When Roberto Delon began collecting vintage video games over 12 years ago, he searched auction sites and reached out to specialist groups of hobbyists to compile a personal archive that now includes hundreds of powerful names. But at the time, gamers were unanimously agreed that buying vintage toys was “kind of fashion”, with Dillon explaining that most collectors were simply “nostalgic” about their childhood toys.
“There was no idea that games could become artifacts of the past that we want to preserve,” Dillon said, but that seems to be changing. In early August, an unopened copy of the “Super Mario Bros.” game, which was released in 1985, set a new world record when it sold for two million dollars on the “Rally” collectibles site. This copy of the game was produced for the “Nintendo Entertainment System” system. The original (NES) game was the third time the world’s most expensive game record had been broken in less than a month. (1)
The market for vintage games is developing so rapidly that auction houses are now offering game rating services, as does Wata Games. The company gave the record-breaking Mario a near-perfect score of 9.8 out of 10, based on the condition of the box, packaging, and user manual. Expert approval can now turn a game like “Pokemon” into an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars. (2)
But collecting vintage games isn’t just Dillon’s hobby. It’s also part of his job as founder and curator of the James Cook University Museum of Computer and Video Games in Singapore, which charts the sector’s development through a collection of 400 gaming memorabilia. Old video games have become a kind of modern relic, intertwined with nostalgia, pop culture and tech history, Dillon says. “They really showed us how technology is evolving with the kinds of tastes we had years ago in gaming.”
But before you get too excited, know that not everyone who has kept old games from Nintendo or Sega is going to have a fortune. Many factors determine the value of a video game, such as the number of units produced, the region in which the game was released, and whether the game comes in its original box, with all evidence intact. “Rare treasures” are often unopened early copies of the rarest games, and if the game is unlocked its value is sometimes halved, besides, limited editions and very few copies of which have been released find themselves in the bestseller lists.
The emergence of professional grades and ratings has changed the rules of the game in this space, making it easier for buyers to assess the status of their purchases. And while collecting toys was, in the past, a hobby limited to eBay, Reddit and some Facebook groups, interest from high-profile auction houses helps drive up prices by opening the market to new collectors.
According to Ileana Bodnar-Horvath, head of marketing at luxury auction house Macey and Sons, the interest in vintage video games reflects the growing appetite of online investors for “unconventional assets” such as sneakers, trading cards and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Horvath says the market has recently seen an increase in selective demands from customers looking for unique and rare collectibles, adding: “We think people will always invest in traditional assets like stocks and real estate, but the alternative assets are these and similar ones.” (3)
Other than the limited production games, it’s the classic titles from the most popular versions that attract the highest bids. This may partly because new collectors are more willing to invest in well-known characters that appeal to them, to nurture their sense of nostalgia, such as Mario, Cloudstrife, Zelda, and others.
In Heritage Auctions’ July 2021 sales of $8.4 million, Mario games dominated the top spots, along with early games from Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider. Despite the popularity of these games, finding copies in their original unopened plastic packaging and box is not easy. Other factors could boost the asking price, for example, a $2 million NES Super Mario Bros box came in a Hangtab, while the $870,000 Legend of Zelda game was A rare old production version. (4) (5)
Punks, X-Men, Declarations, and some news…
🏆A NEW WORLD RECORD on Rally🏆
…w/ the $2,000,000 sale of our 1985 Super Mario Bros., marking the HIGHEST PRICE EVER PAID for a video game of any title.
— Rally (@OnRallyRd) August 6, 2021
“When many people saw my private collection of games, they asked me: How did you manage to collect all these games? But what many do not know is that I did not pay a single penny for it,” thus Karim, a collector of electronic games, opened one of the videos about his favorite hobby, collecting electronic games on his channel “1st step gaming”.
Well, if you are one of those geeks who are obsessed with electronic games, you will immediately know how this hobby can make your pocket bleed a lot of money, but Karim has a special collecting strategy, about which he says: “I have been collecting games for twenty years, and it takes some patience because this hobby is “One of the most exhausting and miserable hobbies. It’s fun, but it requires some strategies. What’s my strategy? It’s the electronic game business.” Karim trades in toys so that his hobby does not affect the rest of his life.
