My own tradition when it comes to buying game consoles is to wait for the next one to come out, then get all the games I wanted for the last generation. Dirt cheap!
And not to toot my own horn, but it’s a strategy that’s served me well for many years and sort of defined what it means to be a “ghetto gamer.” Even if you’re broke, you should be able to enjoy the best AAA games each console has to offer. You just… have to wait a while!
Now that the PS5 has launched, PS4 game prices are going to plummet, headed straight for the clearance rack. But they’re not quite there yet. And until that happens, let’s keep in mind that prices for the PS3 and its massive library of great games are as low as they’ll ever be. But that window is closing fast!
How much are old PlayStation 3 games actually worth?
As of this writing, the average price of a loose PS3 disc is a little over 11 dollars. For complete games with the box and book, the average is closer to 15 dollars. But you have to remember that PS3 games are a commodity and, as such, prices fluctuate constantly.
And beyond the day-to-day fluctuations, video game values follow long-term patterns that have a certain level of predictability. I’ve covered this at length in another article which I’ll link below but in case you don’t want to click away, I’ll give you a quick review.
The long-term value pattern of video games
The above graph is long-term market pricing for Gamecube games. The data is from Pricecharting.com, which is a fantastic resource for raw market data. The owner, JJ, is a super nice guy, too. He let me interview him for another article about the potential growth of Vita and Wii U games. If you’re into this nerdy kind of stuff, I suggest you read that post as well.
Unfortunately, Pricecharting data doesn’t reach all the way back at the beginning of time. They didn’t start collecting data until 2008, so that’s the earliest we can see. But it’s plain from this graph that there’s a low point, then a gradual rise. That huge bump at the end correlates to the world’s current COVID-19 issues and the boredom and online shopping that has accompanied the quarantine.
Whether or not prices will settle back down when things “go back to normal” is anyone’s guess. My personal thought is that prices will either level out for a while or—hopefully—drop a bit. But then they’ll resume their steady rise as these games get older and harder to find. Again, that’s just my opinion. Don’t take it too seriously.
Anyway, the curve you see here is typical for game prices. They start out high when a console is current gen. By the time the next console hits, the prices are lower, and when the next console hits, they start rising as nostalgia does its dirty dance.
While I can’t reconstruct data from earlier than 2008, we can smash some graphs together by taking game prices from different generations and fill out the curve more completely.
While not exactly scientific, I’ve overlaid pricing curves for N64, Gamecube, Wii, DS, and Playstation 3, lined up to reflect the time that has passed since their release.
This would certainly not stand up in a courtroom or a science lab, but as a visual tool, I think it’s handy to see how a fully-realized price growth curve should look. Also I gave it a smile with eyebrows. So that’s neat.
Playstation 3 prices are the lowest they’ll ever be.
As of this writing, the average price of a PS3 game is right under the nose in this graph. Playstation 3 is too both too old and too new for gamers to be particularly excited about the games. Nobody’s looking at PS3 right now and that’s why it’s the perfect time to start padding out that collection!
Of course, looking at the average doesn’t really give you the full picture of what’s happening with PS3 prices. There are outliers whose prices have already skyrocketed (Syberia Complete, about $110), and there are games that have never been worth much (Sports Champions, anyone? Currently around $4.) But overall, PS3 prices are quite low.
Collect to play, or collect to collect?
If you’re still reading this, then it’s safe to say you’re interested in picking up PS3 games now. But which ones?
The answer depends on your intention. If you’re collecting PS3 games just to play and enjoy, then just look back at the games you missed, or ones you liked but got rid of, or best sellers, or just… whatever.
But if you are collecting just to collect, or you’re trying to get ahead of the curve and pick up some potentially valuable games like me, then you’ll want to take a few more factors into consideration.
Video game economics: supply and demand
You knew I couldn’t get through this article without touching on supply and demand. I won’t drive it into the ground or anything, though.
Basically, if a lot of people demand a commodity, prices tend to rise. If there is enough supply, then everyone can get the item without having to fight over it. But when demand is high, and supply is low, prices can get crazy. That’s why rare games—even terrible ones like Cheetahmen or Bubble Bath Babes—can reach absurd prices.
