Sheffield Comic-Con Coverage: Retro Renaissance

Fashion is a funny old thing, especially at the moment now that old things are incredibly fashionable. Second hand clothing is now deemed “vintage”, and the resale of old, retreated furniture is becoming the new way to decorate your home. Antique fairs are quickly becoming the domain of the young and trendy, and our demand for older goods with stories and sentimentality behind them is growing tremendously.

Now that the video games industry is passing through puberty to maturity (from its humble beginnings in the 70’s, video games have existed in some capacity for around 40 years now), it stands to reason that video games as medium would follow this same trend.

This year I attended the Sheffield Film and Comic Con. This is the first time the event has been held in this location, and judging by the number of people present, it’s unlikely to be the last. While film and comic conventions have always had a strong memorabilia market, with older boxed products fetching premium prices, the scale of second hand video game sales is quite remarkable.

Retro games had a very strong showing here. There were five different stalls focussing almost exclusively on older video game CDs and cartridges. Almost nothing available for purchase was current or last generation; most stalls started at the PS2/Gamecube era and worked backwards. Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64 consoles and games had a very strong showing, and there were a staggering number of SNES and Mega Drive games available. One particular stall appeared to specialise in original NES games and consoles, including some unique curiosities such as limited edition consoles. In particular, a unique blue, Mega Man-themed NES console would set you back around £50 if you decided to take the plunge.

While pricing does vary, retro gaming follows the same patterns as other collectable merchandise. Games consoles burn out over time and old cartridges degrade with age, so older games are usually at a premium. Rarity obviously factors heavily into the price too. A limited edition game that was never released outside of Japan (of which there are plenty of examples) will perceptibly increase the value by a large factor. Then of course, condition is a massive element which can affect the value of the merchandise. If you come across an item that meets all of these criteria, you can expect to have a cavernous void in your wallet where your money used to be if you opt to purchase it.

Given this set of conditions, there are some very intriguing examples of games that don’t quite fit these categories, yet still seem to fetch an inexplicable sum.

It would seem that Nintendo games can fetch a high amount regardless of age or rarity. Even the condition of the packaging doesn’t seem to influence the price that much, since I found unboxed copies of Pokemon Emerald (from the Gameboy Advance era) selling for £25 for just the cartridge. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to speak to the stall owner regarding their pricing strategy.

A cursory search on Amazon suggests that even new copies of the games depicted above can be purchased for cheaper. Digging deeper into eBay reveals that many sellers are willing to part with these games for considerably less. While the stall owners do need to make a profit, it would appear that some games end up with considerably marked up prices, so caution is always advised to ensure that you aren’t being ripped off.

However, I was able to speak to some of the stall owners who were generally friendly and knowledgeable. Many of them were collectors and enthusiasts themselves, and one stall owner showed more than a few “below counter” Final Fantasy games that he wasn’t willing to sell until he’d had chance to play them first. It was refreshing to find a number of stall owners that were fans of the games they were selling, and some were willing to haggle on price slightly, especially if you engaged them in conversation first. If I were to offer any advice to anyone interested in buying retro games, it’s don’t be afraid to offer a little less.

After getting into the spirit of things, I eventually settled upon a purchase of my own. After some deliberation, I finally bought an imported Japanese copy of Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon (Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon), which I shall be playing and offering a retro review of in due course.

Overall, it would seem that the retro games market is in rude health at the moment. There are many gems out there ready to be unearthed, but only to those who are willing to do a little research. From the serious collector down to the person with an unshakable nostalgic itch, there is a gigantic range of video games from all eras available to buy at your fingertips. Collectors’ fairs offer the opportunity to come across some unique offers, and judging by the crowds at these stalls, it would appear that many people are into retro gaming. This current generation of 20/30-somethings have grown up with videos games consoles in their homes. It’s only natural that, when that yearning, sentimental child inside starts screaming for attention, many individuals turn to video games.

Generations before us have popped on an old vinyl when trying to relive the glory days of their youth. These days, many of us would turn to Sonic or Mario for that exact same trip. It’s this that is leading to a retro renaissance in video games right now; one which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

Photography provided by Rachel Abbott.

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