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Retro game shops in Akihabara wiped out of inventory

qualitydisc

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Oct 6, 2013
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Some of the most famous retro game shops in Akihabara are looking pretty bare lately. Chris Kohler and DCharlie have been tweeting a lot about it in the past few days, calling it "The Great Super Potato Famine of 2016."

Here are some photos

This is by no means a new phenomenon. Foreigners have been buying up stuff since the retro game market started heating up a few years ago. But I have never seen it this pronounced.

A post on http://pcengine.jp/ says "The number of foreigners who have been buying up PC Engine software suddenly got much worse in 2015." Also the release of the RetroFreak clone console (which plays Hu Cards) has revived interest in the PC Engine platform in particular.

I am by no means innocent of this. I lived in Japan in 2011-2013 and when it was time to go home, I mailed about 45 big boxes back to the States, most of which were retro games.

Random tangent: If you know anything about Japanese art history, I see some parallels to the popularity of woodblock prints in the early 20th century. They were cheap to make, and foreigners (especially the French) were crazy about them, and as a result, there was a huge exodus of prints out of the country to Europe and America.

EDIT: Chris Kohler wrote an article about this back in September, about which there is a thread here: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1114087
 

Goliath

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Aug 7, 2013
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I don't get it, how fun is it to play a game in a language you don't understand. I am sure some simple games don't matter but it doesn't really bother someone that they can't understand the story?
 

Breakbeat

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Oct 29, 2015
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Wow... I'm glad I got to see Super Potato in all its glory back in December 2013, before this huge exodus started. I bet the exchange rate isn't helping matters.
 

Pound_lb003

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Mar 17, 2013
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Random tangent: If you know anything about Japanese art history, I see some parallels to the popularity of woodblock prints in the early 20th century. They were cheap to make, and foreigners (especially the French) were crazy about them, and as a result, there was a huge exodus of prints out of the country to Europe and America.
This is the first thing I thought of. I like to think it isn't a high-brow thought, I am hardly an antique expert, but I am aware of the scenario you're talking about probably because of Antiques Roadshow.

Pretty cool to imagine these games on Antiques Roadshow in 80 years time, and the expert saying they aren't worth much, because of the popularity of importing back in the 2010's.
 

BkzUzi

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Jun 18, 2014
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I don't get it, how fun is it to play a game in a language you don't understand. I am sure some simple games don't matter but it doesn't really bother someone that they can't understand the story?
They probably don't play the games and instead just have it on their shelves as a collection.
 

Jazz573

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Aug 20, 2012
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I don't get it, how fun is it to play a game in a language you don't understand. I am sure some simple games don't matter but it doesn't really bother someone that they can't understand the story?
Your first mistake is assuming none of them can read Japanese. :p
 

Jebusman

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Nov 10, 2013
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Honestly this was just the ultimate result of how jacked up the pricing market is over here for some of those old games.

Why pay $400US for a copy of Panzer Dragoon (Saga) when I can pay 1/10th that for the JP copy? It's not like the gameplay itself has changed, I just need to follow a guide sometimes for translation reasons.

Even easier if the game isn't language reliant.

This is on top of collectors who just see an easy market ripe for profitting from.
 

Madao

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panama
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part of this happened due to the jacked up prices of english versions since jp versions remained cheap and people were like "i just want to get this. language is irrelevant"
 

entremet

Banned
Dec 6, 2008
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It was gonna happen eventually. These are non-renewable products, at least if you're considering authenticity.
 

cofias

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Jan 23, 2014
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I don't get it, how fun is it to play a game in a language you don't understand. I am sure some simple games don't matter but it doesn't really bother someone that they can't understand the story?
It doesn't take that much study of Japanese to understand most video game story and dialogue, and even then you can always just look it up. If you really want to play a game in Japanese you can.

It's probably also a collection thing as someone else mentioned...
 

FrontalMonk

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Jun 7, 2011
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I don't get it, how fun is it to play a game in a language you don't understand. I am sure some simple games don't matter but it doesn't really bother someone that they can't understand the story?
Part of it depends on how much you already know the game (if you already know what happens in FF6 for example, but could pay a lot less for the SFC cart than an SNES one), and part of it could depend on how necessary language is to understanding the game (Castlevania, Mega Man, etc. are pretty great about that).

That's not even getting into using machines that allow for IPS patching (like the much maligned Retron 5) that would allow you to inject a fan translation.
 

Jazz573

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Aug 20, 2012
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The second mistake was assuming they will ever play them.
This is true. Many collectors have no intention of ever playing them. Which means people who want to actually play them, can't. ;( Unless they emulate them.
 

Breakbeat

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Oct 29, 2015
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part of this happened due to the jacked up prices of english versions since jp versions remained cheap and people were like "i just want to get this. language is irrelevant"
That's true, particularly for Nintendo titles. The inflation has been ridiculous and has shown no signs of dropping back down (though levels have plateaued). Prices aren't set by scarcity, but are set by how much nostalgia-driven buyers are willing to pay.
 

