Over the last 40 years dozens upon dozens of home video game consoles have been released across the globe. Some, like the NES, retailed for affordable prices ($89.99), while others, like the TurboGrafx-16, were prohibitively expensive ($399.99). Then there’s SNK’s Neo Geo system, which was in a league of its own. The machine’s exorbitant $649.99 price tag (and this was in 1990 dollars) ensured that the only folks who could get their hands on it likely wore monocles and smoked cigarettes out of ivory holders fashioned from African elephant tusks. However, even after its release the Neo Geo didn’t depreciate all that much in price. Today gamers can still spend hundreds of dollars on an original system, and its used games are some of the priciest around. So what’s responsible for this gouging? Here are some reasons why the Neo-Geo and its catalog of titles was, is and always will be reserved for those gamers with the deepest of pockets.
SNK had the novel idea to deliver a home console that perfectly replicated their arcade machines. And they delivered (hence the high price tag). Everything about the system was big, from the console itself to the giant cartridge games. Even the controller, designed after a traditional arcade stick, was massive. But the size facilitated the gameplay, and the game cartridges’ 100 megabits allowed for highly detailed graphics coming through in over 4,000 colors (again, this is why each game retailed for at least $200 on release). The arcade-level graphics and great sound quality are the reason why SNK charged so much at the time. It’s also the reason these consoles are still pricey even today—because they still offer a fun, old-school arcade experience.
Beyond the hardware, beyond the responsive controller, and even beyond the graphics, the reason people still pay big money for the Neo Geo is because of the games. For a console that existed for 14 years, the library isn’t that extensive (about 180 games in total), but it includes some of the most iconic titles around. “Fatal Fury,” “The Art of Fighting,” “Blazing Star,” “Samurai Showdown”—these fighters still have high replay value, which is why some of the rarer titles sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars on eBay. An original “Metal Slug,” for instance, can net over a grand online.
Its retro credibility
Old-school gamers love the Neo Geo, and it’s not hard to understand why. Even when it was new, the Neo Geo offered all the fun and nostalgia of the arcade but from the comfort of your own home. Cut to 25 years later and the console is still delivering that same wistful experience. There hasn’t been a machine since then that has captured the arcade vibe the way the Neo Geo did. For that reason aficionados of this system are more than gamers—they are members of a brotherhood celebrating the last gasps of a bygone era.
And all of that comes at a price. Who knows where the world of gaming is headed, what frontiers lie ahead? Maybe VR becomes so advanced in the near future that it renders all home consoles irrelevant. Or maybe the Neo Geo endures, despite technological advances, and kids of future generations get to experience what it was like to play the great arcade games of the old school. Of course if that’s the case then the Neo Geo will be even more expensive. Word of caution don't buy the recently released Neo Geo X Console, you'll be sorry.