For the next part of this article, we’ll look at some prospective PS3 investments. We’ll examine the current price of the PS3 games, and try to track down how well they sold. Remember: if they sold well, the price will be less likely to skyrocket. But if there are few enough in circulation, there’s a potential for the price to rise even if the game was not well received. And if the game is well-liked and didn’t sell very well? Then you’ve got a potential unicorn and you should scoop up as many as you can!*
*I’m not an economist. I’m not any kind of financial expert. I can’t see the future. For all purposes, I’m just doing my own research and potentially buying some of these games. If you blow your kids’ college fund on these games and they don’t go up in value, it’s totally not my fault. I’m just a regular dude with a blog and internet access. Always do your own research and make your own decisions, kay?
With that in mind, let’s look at a few games that could be worth picking up!
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2
Trials of Cold Steel 2 has been released on many platforms and as of this writing, it slated for an Asia-only summer release on the Nintendo Switch.
This game sold wildly in Asia and received generally excellent reviews. Of all the platforms it sold, however, the PS3 port sold the least. Sales in North America were even lower. Combine the game’s success, the lack of supply in North America, and the increased exposure as it re-releases in 2021, and it sounds to me like you really ought to get your hands on this one now.
Unfortunately, LoH: Trials of Cold Steel 2 is already quite difficult to find. The PAL and Asia regions are not quite as bad, but I’ve had almost no luck searching for NA versions. Additionally, the price of this game is already pretty high. But if the PS3 follows the cost curve of the systems before it, we could find this game going for a boatload of money within the next few years.
It might also be worth noting that this game already fetches a high price on eBay. Like, the value has not dropped at all. You can currently find new, sealed copies of this for about $60 on eBay. Seems like a lot to me, but a a game with a price like that in 2021 has already shown it can hold its value throughout the PS3 pricing down-curve. It’s all uphill from here.
So yeah… I would pick this up before pricing gets crazy. Worst case, you have a pretty for your shelf that you can always re-sell later at close to the same price. Best case, you’ve got yourself a PS3 bomb and a potential Holy Grail!
But you know… I’m just speculating. Don’t @ me.
Developed by Vanillaware and published by Atlus, Dragon’s Crown has all the ingredients to attain Holy Grail status within a few years.
First of all, as stated, it was a joint effort by Vanillaware and Atlus, both of which are known for making quality games that fans fawn over year after year. They also collectively tend to make games that don’t pull any punches on behalf of western audiences. These are made for eastern audiences and make no apology for their over-the top cartoonishness. Dragon’s Crown especially showcases this.
With larger-than-life characters with waaaaay larger-than-life…um…assets, this game is clearly targeted at mature fans, but manages to keep a “T for Teen” rating. Seems like a smart move, as pretty much any kid would be allowed to play this and enjoy some lewd anime along with their blister-paced brawling action!
There seems to be plenty of Dragon’s Crown swag to capitalize on the titillation of the game’s Sorceress character. You too can own a statue like the one pictured above, but it ain’t cheap. There are several different poses for this character. This is one of the more… family-friendly(!?) ones. Check out eBay and scroll down to see what we’re dealing with. Be warned: They’re expensive.
Dragon’s Crown is a brawler/RPG hybrid. Think along the lines of D&D: Chronicles of Mystara. There’s lots of depth to the fighting, plenty of upgrades and semi-randomized loot drops. It’s fun!
While Dragon’s Crown doesn’t have the deep and long cutscene storytelling a lot of JRPGs have, there are plenty of us that consider that a good thing. It’s great to have a deep game with RPG elements that you can just pop in and play for a while.
Oh yeah, and the graphics are just amazing. Phenomenal. Like, really really good. At least in my opinion.
There’s nothing about this game that doesn’t scream quality, and it never quite got the recognition or sales it deserved in the US. So yeah… I’d be willing to wager Dragon’s Crown is going to rise sharply over the next decade or so. But judging by how 2020 went, I wouldn’t wait that long to pick it up!
The best news is that, as of this writing, you can get a brand new, sealed copy for about $20 on eBay! Go grab it! I’m literally buying one now.
Persona 5 was suggested to me as having some real pricing potential. I’m not too familiar with the Persona series, but I know it’s immensely popular, with Joker even appearing in Smash Bros. Persona 5 in particular is the top-selling game in the franchise so far.