Cleve

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May 2, 2014
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I don't get it, how fun is it to play a game in a language you don't understand. I am sure some simple games don't matter but it doesn't really bother someone that they can't understand the story?
The barrier for entry in to a lot of classic games isn't that high.

I don't need to understand Japanese to play shooters, or platformers.
 

FLEABttn

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Mar 30, 2005
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I'm not exactly surprised. The supply naturally would decrease over all this time regardless of the demand and you have a ton of people who are nostalgic for that stuff who are years into their careers now and relatively flush with cash and buying it all up. I know when I got the room and the income to try and buy a legit arcade cabinet I found the market much different from where it was in the late 90s to mid 2000s where you could find used but functional cabinets for a few hundred dollars. Now you're spending $1000+ on garbage cabinets that I wouldn't personally touch (or the lucky find where someone just wants to get rid of the thing for cheap).
 
Jul 29, 2013
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Jeeesh, those pics ... i was at Super Potato in September 2014 during my vacation, and the store was full of games back then. Got the first GBA Fire Emblem, which wasn't released in the west for my collection.

Sad to see the store so empty, it was a great visit, so many rare games, consoles and other stuff.
 

Mupod

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Jun 12, 2011
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I wonder how crazy the retro market has to get before Nintendo and Sega start making new carts for old games.
 

NoFaceNico

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Sep 8, 2014
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I don't get it, how fun is it to play a game in a language you don't understand. I am sure some simple games don't matter but it doesn't really bother someone that they can't understand the story?
Some of them aren't heavy on story. There are a few games I like that are exclusive to the Famicom and don't require any fluency in Japanese at all.

It's also a nice way to get a cheap version of an otherwise expensive game. For example- the SFC Super Metroid is exactly the same as our Super Metroid with an option for Japanese subtitles added.

Some people like having Japanese games in their collection as a conversation piece. I know there's been a shortage of Mother carts because of it.
 

qualitydisc

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Oct 6, 2013
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I know someone who found original factory sealed Famicom games and plays them. Imagine the degrade in value for the collectors!
My understanding is that FC and SFC games were not sealed per se, just came in a box. Makes it hard to tell if a game is unopened or just really mint.
 

Jebusman

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Nov 10, 2013
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I'm not exactly surprised. The supply naturally would decrease over all this time regardless of the demand and you have a ton of people who are nostalgic for that stuff who are years into their careers now and relatively flush with cash and buying it all up. I know when I got the room and the income to try and buy a legit arcade cabinet I found the market much different from where it was in the late 90s to mid 2000s where you could find used but functional cabinets for a few hundred dollars. Now you're spending $1000+ on garbage cabinets that I wouldn't personally touch (or the lucky find where someone just wants to get rid of the thing for cheap).
This is a little different from that though, in that Japan as a region never really had that problem, or at least had it at the level the US market is dealing with.

This is mostly foreigners importing a boatload of these games as a way to get around the ridiculous pricing in the current used retro market.

Yoshi's Island SNES is, on average, like $50 Canadian.

Yoshi's Island SFC is $18CAD.

I'm still getting to play the same game, and it's not like you really need the story of Yoshi's Island to be able to play it.
 

Luigi87

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May 27, 2009
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First people buy up all the inventory from Japan... and then they resell them to foreign speedrunners at a mark-up!
 

JayEH

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Dec 3, 2013
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bummer but it was bound to happen. hopefully when I eventually go to Japan there will be something left lol.
 

1upsuper

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Apr 19, 2015
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I'm part of the "problem" I guess. I picked up a lot of games during my trip a couple years ago, including from Super Potato.
 

Cleve

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I'm part of the "problem" I guess. I picked up a lot of games during my trip a couple years ago, including from Super Potato.
Most of the people complaining loudest about this are part of the problem, if you even consider it a problem.
 

Jebusman

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Nov 10, 2013
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Most of the people complaining loudest about this are part of the problem, if you even consider it a problem.
It's a problem in that we're going to slowly push the JP market into the same ridiculous price tier that the US retro market is currently in.

Final Fantasy 2 (IV) and 3 (VI) US are like $150CAD combined.

I can get a bundle of IV, V, and VI WITH Mystic Quest USA JP, for $30.

Rather than the US market finally coming down, we're just going to push the JP market up.
 

LaserHawk

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Jul 27, 2013
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With how North American SNES game prices keep rising, it's understandable how enticing the Japanese versions can be.

on eBay
SNES Mega Man X3: ~$200
Super Famicom Mega Man X3: ~$30

I just can't understand why Japanese versions' prices aren't rising like the NA versions do... it would prevent outages like this AND be more profitable for the sellers.