10/26/2012 6:45 PM ET|
$20,000 for a retro video game?
Avid gamers are sorting through old Atari, Colecovision, Nintendo and Sega game collections for lost gems -- and paying thousands of dollars for a select group of games.
There's a rumor going around that nobody's buying video games anymore. The truth is they're just not buying the new ones as much these days.
Sales of new video game hardware, software and accessories fell 24%, to $848 million, in September from $1.1 billion the same time a year earlier, according to NPD Group. That's 10 straight months of declines despite releases including Electronic Arts' (EA) "Madden NFL '13" and "Battlefield 3" and Take-Two Interactive Software's (TTWO) "Borderlands 2."
Sales of games alone, including computer games, fell 14%, to $547.3 million for the same period. Nobody's buying hardware, such as Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox 360 or Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 3, which saw sales fall a whopping 39% last month. (Microsoft is the publisher of MSN Money.) The gaming world is eagerly awaiting the release of Nintendo's (NTDOY)Wii U console in November, but even that may not be enough to bring video games back to their pre-recession, pre-Apple (AAPL) iPhone heights.
Even online gaming has taken a hit. Facebook (FB) blamed its slow revenue growth on users not playing as many games from FarmVille maker Zynga (ZNGA) as they used to. That downturn led Zynga to do away with 13 of its games and lay off 5% of its staff earlier this week.
Not that a small but well-funded niche of gamers cares. On full display at the Retro Gaming Expo in Portland, Ore., last month, the retro gaming community pores through bins of old Atari, Colecovision, Nintendo and Sega games searching for hidden gems and old childhood favorites. Gamers pay more now for hard-to-find titles, such as "War of the Gems" or "X-Men: Children of the Atom," than they did when the games were released.
Retro gamers also still plug away at vintage arcade machines such as Bally Midway's half video game/half pinball machine "Baby Pac-Man" or Atari's aging movie tie-in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." The community, a mish-mash of late baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Y, still loves these games and, thanks to their newfound adult income, still shells out to get their own copies.
With help from the folks at Denver vintage game dealership J.J. Games and its Price Charting blog, we've come up with 10 games still raking in the cash years after their initial release. Time will tell if old copies of "Guitar Hero" or "Just Dance" will do the same:
10. "Atlantis II"
Format: Atari 2600
Highest price ever paid: $5,000
It's not that hard to get a functioning Atari 2600 or any of the consoles or adapters that played its games. It's far more difficult to get your hands on this game, which was never sold commercially -- it was offered only as a prize to players who maxed out the high score on the original Atlantis shortly after its release in 1982.
Developer Imagic asked for players to send in photos of their high scores, but eventually grew tired of seeing America's youth blow through their prized product. They sent out "Atlantis II" to the kids with the best scores and defied them to do the same with this version, which had faster enemies. To save money, Imagic sent out game cartridges with the exact same casing and labels as the original. The only way to tell the difference is to turn on the game, look at the score font and clock the bad guys' speed. As one might imagine, this makes buying and selling the game a bit of a hassle, but given the price it can fetch, it's worth the legwork.
9. "Mr. Boston Clean Sweep"
Highest price ever paid: $7,200
It takes a special kind of geek to shell out the value of a used car on an unpopular game sponsored by an unpopular liquor and played on an unpopular console.
The Vectrex was a "portable" game console introduced in 1982, just before the video game crash of 1983. It used a controller the size of a cable remote to play black-and-white games consisting mostly of opposing geometric shapes on a cathode-ray-tube screen the size of a stack of iPads. It was crude, cumbersome and not much to look at, but defunct liquor company Mr. Boston saw fit to create custom versions of the game "Clean Sweep" with its logo on the front and the mascot's top hat replacing a vacuum as the game's main character.
Only about five of these games are known to exist today. The Vectrex, however, is much easier to find after its creators put the console and its software into the public domain in the mid-1990s. Anyone who buys a copy of this game will have no problem tracking down a homebrew version of Vectrex to play it on. We're just not sure why they'd want to.
8. "Neo Turf Masters"
Format: SNK Neo Geo
Highest price ever paid: $8,000
Again, if you want to sell to old-school game geeks, it pays to get esoteric.
The Neo-Geo was a high-powered, cartridge-based arcade game when it debuted in 1990. Its games, including "Fatal Fury," "Metal Slug" and "Samurai Showdown" were fast, richly colored and far more dense than the 2-D games of its time. It was also a home console whose games were identical to the arcade versions and blew away competitors such as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.
Unfortunately, its $400 to $650 price tag was prohibitive at best, while the $200 cost of each of its games was considered outlandish to folks paying $35 to $60 for SNES and Genesis games. "Neo Turf Masters" came along toward the end of the console's U.S. heyday in 1996 but has been a tough find in its console version for years. Gamers haven't exactly been denied a chance to play it, though, as a version was included in an SNK compilation for Sony's PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's Wii, as well as in the Wii's Virtual Console.
