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Collectors Are Stripping Japan’s Rare-Game Paradise Bare

Tiktaalik

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Aug 6, 2004
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Collectors Are Stripping Japan’s Rare-Game Paradise Bare


VISITORS TO AKIHABARA, Tokyo’s famed home of nerd culture, looking to mine the district’s renowned cache of mint-condition classic videogames might be disappointed. As game collecting continues its meteoric rise in popularity around the world, Akihabara is being scoured clean, and what’s left commands astronomical prices.

A visit to the delightfully named Super Potato (mascot: a potato with a face), one of the district’s most well-stocked and delightfully decorated classic game emporiums, turned up many empty shelves. In particular, the growing popularity of the TurboGrafx-16, known in Japan as the PC Engine, has virtually cleared out that section of the store.

Meanwhile, the store’s locked glass cases, which in better times showcased the most collectible and elusive titles, are filled with games you used to find lining the shelves. I’ve been hunting for copies of all three Mother—called EarthBound outside Japan—games for a friend, and arrived in Japan confident of bagging my quarry easily and relatively cheaply. But given the series’ growing popularity, every copy I’ve seen has been locked behind glass, selling for $60-90 each.

...

Well it was bound to happen eventually. All of us geeks from the west coming to Japan and buying neat, obscure, japanese games are having a real impact on Akihabara's game stock. This article doesn't mention Den Den town but I assume an impact is being noticed there as well?

I know that I'm part of the problem. While visiting a friend in Japan in 2006 I was delighted to notice the massive amount of cheap Sega Saturn games, as I'd never see the stuff back home at local flea markets. I ended up buying a Saturn and dozens of games from 50-500 yen. At the time I noticed the huge amount of PC Engine games and thought about buying some, but didn't know anything about the system to know what was worth checking out. I'm shocked to see that those huge piles of PC Engine games I saw back then have been completely mined.

What is going to happen when we die or get tired of our collections? I highly doubt these games will make their way back to Akihabara shelves. Will they float around an online based NA ecosystem? I'm somewhat doubtful that the Salvation Army and Flea Markets will have much interest in holding onto weird Japanese products. It's sad to think that we've taken all these games out of Japan, ruined these unique local stores, and these things will probably just end up in the trash in a lot of cases.
 

Crazymoogle

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Jun 7, 2004
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Yeah, that's the thing. There is no eco-system. Gamestop/EB is slowly dipping their toes into it, but they've otherwise done such a strong job of killing independent game dealers that it's tough to see where things will go.

I do miss those shelves of famicom/SF games at Book-Off...
 

NekoFever

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Feb 21, 2007
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I dread to think what prices Super Potato is asking at the moment if they're only now commanding astronomical prices.
 

SuicidalSteve

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May 26, 2010
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A shop that sells collectors items and people buy is a problem now?

I must be missing something here so sorry if i seem a bit forward in that answer
 

depths20XX

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Dec 4, 2009
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Yeah I was there last year and prices of the stuff they actually do have just isn't really worth it to me. Didn't buy a single game the whole time.
 

Deft Beck

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Mar 8, 2007
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It was bound to happen as demand for these games increases and the supply continues to shrink. And for underperforming consoles with good games, such as Sega's later hardware output, the issue will continue to get worse.
 

Stinkles

Clothed, sober, cooperative
Sep 5, 2004
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It was always expensive. Fact is they are simply running out of stuff. Because it was a limited inventory to begin with. There haven't been bargains in akihabara for the entire 20 years I've been going...
 
Oct 6, 2014
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I mean... Isn't that the point of this stuff being on sale, that people buy it? They're shops, not museums. I guess I'm not quite sure what the article is getting at.
 

Skulldead

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Nov 20, 2014
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My friend went there 15 years ago, and i remember he was saying to me he bought every Super Famicon RPG he saw for .50 cent a piece in gigantic bin. He bought a bag just for that..He came back with like 100 games +
 

phileep

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Jan 23, 2010
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One of the biggest regrets I've made in my life is not scooping up tons of retro games in Japan when I went there for my honeymoon nearly 10 years ago. Stuff was so cheap and I somehow walked out with a single game which was a boxed copy of Sin & Punishment.

The part that bothers me about this story is that I'm going to assume most of the damage is being done by international resellers. Local shops are likely scooping this stuff up by the boat load and are reselling at their shops. Part of it is good because it makes it easier to find stuff world wide, but at the same time resellers suck. Just look at the amiibo situation.
 

Akai

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Feb 14, 2005
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I dropped by Super Potato on a trip 5 years ago, picking up copies of Famicom Legend of Zelda and Super Famicom Terranigma. I'm really glad I did, too, because the shop was a pleasant experience that sadly might not ever be the same again...
 
May 4, 2014
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I guess I'm confused.

