The owner of Pricecharting.com lends his expertise on future pricing for the next generation of retro games.
If you missed my last article about the exploding prices of Playstation 2 games, I highly recommend you read that first, if only to get a look at the completely crazy prices PS2 games are selling for.
By the way, the cover photo for this article was provided by @Schovalder. Check him out on Twitter!
Many of that article’s games have doubled over the last 6 months. Don’t believe me? Just have a look at eBay’s listing for Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and see what I’m talking about. Oh, and um… I should also mention that’s an affiliate link and if you buy anything from eBay it will help this site out. Thanks!
…Okay, did you read that article? Good.
I know it’s a long one, but if you made it to the end, you’ll remember we left off with some light speculation. I can’t read fortunes, and I don’t know the future, but logic tells us that the retro game collecting world is in the process of moving forward a generation, and as PS2 becomes retro, we collectors would be wise to start scooping up games for later consoles (PS3 and beyond) before they become retro-chic collector items too.
Basically, gamers are about to start to really regret selling off their PS2 and Gamecube games for next to nothing on Craig’s List. And they’ll soon be scrambling to re-purchase their old favorites, driving prices higher and higher. In fact, that cycle has already begun.
It’s time to start examining the next generation of games and collect potential price bombs before they become retro and prices get wild. That means the PS3 generation and beyond.
According to my favorite game-pricing expert (yeah, that’s a thing!), Playstation Vita and Wii U are wide open for collectors. The price for Wii U and Vita games has been relatively stagnant while other consoles skyrocket, but you better start buying stuff if you want to start (or finish) collecting that console gen before demand goes up.
The thing about collecting retro games is that any schmuck can run out and fill his eBay basket with whatever expensive, high-demand old video game he wants. Spend that money, get those games. Whatever. Little Samson is the poster child for this category. Check out the current price on eBay. It’s insane.
For many retro game collectors with impressive collections (and I’ve seen some crazy ones on Twitter. Come follow me!), the trick has been a type of clairvoyance that allowed them the foresight to pick up the right games while they were cheap, and hold them until the prices ripen.
Or for a lot of collectors, they just collect every game they can get their mitts on and never sell them. And I mean really, if you have already held onto your games for 30 years, you’re not likely to sell them now.
So with collectors aggressively buying rare games but rarely, if ever, ever selling them, those rare games will only get rarer and more expensive over the next few years.
For us aspiring retro game collectors who hope to have expensive collections one day, but can’t afford (or can’t justify) buying every single freaking game that comes out (#Switchcorps anyone?), we must use some strategic thought and plan our purchases to grow the value of a games collection.
As the day traders say, you’ve got to buy low and either sell high. Or if you don’t decide to sell (and why would you?), you can just enjoy some serious bragging rights a few years down the road when your collection becomes valuable.
In my article from last week I referenced earlier, The Price of PS2 games is Exploding, we explored the implication of rapidly expanding market prices for games that were fairly cheap just a few months ago. Certainly the COVID quarantine has turbo-boosted the demand for at-home entertainment like video games and we’re watching the markets geek out in real time. But it begs the question, exactly which games are going to explode next?
What video games are going to increase in value?
My opinion, theory, and present preoccupation is that Playstation 3 would be a good place to start. I stand by this and have already started picking some prospects. However, I had an interesting encounter with the creator of Pricecharting.com after he discovered my PS2 article. He liked it well enough that he contacted me and introduced himself.
As it turns out, Pricecharting is owned by a fellow named JJ. And he’s pretty chill. So chill in fact, he agreed to indulge me and answer a few burning questions about the future of retro game collecting in order to get some insight into future pricing and the expanding retro games market.
JJ has been involved in the business of video games collecting for over 20 years. He founded JJ Games and ran it for years before selling it (he is no longer affiliated with the site, except for his name). He’s basically an all-around entrepreneur of classic gaming and I can’t think of a more qualified expert to talk about the topic.
When I asked him for some market insights into the future of games collecting, he pointed to Wii U and Playstation Vita as likely candidates.
Author’s Note: Keep in mind that none of us here—not even JJ—are actual fortune tellers and this is all speculation. Invest at your own peril and don’t @ me, okay?
According to JJ, “Vita and Wii U haven’t had huge price increases yet, but they were never very popular commercially. But there are lots of good games” for those systems.