The average player's not going to pay you a Hyundai Accent for this console game, but there are a bunch of retro game collectors out there who won't be as stingy.
7. "Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II"
Format: Sega Genesis
Highest price ever paid: $8,000
Hey, remember Blockbuster?
Time was, you'd go to the store with a $5 bill in your hand and come out with the game of your choice and a box of Mike and Ikes. Then you'd inevitably get charged $5 more when you couldn't beat the game in time and sneaked it back into the dropbox late.
Blockbuster loved this relationship with gamers and, in 1995, held in-store competitions where players could compete against each other on "Donkey Kong Country Competition" from Nintendo and "Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II" from Sega. Players could win the former, but Blockbuster was told to destroy all copies of the latter, which contained versions of the "NBA Jam Tournament Edition" and "Judge Dredd" games. The store managers were willing, but their disaffected, scantly paid '90s employees were totally weak and sneaked some copies out of the stores.
Years later, with Sega no longer making consoles and Blockbuster now just a costly branch of Dish Network (DISH), the "Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II" cartridges can breathe free and sell to the highest bidder.
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Who wants to spend money on a game that is full of hackers? It seems obvious that the game companies are double dipping, selling the game to us and the code to the hackers. Then, removing dedicated servers so you can do nothing about it.
Not to mention pulling the map mod tools so every 2 - 3 months you have to buy a map pack. I went from buying 10 to 15 games a year to I have purchased 2 this year. Screw them, they have taken the fun out of multi player gaming.
There are reasons new games don't sell as well as they used to. One big reason is the large companies are trying to copy other games that have had large successes (WoW, CoD), trying to make a quick buck and cash in on other people's ideas. The better games coming out these days are ones made by independents (Minecraft) or mods to current games (Day Z).
To make games look new the large companies make a new game engine or throw in a few new features from the previous version. Rather than making innovations and taking risks companies are playing the safe route and copying other companies that have had a windfall.
This makes many of the mainstream games that come out look different on the surface but gameplay wise they are essentially the same. It is as if gaming companies have forgotten how to create a deep immersive gaming experience, and instead, its all about mindless fun.
The sad part is: Gamers repeatedly tell the developers during alphas and betas exactly what needs improvement or changed completely but most of it falls on deaf ears. So many games are released too early with game breaking bugs and missing features that are promised in future patches; so players are essentially paying to play an unfinished product - a beta.
Gamers want to buy games, but gaming companies don't understand what it takes to make a good game. I do believe a lot of developers out there that work for large companies want to create great games, but its the suits that make the decisions on what to spend money on and when to release the game. Oddly enough the guys that get paid the most don't know what the hell they are doing.
I have a Sega CD system in the box that also plays cartriges, you can unhook all the cords and put in 4 batteries and walk the streets like a pimp listening to Pantera or something as a portable CD player! I mean who else has a portable CD player anymore, not to mention a big **** Sega system in your hand as you stroll the hood!
Im happy reality is catching up to the video game industry.
What a massive fail!
You miss out the most expensive game of all, Air Raid for the Atari 2600 that sold for $32,000
This is the kind of financial "news" that you get when the stock market is closed, and schecky the retarded intern is allowed to write an article.
To begin with these games, that people are paying between $5,000-20,000 for, are collector's items. They are in their original packaging and still sealed in plastic. As with ALL collectibles once they are open, they become virtually worthless, although in the cases of these games "worthless" still means that people would pay elevated prices for them. To imagine these collectors going home and destroying their investment by opening the box is like believing that somebody just paid $100,000 for Superman comic issue #1, and is going to go home and read it while eating cheetos and drinking grape soda.
Second, video game sales are hurting because of the recession, that's true. But the current woes in the video game world are more closely assosciated with the failure of gaming companies to produce anything other than "copycat 'Call of Duty' clones". Gamers are tired of the same old lame formula being served up time after time after time. The other part of the equation is that gamers (I am one of them) want to spend money on games, but Microsoft and SONY both said last year that as long as sales are strong, they see no need to release a new console. Sales immediately fell off. If you listen to the gamers gaming online you will hear it over and over again, "We need a new console."
Third, NOBODY is waiting for the Wii U. This "high definition" gaming entry from Nintendo will still only be half as powerful as the antiquated systems already on the market from Microsoft and SONY. Which means that Nintendo is still courting the grandma/nursing home gamer with their overpriced garbage. Yes, there will be exorbitant prices paid on eBay, and lines at the stores this holiday season, I can't deny that. However the reason that those things will happen is due to the fact that (as with the Wii), Nintendo will limit manufacturing runs to about 500 units per day, artificially creating a seller's market.
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