A lot of our readers who are 30+ years old will remember the genesis of home gaming, systems such as the NES, Atari 2600 or Amiga and of course turning down the TV volume whilst the tape on your Spectrum loaded with its flashing bars across the screen. How things have moved on since then, not only in the graphics and load times but also in the sheer numbers of people playing video games.
Although I have stated that the majority that remember these good old days will be older than 30 that isn’t entirely true and that is largely down to a huge global market around the classic/retro video game industry. Old doesn’t mean forgotten.
I myself am a huge fan of the older systems, in the same way the previous generation loves their turntable or classic car. They are the machines that I grew up with, that I spent a great deal of time on in my youth. The first computer that we had at home was an ancient machine called the Sharp MZ700, a tape based system that even looks archaic compared to the iconic Sinclair Spectrum. The system had blocky graphics and terrible sound but at that time it was amazing. In those days graphics never came into it, it was all about playability and most of the titles were simple single screen games like snake mixed with a few scrolling platform games that kept me entertained for hours. After that I moved onto the first PC platform, my parents had invested a vast sum of money in a Viglen 386 computer which at the time it was pretty much the most powerful home computer you could get. This furthered my interest in gaming due to the enhanced graphics and ever so slightly better sound. Playing games like Lynx Attack Chopper and a golf game that I can never remember the name of. From then on I progressed through the years moving from the PC to the Atari and Amiga, the Gameboy, the SNES, the Atari Lynx. So many great platforms and so many fantastic games… Some were all about the graphics at that time but most of the greatest games were all about the playability.
Around 10 years ago my PC and PS2 were about the only systems that I gamed on. My old consoles and computers had been sold at car boots many years before but I started to get the urge to go back and visit some of the old systems. One system that had stuck in my mind at the time was the Atari Lynx, the first real colour handheld system available to us in the UK and one which ran classics such as California Games and Xenophobe. I had a little spare cash and started buying the games and got hold of a console from eBay and this is how my affliction started.
Back in 2003 retro gaming was a tiny market as most people were more interested in looking forward. The Xbox and PS2 ruled the marketplace and Nintendo were pretty much done with the N64 but had nothing to offer at the time. Although there wasn’t a huge retro gaming market eBay was still a relatively expensive place to get games mainly down to the cost of the postage so my hunting around local Car boot sales began. As I look back now at the summers between 2003 and 2008 I remember the excitement of driving home at the end of the day with a car full of games and consoles. Nobody knew what they had at the time, to 99.9% of the public it was just worthless games that were old and no one would play them again but a small number of us out there saw a value in them and so even back then some titles were known to be rare. That said I never bought on the premise that I was going to make money on these games, I bought for nostalgic reasons and to go back and play games that I never did finish.
By the end of 2008 I had over a 1500 boxed games and around 40 different consoles to play them on. Most of my family including my soon to be wife thought I was mad but this was also the time a market emerged that would slow my collecting. An article came out in the a national paper about the value that some of the older generation game titles and consoles held, this article changed things almost overnight and on my next visit to a car boot sale I saw people coming out with bags of games before I had even gone in. Traders going around and buying up any games they could get their hands on and also people who had stalls putting ridiculous prices on any old games they had for sale. Although this happened I still got the occasion bargain and it just meant I had to get out of bed a little earlier on a Sunday morning to be first in.
Since then the trend has continued and it is just as challenging to build a collection but equally we are now at a stage where current consoles are reaching the end of their "life". So we have to consider if today’s games will be tomorrow’s collectable retro titles.
The question above is one that is so very difficult to answer. There are strong arguments for and against. For example a number of my most valuable titles are ones that hold a certain cult status, such as the early Zelda or the Mega Man games, so you would be lead to believe that keeping a copy each time one of these games is realised and putting up in the attic to leave for 10 years will be a sure bet however that may not be the case. Zelda the Skyward Sword for the Nintendo Wii sold over 3.4 million units worldwide in the first month it was released and well over a year and half later there are still copies of it sat on our game retailers’ shelves so it is unlikely to be worth more than its price brand new… purely because of the number of them out there. That said, some limited editions can be worth holding on to. For example if you had invested in the collector’s edition of the original World of Warcraft release you would be sitting on a £1200 – £1500 piece of gaming history.
That’s not too bad when compared to the classics as 8 months ago a boxed Mega man game on the Super Nintendo sold on eBay for over £3000. Then of course there are the exceptions such as a collector from France selling his complete Nintendo collection, which contained every Nintendo game released in Japan, for €1 million.
So what about me? Currently my collection stands at a little over 3500 games, around 100 consoles and includes full Atari lynx and GameCube catalogues of every game ever released in Europe for those formats. I try and play a few titles every week but I will struggle to play them all, for me I now collect for many reasons, partly to play, partly as an investment and also just because I love collecting them.