Why Are Retro Games More Expensive Than Ever?

According to Matt and Wes of Nerdthusiast’s personal experience, retro games flew off the shelves once COVID hit (or at least after stores reopened). During that time, Matt worked at GameStop, and he claimed the company couldn’t deliver the Nintendo Wiis before the pandemic. His GameStop had so many spare Wii’s that they refused to buy any more from customers, but by the first holiday season of the pandemic, the store had sold out Wiis. More importantly, when stocks shrink, prices go up (which is the nature of supply and demand).

Granted, Wiis now typically retail for around $100 (assuming you can find one). Granted, $100 isn’t much for a console, but then again, GameStop previously had a hard time selling the stuff at all. Now, companies are having a hard time keeping them.

It really is the biggest takeaway here. There are many factors that have led people to turn to retro video games during the lockdown, but for now, it’s enough to know that the prices of retro gaming hardware and software went up during the lockdown while stocks of the same items dwindled drastically. Even if the retro gaming market was trending in that direction before 2020, the events of the last few years have only accelerated that trajectory.

Some High-end Retro Game Auctions Might Be Part of a Massive Speculation Scam

Almost every time a sealed copy of a retro game sold for a record price, another copy fetched a higher price. Usually, it could have been written off as auction houses competed with each other in a bid to get into the Guinness Book of Records. However, most of those record-breaking sales took place at the same auction house, which should be a warning.

In 2017, one buyer purchased a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. for over $30,000, but in 2021, someone else bought another mint-in-box copy for $660,000. Why did the latter fetch a much higher price? Because it is highly rated by WATA: a professional service that judges the physical quality of retro games. The company will later assess the copy Super Mario 64 one that sold for $1.5 million, as well as another one that was sealed Super Mario Bros. cartridges for over $2 million. Almost everyone was surprised by the deal, but some suspected that the deal represented something darker than the titles’ true worth and the sudden renewed interest in retro games.

Investigative YouTuber and sprinter Karl Jobst discovered some disturbing facts about WATA and posted several videos about the company. WATA was co-founded by Jim Halperin, who also founded Heritage Auctions: the company that sells the games mentioned above. Halperin has experience valuing collectibles, although its reputation has been questioned over the years. He has been accused several times of “overstating” the coins (i.e., claiming that they are worth more than they really are) and has paid millions of dollars in damages for it.

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