A store sells rare collector's items for low prices. All those games are expectedly bought up with great fervor. Now the games are gone.

Wasn't this an inevitability of selling rare games at yard sale prices?
 

ActStriker

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Nov 14, 2011
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A shop that sells collectors items and people buy is a problem now?

I must be missing something here so sorry if i seem a bit forward in that answer

I mean... Isn't that the point of this stuff being on sale, that people buy it? They're shops, not museums. I guess I'm not quite sure what the article is getting at.

I guess I'm confused.

A store sells rare collector's items for low prices. All those games are expectedly bought up with great fervor. Now the games are gone.

Wasn't this an inevitability of selling rare games at yard sale prices?

Akiba is/was supposed to be a wonderland for this kind of thing. Older/retro games cheap and plentiful. Now, not so much, exacerbated by foreigners buying things up and taking them home; at the very least if bought by domestic consumers they could feasibly return to these shops.
 

Leafhopper

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May 15, 2014
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Fuck Evilore
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A shop that sells collectors items and people buy is a problem now?

I must be missing something here so sorry if i seem a bit forward in that answer

I guess I'm confused.

A store sells rare collector's items for low prices. All those games are expectedly bought up with great fervor. Now the games are gone.

Wasn't this an inevitability of selling rare games at yard sale prices?

Same here.

Akiba is/was supposed to be a wonderland for this kind of thing. Older/retro games cheap and plentiful. Now, not so much, exacerbated by foreigners buying things up and taking them home; at the very least if bought by domestic consumers they could feasibly return to these shops.

Okay I see that but, I mean this was bound to happen. Actually I thought this was already happening long before this.
 

Gunstarheroes

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Nov 4, 2009
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So, from what i've read in other threads, and why this is such an issue, is that trading in games and then buying new ones, then bringing them back after completion and buying new ones again, is/was a common occurrence in Japan. They don't have the same kind of collector mentality that we do with games (to a certain degree)

That's why you could go to so many stores and see places just littered with Famicom carts and the sort.

Now however, due to the interest of the US audience, and possibly a change in Japan, the stock is dwindling at a much faster rate, and driving prices up. This is why some may find this annoying/upsetting.
 

entremet

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Dec 6, 2008
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More and more I'm sticking with emulation.

Retro gaming is insane right now.

Resellers are the worse.
 
May 4, 2014
11,145
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Akiba is/was supposed to be a wonderland for this kind of thing. Older/retro games cheap and plentiful. Now, not so much, exacerbated by foreigners buying things up and taking them home; at the very least if bought by domestic consumers they could feasibly return to these shops.

I get it now. I didn't connect that people would sell the games back to the shops. I assumed that somebody who bought a rare game would hold onto it indefinitely.

There are so few retro game stores in the United States because maintaining stock is basically impossible. I know they're still around because people talk about them, but I haven't seen one in... Eleven years?
 

kunonabi

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Dec 2, 2010
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Yeah, I spent like a grand just on games when I went to Japan last year. Everything I picked up was pretty darn cheap though so I guess I didn't grab anything too rare outside of the Wrestle Angel Survivor 2 limited edition.

good thing I'm mostly done with older titles to buy at this point if prices are really rising
 

chrominance

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I got so confused because I felt like copies of the Mother games weren't that expensive when I was in Japan earlier this year. Then I saw that the author was looking for complete-in-box copies. In other words, the author (our the author's friend) is also a collector, and in some way responsible for the price inflation.

If you don't care about the box, I think the games are still readily available. I have a picture of a Mother 2 bare cart going for 2480 yen, which is a little expensive but not astronomical. Mother 1 carts were even less from what I remember.
 

half a moon

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Dec 24, 2007
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Isn't someone supposed to buy shit sitting on shelves? If it never sales it'll be packed up in some warehouse or sent to the dump
 

Spukc

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good luck selling your shit on ebay scalpers <3



great investment!
much smart!
great wow!
 

Spukc

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More and more I'm sticking with emulation.

Retro gaming is insane right now.

Resellers are the worse.

emulation is ok. just buy the games YOU REALLY want ;)
and emulation can be legit ofc.

but spendind 300$ on earthbound does not make you look cool..
it makes you look like a jackass ;)
 

inner-G

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Jul 28, 2007
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More and more I'm sticking with emulation.

Retro gaming is insane right now.

Resellers are the worse.

I've switched mostly to emulation for a few reasons.

Frustration: Having that beat-up copy of Battletoads that I literally have to start/reset/turn off/remove game/reinsert game/ turn on/reset/etc. for 15 minutes before it starts.

Accuracy: Having emulators on my Wii running over components, I feel I get an even better picture on a CRT than the original hardware over S-video/composite (not RGB modded.)