In other words, both Wii U and Vita have plenty of quality games that capture the interest of players and collectors, but their limited success means that a lower volume of games was produced for each system. This would be especially true of console exclusives. It’s classic economics. You know: the whole higher-demand vs. lower-supply thing.
When pressed, JJ continued that “They [Wii U and Vita] are too close to the releases in stores to increase in price. Most owners have moved on to something else like Switch or PS4.” You might think of this period of a console’s life cycle as the “Craig’s List stage.” JJ’s too soon to increase in price statement is especially true of the Wii U. We’ll look more closely later in this article.
After a few years of current-gen games, and especially as the PS5 generation gets ready to launch, Wii U and Vita owners will realize their older consoles are just collecting dust and they could use a few extra bucks for new games or pizza or vape juice or whatever. You know how kids are.
Either that, or the Wii U and/or PS Vita go into the closet and lay forgotten. So right meow, Wii U and Vita are deep in the prime of their Craig’s List stages. They may have excellent games catalogs, but the more exciting, modern consoles like Switch or the impending PS5 have overshadowed much of the general interest in Wii U or Vita.
Now is the time to collect!
According to JJ, Vita and Wii U owners will, within the next few years, “sell off their consoles to someone else who wants it, or they will get back into playing the games themselves.”
“Then demand will increase for games, but there are no new games being made. Prices will increase on the best games and the ones that are really hard to find. Prices won’t increase—or might decrease—on the crappy games that still nobody wants.”
So how can we figure out whether these systems really are set for a big price increase?
JJ: “Nostalgia is the biggest factor. Do people remember playing the console when they were kids? If they do, they get nostalgic and want to buy those things again.”
A major indicator of collectability for a console is its games library. A console with a lot of great hits is much more likely to invoke strong feelings of nostalgia.
Not only do gamers want to replay the games they loved as kids, but according to JJ, people want to play that console “because it had fun games they never got to try. I think that is the difference between SNES and Genesis. SNES is much more collectable now because the game library has stood the test of time better than Genesis and Nintendo limited production of many games.”
JJ’s unintentional side-burn on Genesis notwithstanding, Nintendo’s decision to limit production on many of their titles has a serious impact on the price of their games. Supply and demand are the primary factors in any market, and Nintendo has a way of keeping supply limited. Their very-limited runs of NES and SNES mini consoles is a good example. The year they were released, they were selling out as soon as they hit the shelves. Just see how much they go for on eBay these days.
JJ continues: “Some consoles were so unpopular and had no good games so that there is no nostalgia and not much of a collectors market. I think Wii U and Vita have enough good games and enough fans that they will be popular in the future.”
How can we tell what video games will be worth money?
The simple way to make a guess is to find the ratio of a game’s popularity to its print run. An extremely rare game will be expensive even if it sucks. A very popular game won’t be worth anything if the market is flooded.
Or as JJ put it, “Prices are just supply and demand. Games with lots of demand are ones that are fun to play. So look at any list of the best games for Wii U or Vita. Those will keep their value over time. Many sold millions of copies though, so they might not increase much.”
“There can also be collectable games that are just so rare that demand from people completing a collection is enough to keep prices high no matter how good the game is. Things like Bubble Bath Babes for NES for example: really rare, but a pretty crappy game.”
There’s no way to know for sure what games will increase in value. But it sounds like, if you want to grow a valuable collection before it becomes valuable, this could be an effective strategy for Vita and Wii U:
- See what Vita or Wii U games are considered “the best.” It’s relative, I know. But what drives prices isn’t really how good a game is, but how many people are trying to get it. Look up a few blog posts and see what games are well regarded. If some game is getting a ton of press, readers will spark an interest in that title.
- Look especially for games you may not have heard of, or had forgotten. You want to find games that strike the right balance of being good, quality games without being too popular. Universally popular stuff like God of War or Breath of the Wild probably won’t rise as dramatically as Persona 4 Golden, which appeals to a smaller niche audience. But again, just guessing.
- Start looking for good deals on eBay. Look locally too, of course. Garage sales, Craig’s List, and charity shops can all be gold mines. But if you’re in the city or suburbs like me, those places often charge the same or even more than eBay. As always, I’ve got a pre-set eBay search here to get you started.
