The Cost of Retro Gaming (on original equipment)

I was thinking about my retro gaming collection the past week and how my collecting has unfortunately slowed down (for various reasons) … and thought I’d discuss some of the challenges I’ve had when it comes to retro gaming. Maybe there are people considering collecting for retro gaming or ones who share the same sentiments I do.

Obviously there’s two sides to the equation, there’s the games, and the consoles. There’s also, parts, accessories, compatibility with modern technology, aging of games and equipment causing faults and glitches etc. The first problem I ran into was simply getting old games to look good, after trying numerous things including an HDMI upscaler that takes in a composite connection and outputs to HDMI, I finally settled on just buying a CRT TV. Then I had to remember how to tune consoles in that only had RF connections on them, then I had to be okay with the terrible quality to play the games I wanted to play. I might sound a bit ‘ranty’ but I recall it being a little frustrating at the time. Worth it in the end though because older games, basically a good chunk of generation 6 (unless you have a decent upscaler, or play the right games that support HD), I’ve found look best on a CRT. Not only best but really crisp, like modern retro inspired games look.. but actually retro games. However old games were made for CRT’s so this is to be expected anyway.

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Doesn’t Sonic look bored, looks great on my CRT, just not as great from my phone camera

The best moment I had was getting an old Atari 2600 to work, and work considerably well. My dad had this Atari 2600 sitting in the back room of his place for as long as I can remember. It was in a box, covered in dust and chalk (for some reason), it would’ve been about 20 years worth of dust (Because it was sitting there since we moved in, 20 years prior). He had a few games laying around for it as well. It didn’t work at first, however I got to it with a tooth brush, opened it up and cleaned the pins, blew it out. That’s all it needed. This was early on in my retro gaming collecting and after this I think I fell in love with the idea of collecting for original equipment. I mean it’s just amazing to me when old technology that looks beaten up and ready for the bin.. is still fine! Nowadays I’m kind of a defender of old technology, because you never know what might still work.. and alot of older technology tells a story, of what came before and what was to come.

However the great thing about Atari is it’s well known, which means aftermarket parts still exist and there’s plenty of troubleshooting tips online for them. I have still yet to get my Soundic TV-Sports (Pong clone) up and running as there’s almost nothing online about it. However just last year I bought an aftermarket Atari 7800 power supply that worked flawlessly. Consoles that are well known are easier to repair, easier to find parts, lesser known ones are difficult if they don’t work. Buying rare consoles, if they do work, they cost a fortune.. which I can’t afford.. so you know I’m stuck with trying to fix broken equipment, which admittedly I enjoy.

On the topic of cost, the cost of games is equally as difficult to fathom. Retro gaming has made the prices of old games soar, the rarer and/or nicely packaged, the significantly more expensive. This makes sense. However it is unfortunate when it starts happening to almost all games for a console. Like I find the cost of GameCube games to be a little too much, obviously they range from $5-10 AUD for largely irrelevant sports titles, through to first party games, which are a large part of what draws me to GameCube collecting, sitting at around $100 AUD. I bought Super Mario Sunshine for $70 AUD. It’s worth $70 AUD, but it’s also 16 years old, I don’t feel like it should still cost $70 AUD.

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Once again looks great on my CRT, but from my phone camera.. not so much. 

That being said collecting for the PS2 or PS1 or OG XBOX, all much cheaper. Atari 2600 games are also quite cheap, but 7800 games are probably double the price. There’s almost a direct correlation. The better a console sold the cheaper it’s games (and hardware) remain, the worse it sold, the more expensive. However if you want to collect for the Bally AstroCade or some obscure console like that, good luck. Yet on the upside, the more obscure or poorly selling the console, the less to collect for!

There is almost a curve, to collecting, that stays true for every console, across all generations. A plot of cost against time, the older a game the cheaper it becomes, up until a point where it begins to get more expensive. However the curve isn’t the same for every console, it’s different for every console and for every game. But the pattern is the same. I mean can you imagine how much the first party Wii U games are going to cost in 20 years? I think alot. The factors over all are basically popularity, how well the console/games sold in the region (PAL/NTSC), how good the game/console was in popular opinion, whether it was a first party or third party game, how much time has passed, it’s relevance and the condition the game/console is currently in.

A popular game from 20 years ago from a console that sold poorly compared to it’s competition, made by the company that made the console, will be expensive. However any sports title from anything ever, will (with some exceptions) be a bargain basement price, making them great for testing purposes!

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The last thing to mention is genuineness (I looked it up it is genuineness). Collecting for retro gaming is in it’s nature a quest for genuineness. Sometimes compromises can be made as a temporary measure, but in an ideal world, everything would be the original equipment. Personally I even scoff at the new GameCube controllers made for Wii U, I want what existed back in the day! I want the equipment that was bought and used back when the console was in it’s hey day. The cost for genuine accessories, I’ve found is just as pricey as games and consoles, the only difference being, you can compromise on accessories but you can’t on games and consoles. However I really don’t like doing it and depending on the compromise it can be risky. For example, a third party controller, no problems. A third party power supply, be careful!

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All in all, genuine, original retro collecting is an expensive quest, but one that can be cheap if you’re smart and can be a lifelong hobby if you let it. If you have even slightly thought to yourself “Maybe I don’t want to sell my PS2”, don’t sell it, or “Maybe I should keep my N64 collection”, definitely keep it, unless you’re on the verge of homelessness or need to sell it for an emergency. These things aren’t getting cheaper, and are worth collecting. If you are a gamer, hell even if you aren’t, but you’ve always thought “You know, it would be nice to collect one thing”, gaming ‘stuff’ is a good, fun thing to collect. But being smart is key to making it ‘super fun’. Be patient, keep your eyes and ears out for garage sales and goodwill’s or other op-shops. There’s always someone who doesn’t realize Stadium Events for the NES can sell for up to $25,000.

But I’m not saying hold onto your gaming equipment because it could be worth something… well I am, but I’m also saying, if you enjoy gaming, 10 years down the road, you may find yourself regretting selling your old games, you may want to play them again. You may have memories and friends with similar memories. You may find yourself connecting with a friend that you used to play Spyro on the PS1 with and wish you kept it because for you, the remastered edition just isn’t the same, but Spyro for PS1 sits at $50-60, and then you need to get a PS1 and a CRT TV and two controllers. Which sounds like alot.. but it isn’t alot, if you just kept it all to start with and maybe made a retro gaming corner and were the envy of all your friends. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think retro gaming is cool. My wife is very much, not a gamer, but even she thinks it’s cool.

So yeah, sell your gaming equipment if you know you’ll never play it again, but if you think maybe one day you might, then I’d recommend keeping it, as there’s a likelihood it’s an experience you’ll never get to have again (unless you start collecting now!).

Relevant Links:

Featured Image:

Taken by the author of Gaming Detour, one console from every generation.

Post Image/s:

  • Game Cube Wii U Controller: Courtesy of BagoGames under (CC BY 2.0)
  • Stadium Events Image: Copyright belongs to Bandai, fair use laws permit “the use of low-resolution images of game cover art to visually identify the game in question.”
  • All other images are taken by the author of Gaming Detour.
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