I also have a Mayflash adaptor that lets the Wii see a SNES or NES controller as a classic controller. Being able to play with the actual controller makes a big difference instead of using a 360 pad on a PC or something.
 

phileep

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Jan 23, 2010
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Isn't someone supposed to buy shit sitting on shelves? If it never sales it'll be packed up in some warehouse or sent to the dump

I guess the point is that it is likely resellers snatching up these things and selling them at a premium, driving up prices further. Buying Japanese versions of games was ironically a much cheaper alternative in many cases (and ironically in that importing games ages ago was costly). Resellers have caught onto that, and are exploiting it. The result is they're driving up prices all together and are making it harder to actually find stuff for what it should really be valued at. At least that is my take.
 

GUN-NAC

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Dec 6, 2006
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Yeah, resellers and more than enough buyers with that worldwide audience. The yen is cheap again. In the past that might have meant more affordable retro/imports. Not now.
 

Neff

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There's still tons of this old collector stuff in Japan, it's just not in Akihabara anymore, because that's where it got bought first.

You can find old Gen 3/4/5 games in superb condition for reasonable prices in the unlikeliest of stores in and around Tokyo. Just not in the once-obvious places anymore.

One of the biggest regrets I've made in my life is not scooping up tons of retro games in Japan when I went there for my honeymoon nearly 10 years ago. Stuff was so cheap and I somehow walked out with a single game which was a boxed copy of Sin & Punishment.

Ten years ago it was crazy. Near-factory standard PSone games and sealed Super Famicom carts for a few dollars each. I bought Street Fighter EX with a crisp manual and disc I could see my reflection in for 150 yen and made similar killings with Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast games. I found a mint copy of Biohazard 1 in a stationery store. It truly was a retro gamer's paradise.
 

daegan

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Dec 22, 2004
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It bums me out so hard that when I go to Japan next year, this is the state Akiba will be in. I'm not a mad collector, nor do I run a shop, so I'm not sad I won't leave with sacks of games as this wasn't my intention but I'm bummed I'll never see this.
 
May 4, 2014
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Every time a person pays asking price for Earthbound, an angel loses its wings.

I'm quite sure that most people who collect expensive games never intend to play them, so it being available digitally for $15 is really beside the point.

It's the same with trading cards, action figures, and virtually every other collectible. The point is preservation and display. Not utilization.

That why I get why people pay it.
 

inner-G

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It bums me out so hard that when I go to Japan next year, this is the state Akiba will be in. I'm not a mad collector, nor do I run a shop, so I'm not sad I won't leave with sacks of games as this wasn't my intention but I'm bummed I'll never see this.
Try around Nagoya or Osaka or something if you can. All the games in Japan aren't in Akihabara
 

entremet

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Dec 6, 2008
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emulation is ok. just buy the games YOU REALLY want ;)
and emulation can be legit ofc.

but spendind 300$ on earthbound does not make you look cool..
it makes you look like a jackass ;)
Yeah. No. I got on the VC for 12 bucks.
 

daegan

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Dec 22, 2004
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Try around Nagoya or Osaka or something if you can. All the games in Japan aren't in Akihabara

Oh definitely, we intend to! It's just more, you see pictures of what this place was like, and even though you see it changing as time goes on you still have that stuck in your head. You know?
 

ThreePiMatt

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Jan 6, 2013
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Well, I plan on being there in a few weeks, I'll be very disappointed if I don't leave with a copy of Seiken Densetsu 3 and possibly Tetris Battle Gaiden.
 

phileep

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Jan 23, 2010
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I'm quite sure that most people who collect expensive games never intend to play them, so it being available digitally for $15 is really beside the point.

It's the same with trading cards, action figures, and virtually every other collectible. The point is preservation and display. Not utilization.

That why I get why people pay it.

The point is that Earthbound (and many of these games) really have no reason to be 200 dollars. There are some of us who do want games like Earthbound in their original form because we want to own them and play them. I gladly played Earthbound again through Wii U, but at the same time, I'd rather have played it through my SNES. However I'm a sane person and I refuse to pay 200 dollars for it. I also refuse to pay 100 dollars for it, but that's beside the point. Value of a game comes down to each person of course.

But it makes me sad when people buy these games at a premium just to have them sit on their shelf so they can look at it once in a while and smile to themselves. In many cases collectors like this are the reason game prices are driven up, and it ruins the fun for those of us that just want to play these games the way they're meant to be played.

Games are meant to be played.
 
Dec 8, 2008
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There are enough Japanese sellers exporting and trading for games that are rare to them. Don't just put it down to western collectors, it's a global market now.
 

Comet

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Jan 17, 2012
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It was a great relief when I sold off my large collection of retro stuff. It took up a ton of space and mostly went unplayed. Having a collection also forced me to want to keep growing it and eventually it was just too expensive and a headache. Glad I got out of that rat race but don't blame anyone else if they're still in it.