“I used to buy games in groups and not individually, even if they were duplicates and I already had a copy of them in my collection, I would put the special ones in my collection, and those that I didn’t need were offered for sale with a slight profitability.” From here it started, and he adds: “This return was I don’t spend it on myself, I save it to buy what I want to expand the collection.”
You have to appreciate the value of what you have, is this game rare? Will you keep it or sell it? Were there many copies available when released? According to Karim, any modern game may not have value now, but after years, its material value will double, especially if it keeps its factory sealed cover, and here comes the role of the patience factor. The hobby also has morals, according to Karim, who says: “Own a hobbyist who collects games and do not cut your ties with them, and if you have a game that is more than what you need, exchange it with them. Also, do not underestimate anyone when buying a game, and do not be deceived by what you have of rare games,” and he adds: “You also have to tell your acquaintances that you collect toys, someone might own a rare toy and give it to you or buy it from him.”
A change in the rules of the game
With today’s gaming industry moving towards digital sales only, either via third-party platforms such as Steam or directly through PlayStation Network and Nintendo Direct, owning physical games may eventually become a thing of the past. Over the years, games and the gaming community have steadily evolved, we have moved from floppy disks to the cloud, from local links to continuous online play, and players’ interests in collecting and retaining games have shifted.
Collecting is now in-game, such as collecting rare swords or exclusive outfits and then selling them at the highest price. For example, Karambit Crimson Web Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is widely popular, so it’s no surprise that players pay to get premium in-game items. Surprisingly, however, is that someone spent $2,000 to buy a gun inside it. (6)
Every current or former MMO (multiplayer video game capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players at the same time) player will know the name Runescape, but what they probably won’t know is that their Cracker Christmas hats have become the most expensive item. In the game, and to get a blue hat today you need to pay at least 2500 dollars. (7)
If you ever yearned to get away from all the troubles of your private island life, you’ll be glad to know that someone did. In 2004, a virtual real estate developer bought an island in the entropy game for over $26,000.
Are you a pet lover? What about virtual pets? Regardless of whether it’s real or not, you’re probably not quite as big a fan as a Dota 2 player. Years ago, someone bought an in-game pet for $38,000! It is said that only five animals exist from them, so they are extremely rare.
If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, you might wish you could buy it. Well, someone very popular “Second Life” bought it for $50,000 and considered it one of his prized possessions. One of the biggest numbers paid on our list was for Crystal Palace, the virtual space station and digital tourist hub of the Entropia game, which sold to one player for more than $300,000. Do you want to visit it yourself? You will have to pay one dollar entrance fee.
Entropia’s Club Never Die was put up for sale years ago by owner Jim Jacobs, to be bought by a player for $635,000. In real life, you can buy stars and parts of asteroids, at least if you have enough money, and in the game Entropy you can own an entire planet. A company called SEE Virtual Worlds revealed that when it negotiated a deal to buy Calypso, the world’s largest entropy planet, from MindArk Studios, the final price they got was more than $6 million. (8)
This state of obsession appears in one of the most famous American series, “Big Bang Theory”. In one of the episodes, Sheldon, after a strenuous battle, obtains the Sword of Azeroth from the game “Warcraft.” Once he gets it, he leaves his friends in the battle to sell it immediately. On the eBay platform, he was bought at the same moment by a friend sitting next to him, in a scene that attracted millions of geeks of these games around the world!
Well, whoever played these games in the past, may one day wake up to an enormous wealth, some may prefer to harvest it and others may keep it to bequeath it to his children, transferring his inheritance of digital artifacts, whether it is a sword or a planet, to his children and grandchildren, we may see issues of dispute over The legacy of the planet Calypso in the future. Yes, our world changes to such a degree, and with it, our concepts about everything change, without the slightest exaggeration.