Collectors Are Stripping Japans Rare-Game Paradise Bare
VISITORS TO AKIHABARA, Tokyos famed home of nerd culture, looking to mine the districts 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 whats left commands astronomical prices.
A visit to the delightfully named Super Potato (mascot: a potato with a face), one of the districts 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 stores 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. Ive been hunting for copies of all three Mothercalled EarthBound outside Japangames for a friend, and arrived in Japan confident of bagging my quarry easily and relatively cheaply. But given the series growing popularity, every copy Ive 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.