When you think of markets that pull in over $200 million per year, retro gaming doesn’t come immediately to mind. That figure seems more apt for vintage collectibles or niche artwork. But, in a way, retro games have become their own vintage collectibles and niche artwork, all the more valuable if they are authentic and still in the original box.
Short-lived consoles, like the Sega Saturn, can fetch upwards of $125, and certain games, such as “Panzer Dragoon Saga” and “Snatcher” are being sold for nearly 4 times more as the consoles. Apparently there are folks out there willing to pay these exorbitant prices, but the real question is, is it worth it? Here are some factors to bear in mind when considering the real worth of retro games such as these.
There are economic fundamentalists out there who will tell you that when the market has spoken, there’s nothing left to be said. According to this philosophy, “Panzer Dragoon Saga” and cult cyberpunk favorite “Snatcher” are worth whatever folks are willing to pay for them, whether that’s $6, $600, or $6,000. This notion is buttressed by how impressive it is that sellers can actually get hundreds of dollars for such games, considering that online pirating of video games is so pervasive in today’s culture. Taking those factors into account, the issue is settled.
Or is it?
Nostalgia and mania are the x-factors here, and that’s what drives the hunt for retro games, a hunt that can blind otherwise rational folks.
When “Panzer Dragoon Saga” appeared on the Sega Saturn in the late ‘90s, it quickly became a cult hit. The game’s 3D modeling was revolutionary for its time, and the on-rail gameplay featuring a boy and his dragon was imaginative. “Snatcher” also became a sentimental favorite for fans of sci-fi games. (The fact it only appeared in the U.S. on the ill-fated Sega CD certainly added to its mythic status.) These games’ popularity grew as time passed, long after the Sega-CD and Sega Saturn fell by the wayside. When collecting becomes a form of mania it can cloud the issue of legitimacy regarding high price tags. Take this list of the most expensive collectibles worldwide. Predictably, comics and vinyl albums make the cut, but $60,000 for a pair of Levis? Even free-market politics can’t explain that one away. Still, the truth seems to be that if you’re a deep-pocketed Gollum searching for your ring, you’ll likely pay any price in order to get it. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth it.
Are retro games worth their exorbitant price tags? For the moment let’s forget about market forces and collectors’ mania and focus merely on the individual. Not to get too Zen about it, but these games seem to be worth the cost if it makes sense to the buyer. If the buyer feels like dropping 600 bucks for “Panzer Dragoon Saga” or “Snatcher,” then who are we to argue? In this respect retro games are like diamonds. After all, does it really make sense to drop a minimum three-months salary on something that doesn’t have any intrinsic value other than being sparkly? Not to anyone but the buyer in question. And that’s all that matters, I suppose.