I know I yap about eBay a lot, but in my area it’s usually the best deal. And at the very least, it presents a true-market consensus for what buyers are actually willing to pay for games.
So based on what we’ve just learned, let’s take a stab at some possible price-bomb exploders. Please note these are my personal predictions based on what JJ shared with me. Invest at your own peril!
Persona 4 Golden
Gamesradar called it “one of the deepest, most engrossing RPGs in history” and “its best incarnation is on the PS Vita.” It was their number-one best PS Vita game. The Persona series is incredibly popular among gamers, and with this being released on a less-popular system it’s all but assured to have a smaller run.
To top it off, Pricecharting has already shown some serious volatility in the pricing for this game. It spiked in May 2020 with a loose price of $60. Since then, it’s settled down considerably. Here are the current eBay prices to see where it is as you read this. The point is, the price for this game spiked once, so we know there is some demand for it. And as time goes by, there is a good chance this one will get pricey.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories
The Silent Hill series is highly sought after by collectors, regardless of platform. As we have seen with previous console generations, SH games are pretty much always a good bet. In fact, a quick look at Pricecharting shows us that this is already trading much higher than pre-pandemic times. So it may be too late. However…
If you’re a believer that prices will come down before they go back up, I suppose you could wait and see. But there’s the possibility that this game has only begun to rise and as Vita collecting heats up, this one could go crazy.
I’m always tempted to assume that games with very Japanese-sounding names are more likely to increase in value. I’m sure that sounds ridiculous, but my reasoning is that, for most casual American gamers presented with a choice between games with names like “Muramasa” versus “Action Smash Blast!” most of them would prefer to smash the blast of action. Hardcore gamers on the other hand, aren’t as easily influenced by hyped-up blasty titles.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that, by most accounts, this PS Vita release is quite good. It has earned favorable reviews pretty much across the board. Like Persona 4, this one spiked a few months ago, but has come back down since then. This may be your last chance to pick it up at a fair price. Check eBay for the latest, but watch out because some copies are still priced very high. There are good deals if you look closely.
While it’s relatively simple to apply our theory to Vita games, Wii U presents a greater challenge due to its lack of exclusive games. Casual players have no need for most of the Wii U’s catalog, as they can pick up so many of the major releases on Switch. That means Wii U pricing will be driven mostly by collectors that aren’t as interested in playing the games as they are in simply having them on a shelf.
Besides that, the Wii U was released so recently that a lot of games have yet to reveal their pricing trends. It makes pricing speculation a bit harder, so take this little list with a grain of salt, but I came up with a couple of titles that could potentially break out in the coming years.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
This remains one of the very few Wii U exclusives. For now. It was by all accounts very well received.
It was, in fact, so well received that it was a top seller upon release. That means it definitely is not going to be rare among Wii U games. But its lack of ports to other consoles, and the popularity of the Xenoblade series among collectors, may very well tip the balance between supply and demand, creating a highly sought-after game that few collectors are willing to part with.
Another thing to consider is that Xenoblade Chronicles X is currently selling for quite cheap on eBay, which means the price could remain stagnant because of how many units were sold. But priced so low, it could only increase. There is plenty to think about on this one, and it might go nowhere. But given its current low price, Xenoblade is pretty low risk, even for ghetto-budget collectors. Therefore it is one of my top picks for Wii U.
Should probably pick this up now.
Game & Wario
First-party games can be tricky. They tend to be the most anticipated releases of a console, so publishers make sure they produce enough copies for everyone. Nintendo’s first-party games have historically held their value over time, but don’t often increase beyond their release price.
Shortly after release, Game & Wario dipped well below its retail price. The players didn’t dig it. Reviews were meh. Only 36,000 copies were sold in the US. It’s hard to know for sure how much more the price will rise for Game & Wario, but you might want to check it out.
That’s all for now.
As I’ve said many times, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m just using the information I have access to and making educated guesses, okay? You’re responsible for your decisions. So if you spend 10 grand on Game & Wario copies and it bellyflops, remember we had this conversation.
Personally, I still believe in PS3. You may recall my mentioning that console in my previous article about PS2 prices. I’m currently researching PS3 games for speculation and hope to have an article about that soon.
Meanwhile, I’m very interested to hear all of your speculative picks! What games or systems do you anticipate increasing in value? Share them in the comments below, or find me on Twitter and let’s discuss.