Have we finally seen the end of retro game collecting as a hobby? This is a topic that has reared its ugly head on many gaming forums and YouTube videos over the course of the last year and has split the opinion of the gaming community in two. Personally, this is a subject very close to my heart. As an avid game collector myself, I have seen many changes and trends in the hobby over the course of the eight years since I started taking collecting seriously.
On one side of the camp, there has been a lot of commentary stating that the recent boom of YouTubers, whose content focuses on the growth and display of their personal gaming collections, along with Lets Plays and streams, has caused a spike in interest that has caused game prices to skyrocket. Whilst there has certainly been an increase in the amount of ‘tubers who have become actively involved in the retro gaming community, is this really a terrible thing? I am happy to say that my experience of the community has been a very positive one overall. Travelling to several gaming conventions, meeting new people and sharing stories and memories of these classic games really has been something I have treasured, so surely all these people now flocking to the hobby is just raising more awareness and adding more variety to the community?
The true reason for retro inflation
However, there has been a lot of commentary on how the increase in attention to game collecting has caused prices to skyrocket and titles that would have cost you £10 a few years ago have now tripled, or even quadrupled, in price due to demand.
Can we blame all this on newcomers to the scene and the attention it has gathered over recent years, though? There is one obvious factor that quite a lot of people seem to be ignoring throughout this argument: time. Time is something that we as humans don’t like to look at in detail, probably because it scares us. How many articles have you seen online written by millennials who are shocked at how quickly their adult lives are passing them by?
“What has this got to do with collecting retro games, though?” I hear you ask. Well, let’s think about what draws a lot of people to retro games; a little thing called nostalgia. We love to collect and play these games because it takes us back to a simpler time. A time where we would rush home from school and throw ourselves into yet another adventure with Mario, Sonic or one of many other classic gaming heroes. We tend to look back on these times fondly; we try to emulate them by buying up the games of our childhood before, inevitably, putting them on the shelf to play “one day” as adult responsibilities often mean free time is a luxury!
If you are one of the ‘old school’ collectors who remember the good old days of picking up SNES cartridges for 50p at your local car boot, then I implore you to think about how time has moved on since then. Take yourself back ten years to 2008 and say you stumbled across a Sega Megadrive title that was released in 1990. That game would have been 18 years old at that point and could quite safely be classed as ‘retro’. Well, ten years have passed since then. That Megadrive game, much like myself, is now pushing 30 years old. A lot of things can happen to a physical object in 30 years. To paint a clearer picture, think about the games of ten years ago now – games released in 2008. So, we are talking about PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. Take a wander down to your friendly local video game store such as CEX and tell me what you see? Bucket-loads of titles for the aforementioned consoles for prices ranging from £1 – £5. Seem familiar?
Vintage versus retro
I personally think that, as collectors, we are inherently stuck in the past. It’s what we know and how we roll. As such, we are still living for those childhood days but don’t realise that a lot of these YouTubers we are throwing our hate at weren’t even born when the original PlayStation was released, never mind anything that came before! What we are now seeking is vintage consoles and games and as such the price is going to match that description. You wouldn’t go to an antique store and expect to pay jumble sale prices after all.
Alas, all of that is just my humble opinion as a collector who is going a bit greyer in the beard these days and you can take it or leave it based on your own experiences. Personally, I’ve loved all the attention that retro gaming has gained over these past few years and it has made it much easier to access as much gaming goodness as I can possibly absorb. My advice to anyone looking to get into retro gaming is to not miss out on the golden opportunity to pick up those titles for the PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii whilst they are cheap.
I once met a gentleman at a gaming convention in London back in my younger, more naive days. I remember him very proudly telling me all about his complete PAL collection of NES games. I was completely in awe and declared this man my hero. But something didn’t quite make sense. The guy had a decent enough job, owned his home and supported a family – how on earth did he also have money to chuck at games that, when complete with their box and manual (as all his were), would usually set you back at least £30 a go just for common sports titles?
Then he revealed his simple secret. As he was about 15 years my senior, he told me all about when the game stores were making way for the next console generation. Around about the latter days of the SNES lifespan, everybody was hyped or the new dawn of 3D gaming: the N64, PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Who on earth would be interested in that bargain bin of NES titles in the corner of the store marked up for clearance at just a few pounds each? The guy I met, that’s who. So, he bought them up for pittance, stored them and hey presto! All those years later, he only had a fraction of titles to pick up for slightly extortionate prices to complete his collection. Food for thought for any budding collectors out there!
What do you think about the recent popularity spike of retro gaming? Have the increased prices put you off the hobby entirely? Or, like myself, do you welcome the fresh injection of passion into the community?