as more people hunt down the ever-elusive titles. Of course, if the JRPG isn’t on PlayStation, then your wallet is probably screwed. Look at the recent price increases on things like Chrono Trigger, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Skies of Arcadia and Paper Mario. Even the DS versions of Dragon Quest command stupid prices now. Final Fantasy games, probably the most common PlayStation JRPG, has started to rise in price. These games aren’t rare by any stretch of the imagination, even in Ireland, but as the genre’s price rises, these will be swept along too.

Suikoden

Rarity as a whole is something that can be quantifiably measured in most areas but when it comes to games, often we don’t know how many of certain games exist in the wild. Even grading companies were often slow to show how many of each game they were sent. Often, the only way we can be sure is when a company announces its sales numbers. Even if they announce what their forecast was and if it was over or under, we can sort of piece together a game’s rarity. It’s easier to do this now but the further back in time you go, the harder it becomes to find data. Then there’s the issue of longevity. Some games are forty years old at this stage so even if they sold well, it can be hard to work out how many actually exist. Often, we try to gauge a game’s rarity through a number of factors such as if it was a bundle with the console, if it was from an established franchise, what genre is it and the amount for sale on sites like eBay. The last one can really give us an insight as if there’s hundreds of copies for sales, it most certainly isn’t rare.

As I’ve said before, I’m lucky in that I can still afford some of the expensive games but even Panzer Dragoon Saga, Saturday Night Slam Masters and Tombi! are out of my reach. Even games like Mega Man Legends that I’ve tracked for a while are just entering the stratosphere when it comes to price. Emulation is a way forward but as a fan of physical media and playing games on the consoles they were originally released on, it becomes hard to swallow the fact that they may be beyond my reach.

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