You might have seen the meme. Game collectors with shelves full of video games complain that they have nothing to play. It’s funny. But only because it’s true.
Many of us with large collections—especially retro game collections—have a hard time finding the perfect game to scratch whatever mental itch we’re experiencing. Even with hundreds or sometimes thousands of games to choose from!
It probably says more about our mental state than that of retro game collecting, but it doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just want an exciting new experience to provide that dopamine and remind your brain why you’re a gamer in the first place.
Shelves full of games, but nothing to play
As a collector of vintage video games, I know this problem all too well. Yes, I’ve got four shelves full of physical video games. But it can be really hard to find the perfect experience for whatever mood I’m in. If it’s on my shelf, I’ve probably already played it. And nothing beats the excitement of a new game.
But when you’re an established collector, it can be hard to ferret out what games you “need” to expand your collection. And when you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming to decide which games you want to add.
A few years ago, I started poking around in the world of monthly video game boxes. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s similar to any other ‘loot crate’ service, where the company locates and curates items to their subscribers. In this case, the service is picking video games and sending a monthly box full of surprises.
There are a few services that do this, but Video Games Monthly seems to be the most established of the retro game crate providers. They’ve been sending out boxes for close to ten years and ship around 10,000 games per month. Pretty cool.
How Video Games Monthly Works
While it’s fun to get a box full of games every month, some gamers are understandably concerned about which games they’ll get. After all, you don’t want a crate full of Madden ‘94 cartridges every month!
VGM has a number of options for their subscribers to help personalize their crates. You tell them which systems you want to collect for, fill out which games you already own (so NO DOUBLES!), tell them what genres you like, and which ones you absolutely don’t want, and you can provide them with a “wishlist” of specific titles they can watch for.
Obviously, your monthly shipment has to fit within certain budgeting constraints. You can’t just put Little Samson on your wishlist and expect to get it. The service, when you break it down to price-per-game, is quite affordable, but you’ve got to be realistic with your expectations.
They also have a number of tiers to allow you to customize your box depending on how much you want to spend, and how many games you want. They offer four tiers, ranging from the 3-Up package (three games per month for $34.99) to the PWR PAK, which will net you a whopping 10 games per month for just $79.99.
For my first crate, I got the 5-UP. That includes five games from various systems, along with a few freebies. This tier costs $44.99 and, at less than $10 per game and a low, flat fee for shipping, is a pretty darn good deal.
What I Got with Video Games Monthly
In my first crate, I received:
- Playstation 2 – The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest
- PS3 – Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
- Nintendo 3DS – Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido
- NES – Rescue: The Embassy Mission
- SNES – Aerobiz (from my wishlist)
Being so established, and having so many relationships with so many partners, Video Games Monthly is able to offer a bit more than their competition. One thing that sets them apart is the amount of brand new sealed games they send out. In my box of five games, three of them were sealed. The only loose games I got were the NES and SNES games. Which is totally fine with me.
Along with the assortment of games, I also received a doorknob hanger (Do not disturb! I’m playing with my joystick), and a nifty little doodad called a 1Up Card. This is a plastic card, the exact size of a credit card, with a length of rough-ish fabric fastened to each edge. The idea is that you wet one of the sides with some contact cleaner (or rubbing alcohol) and buff the contacts in your old cartridge games. Then flip to the dry side and buff it some more.
If you’re a retro collector, you probably already do this with Q-tips. But the 1Up Card uses a fabric which is just as absorbent, but a bit more abrasive than cotton. Not abrasive enough to damage your games, of course. The fabric was obviously chosen and sized to provide maximum surface contact and abrasiveness to for maximum cleaning and minimum damage.
It’s handy, okay?!
So yeah. The 5-Up crate is an excellent deal, with three brand new games, an NES classic and and SNES game right from my wishlist, plus two freebies. And it costs right around $45. You definitely won’t find a deal like that on eBay. And probably not your local retro store, either.
Grow your collection passively
I think all collectors secretly want one of those insanely massive collections that fills an entire room. But not all of us have an entire extra room just for games. And besides that, it takes a loooooong time to amass a truly impressive library of games.
One of the cool things about Video Games Monthly is that you can—like certain other completely amazing products—You can just “set it and forget it”. Your subscription renews automatically each month until you stop it. You’ll get a nice surprise in your mailbox, a few new games to play, and your retro game collection will continue to grow.
Of course, you can still go thrifting and junk-diving. (And don’t forget all those hours you put into eBay.) And when you get some new finds, you can add them to your games library on your Video Games Monthly account. Not only does this keep you from receiving doubles of games you already have, it’s also handy to track your collection for your own purposes.
If you’re signed up for the PWR PAK, then your collection will grow faster than you realize (120 games per year). You’ll never have that “nothing to play” feeling again.