So clearly, my concern with putting this one on a PS3-Games-To-Collect style list is just how popular the game actually was. Were enough copies sold to drive the price down? Or will the series’ popularity buoy it and keep it valuable? Let’s dig in a bit.
According to the almighty Wikipedia, Persona 5 became Atlus’s highest-selling game ever within 3 weeks of release. It sold a few million copies worldwide. Quite a feat!
But it’s very hard to extrapolate the data and figure out just what region and what format these games were being sold. A lot of them (I’m guessing more than half) were sold in Japan. A lot of them (again, probably more than half) were the PS4 version. And a significant portion of them (I’m guessing less than half) were sold digitally.
So if we take the given sales as 3.2 million worldwide, cross-reference Wikipedia’s list of million-plus selling PS3 games, I think we can put P5 sales for PS3 somewhere in the ballpark of a few hundred thousand to around half a million physical copies sold in North America. Dang, that’s a big ballpark!
So looking at sheer numbers, I think this is a long shot. But we also have to take into consideration a few other things.
For one, Atlus has that track record I’m always droning on about. People love their games! Also the fact that Persona is what many westerners would consider “very Japanese”, which is a quality that tends to draw more hardcore gamers and RPG afficionados. The kind of people that don’t trade in or sell their games as much. Therefore, the copies that exist today are likely taking up shelf space permanently. Like Legend of Zelda, these games are so loved that they just don’t get sold as often.
A few other things to consider is that Persona 5 is a Sony exclusive, and was released very near the end of the PS3 life cycle, both of which tend to have an inflationary effect on game prices.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Persona 5 is currently available on eBay, brand-new and sealed for about $25. So even if it doesn’t pop (which it totally still could), you won’t be out much and you’ll definitely recoup your investment. Remember our pricing curve chart up above?
King of Fighters XIII
I honestly don’t know much about fighting games. Especially KoF. But I can certainly find my way around a chart. And have a look at this one!
To borrow a phrase from Randy Savage, Oooooooh yeah!
It looks like what we’re seeing is the beginning upturn to our classic smiley-face curve. King of Fighters XIII was dormant for the last 7 years or so, but started seeing a price hike even before the COVID shenanigans started. That’s a great sign. But then again… this is another Atlus game. So who’s surprised?
King of Fighters has always played second fiddle to bigger, more mainstream fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter (at least in North America), but it’s always maintained a good image and a strong-if-smaller following of hardcore fans.
After spinning its wheels for a while, the franchise hit hard with XIII. At the Evolution Championship Series it was one of the most popular games featured. And it just makes sense, given KoF XIII’s stunning graphics and really decent reviews. People–and gamers in particular–seem to love an underdog series, and KoF XIII really struck a chord with a lot of players.
The game’s sales were enough for a profit, but nowhere near enough to fuel the demand that seems to be crystalizing for the market. As you can see, this one is already well on its way to becoming especially rare and valuable. If you like fighting games, or you want a big fat PS3 collection to sell in a few years, this is one you should definitely plan to grab. Maybe get a few copies?
Unfortunately, this one seems to be a bit more expensive than some of the others we’ve covered. You can find a brand new copy for $100, or if you want a previously-played copy, you can grab one for around $60.
Keep an eye out for a copy that includes the soundtrack disc as well. Don’t forget: audio CDs are well on their way to becoming “retro” as well. Little goodies like that will add sparkle to your collection and grant you some serious bragging rights in the future. Or you could just… you know… sell ‘em and make a bunch of money. Hopefully.
It’s up to you.
Oh and hey! If you’re new to the blog, you may have missed my other PS3 collection articles, along with my PS2 ones. For your convenience, I’ll put them all down here so you can easily find them. This list is my recommendation for building an inflatable retro collection of games that are still somewhat cheap, but with huge potential for price growth.
I’ll mention again that I can’t see the future, and I’m not giving financial advice. This is just the collection of games that I’m planning to add to my shelf and eventually sell. I’m just analyzing the market and trying to make educated guesses, okay?
PS3 Games You Better Grab Soon:
3D Dot Game Heroes (My personal bet for a big gainer.)