The Truth About Blockbuster Exclusive Video Games
The current generation of gamers has probably never heard of Blockbuster Video. However, there was a time, about 20 years ago, when Blockbuster was as ubiquitous as McDonald's.
It crushed the competition and became as synonymous with video rentals as Coca-Cola was with soft drinks. Its footprint was all over the United States and spread throughout the world.
Such were Blockbuster’s fever dreams of manifest destiny and global domination that they weren’t content to merely exist and expand. They wanted absolute control!
What to Know - About Blockbuster Exclusive Video Games
Okay, so maybe they weren’t trying to conquer the planet. But they definitely did everything they could to dominate the video rental market.
That included offering exclusive titles in their inventory that competitors couldn’t get their hands on. Thus, Blockbuster Exclusive Video Games were born. These titles were only available at Blockbuster stores, and only to rent—not to buy.
Now, obviously, these Blockbuster Exclusive games had to end up somewhere when the brick-and-mortar video rental industry collapsed. And so, they dispersed to various owners, mostly retro game collectors who sought rare titles.
Even today, they’re extremely valuable in retro gaming circles. In this article, we examine many of these rare gems to explain this phenomenon. Read on to learn more.
Exclusive Titles, Rare Gems
So, why are these games rare in the first place? After all, there were countless Blockbuster stores with huge gaming sections, right? Shouldn’t today’s auction sites and retro game stores be teeming with an overstock of Blockbuster Exclusive Video Games?
Not So Much
Firstly, Blockbuster partnered almost exclusively with Nintendo (and a bit with Sega) to offer exclusive titles. And even within the wide world of Nintendo, these titles were only ever offered on the NES, SNES, and N64 systems.
And why? By the time the next-gen consoles came out in the 2000s, online rentals (and other factors) had all but destroyed Blockbuster.
Furthermore, game production companies simply didn’t need to make that many copies of these exclusive games in the first place. Normally, such companies hope to sell a copy of each game to every household in the world. To achieve even one-tenth of that goal requires millions of game units.
But to fill their Blockbuster Exclusive quota, these companies wouldn’t have to produce nearly as many units. For each exclusive title, they’d need only enough to ship a few dozen copies to a few thousand Blockbuster stores, maybe a million copies altogether.
A Diamond in the Rough
But even with the limited stock of Blockbuster Exclusive video games, that doesn’t wholly explain why they’re so valuable. After all, how can a seemingly ordinary copy of N64’s Clayfighter: Sculptor’s Cut go for over $1,500 on the open market? The truth is, a complete Blockbuster Exclusive video game is incredibly hard to come by.
Remember, these titles were exclusively for rent at first. Thus, the only ones Blockbuster actually sold were extremely used copies that had been rented hundreds of times.
By then, their boxes were mangled, their instruction booklets were lost, and the games themselves were almost entirely worn out. So now, finding a complete Blockbuster Exclusive game in acceptable condition is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Besides condition and completeness, the content of these games affects their value, too. The rarest of Blockbuster Exclusive Video Games are slightly, yet significantly, better versions of existing games. While these titles often improved little on their predecessors, many included new characters or other amazing bonuses.
Take the game referenced above: Clayfighter Sculptor’s Cut. Although that iteration was barely different from the original, its exclusive character list and other improvements made it extremely desirable.
This also meant it was one of the most-rented titles in the store, which led to more copies of the game getting worn out beyond repair. Today, it’s estimated that there are fewer than 20,000 copies in existence.
The Intrigue of the Unknown
Even taking all of the above into account, one can’t discount the power of wishful fantasy, either. That is, there’s an intriguing air of mystery surrounding Blockbuster Exclusive titles.
Gamers wonder, “How much better is the Blockbuster version than the original? What’s it like to play through ClayFighter with the exclusive characters?” This adds to the games’ desirability on the retro market.
The Fog of Authenticity
Also, it’s really difficult these days to tell if a game is indeed a Blockbuster Exclusive title. Since there are no more Blockbuster video stores, the records of their exclusive titles are now gone.
Today, evaluating a game’s BE authenticity is left to the consensus of the gaming community. And it’s mostly educated guesswork. If retro game sellers and enthusiasts all agree that a title was indeed offered as an exclusive, well, that’s about all the proof you’re ever going to get.
Now that we’ve established what qualifies as a Blockbuster Exclusive video game, let’s look at some of these (presumably authentic) titles individually. Remember, the authenticity of these titles may be subject to debate.
The Flinstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak (NES)
This title has achieved almost mythic status due to the unending debate over whether it is indeed a Blockbuster Exclusive. It’s now impossible to prove either side of this argument because the game is so old. The truth of the matter is now lost in the sands of history, like the Ark of the Covenant.
Regardless, the common consensus is that it is indeed a Blockbuster Exclusive title, and it has been valued accordingly. Furthermore, the game had a limited release anyway because it came out shortly before the discontinuation of the NES. So it’s a valuable rarity regardless of its supposed BE status.
A loose cartridge will easily fetch you about $800 on the open market. A complete version will get you a whopping $2,000 or more.
Donkey Kong Country Competition (SNES)
This version of Donkey Kong Country is a verifiable Blockbuster Exclusive. In fact, it’s doubly exclusive, as it was specifically created for a Blockbuster Video gaming competition held in 1994. That’s why a complete version of the game will earn you around $1,600.
It’s actually more like a skeletonized demo version of the game. Most levels and features are removed to allow competition based on score/speed.
Final Fight Guy (SNES)
Final Fight Guy was an exclusive update of the 1990 arcade crowd-pleaser Final Fight. This version remedied some problems plaguing the initial console release of Final Fight. For instance, it brought back certain levels, cooperative play, and, of course, a popular character by the name of Guy.
Hagane: The Final Conflict (SNES)
Many a seller has insisted that Hagane: The Final Conflict was a Blockbuster Exclusive game. However, this cannot be confirmed and there’s even some evidence to suggest that it had a regular, non-exclusive release.
Regardless, it’s still extremely rare and a lot of fun to play. We have one available for sale on our website, WATA graded for authenticity.
Stunt Racer (N64)
Unlike most games on our list, Stunt Racer is not a spiced-up version of a wide-release title. It’s an original game that was made exclusively for rental at Blockbuster.
In Stunt Racer, players race super-fast cars with rocket engines and other futuristic modifications across wild, gravity-defying stunt tracks. Perform awesome stunts and spend your winnings on performance-enhancing upgrades. The graphics are quite impressive and a lot more detailed than most N64 racing games.
Blockbuster World Championship II (Sega Genesis)
Similar to the Donkey Kong Country Competition Cartridge, Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II was made for the real-life event of the same name. It, too, is like a demo cartridge, featuring competition-focused versions of two games: NBA Jam Tournament Edition and Judge Dredd.
Since Blockbuster commissioned the destruction of these cartridges after the event, they shouldn’t even exist. But, apparently, they do, making Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II one of the all-time rarest retro game cartridges. An authenticated copy can earn you over $5,000.
Other Notable Titles
Some other generally accepted Blockbuster Exclusive titles for SNES include:
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: Fire Dogs
- EeK The Cat
A few of these titles are easy to come by, such as Ren & Stimpy and Mr. Nutz. But complete-in-box copies will sell for $200 easily.
Sega Genesis had some BE titles as well, including GameFactory (an empty cartridge that can be loaded with a game ROM online), and Madden ‘93 Championship Edition. The Nintendo 64 Blockbuster Exclusive library includes Super Bowling and Transformers: Beast Wars Transmetals. Aside from Clayfighter 63⅓: Sculptor’s Cut, the N64 Blockbuster Exclusive titles are pretty common and not too valuable.
Be Careful When Purchasing Blockbuster Exclusive Video Games
Some of these rare games are the most sought-after titles in the retro game market. Unfortunately, that also makes them notorious for counterfeits.
Actually Final Fight Guy did NOT bring back the missing level in the S.N.E.S. version of the game, nor did it have the two player feature for that matter either. Only difference was that it (obviously) had Guy as a playable character instead of Cody, some new items such as invisibility, and replaced a few health replenishing items also. That along with slightly improved gameplay in general, but was still a piss poor port compared to the arcade, and Sega CD versions of the game however.
Yeah, Hagane actually wasn't exclusive. Though the consensus states otherwise, there is one important factor that debunks it all. In SNES Drunk's first SNES myth-busting video, he talks about Hagane and even shows a listing for the game in a magazine from the time. Now, this is not to say that I'm right; I could be very wrong. But this piece of evidence alone, if a legit listing, debunks the game's high regard as a BE title. But people will list their games for whatever they feel like, so this game will most likely stay where its. Also, the PAL version is easily $200-$300 cheaper.