Pick Three Systems to Start With
A simple formula would ascribe rarer systems a 1 and more common systems a 2. Whatever adds up to 5 will work well enough and save you from overextending your time and budget. Say a Dreamcast has a value of 1, a Gamegear also a 1, PS3 a 2, and PSP a 2. You would therefore be able to collect for PS3, PSP and gamegear without overextending yourself. The idea is to not inundate yourself with super common systems like X360, PS3, and PSP overload and rather gather a mix of common and uncommon systems. This will allow you to cast a wider net and come back with more valuable fish in the long run.
As for myself, I hit pretty hard on PSP, PS2/PS3, then leave a few rarer systems for random chance like Game Gear and Dreamcast. I don’t ever shop for PS2 and PS3 at the same time. I take one month to focus on one system and then alternate to the other. Therefore giving retailers and chance to restock their wares. The rarer wares like Sega games are worth keeping an eye on even if you don’t own the means to play them. I’m looking at you Saturn. One day..
Do Some Research
By now in your life you should know what genres you enjoy, but maybe you don’t know what titles exist for each console. Beyond that, it’s very hard to remember what games are truly worth. There’s a worth to you, an extrinsic worth, that may account for how much nostalgia you have for a title or how much you enjoy a particular series. Intrinsically, things have a true worth that is more or less ascribed by the medium it exists on (cd vs. cart) and the quantity of extras that may come with it, like case, brochure and other goodies. Intrinsic worth often gets multiplied by rarity and extrinsic popularity to arrive at the final average price. Being careful not to overspend due misinformation will save you in the long run. Check out pricecharting.com or lukiegames.com. While they’re not foolproof, they give you baseline for what things are going for lately.
Rarity will always be the deciding factor of what the average price of a commodity will list for. Your mission is to find instances where the listed price falls well below the average. Absolutely no one wants to get that game home and find out you’ve paid dozens of dollars or pounds over average simply because you were misinformed or mistaken. Carry a pad of paper or an app database if you have to.
Get to Know Your Game Shops
Half Price Books, Vintage Stock, Slackers Cd’s and Games, and other such vintage shops will be your best bet for finding that game you’ve been really wanting, but you’ll need to understand what each one’s strengths and weaknesses are before committing to a location.
Half Price Books
- Best-in-class Game/disc/case quality
- Best price for quality ratio
- May not know the true price of things. Much lower than other stores.
Slackers Cd’s and Games
- This Missouri/Illinois only store has okay game case quality
- Discs might be a little scratched and not the original cases
- Prices are several dollars above other stores and online
- Often has rarer games not found in other retailers
Goodwill // Savers
- Wild randomness of game finds with extreme variety of game quality
- Discs are oftentimes entirely missing or severely scratched
- Prices are very cheap, dollars below online (no shipping to contend with)
- Vstock has some rarer contentions and varies wildly between locations
- Discs are playable but often resurfaced
- Cases are pre-shrinkwrapped to prevent disc theft, disallowing consumers’ ability to pre-check disc and brochure quality
- Prices are on-par to Slackers but one location has all loose discs for game systems for $0.99 which is insane and awesome. I’m not telling you which location, okay.
- GS has very little pricing irregularity between stores but vastly different stock between branches
- Discs are playable and obviously returnable with receipt
- Cases are on a case-by-case basis (get it?) and there are a huge number of gamestop-art cases that sell for the exact price as a original case games. Oversight and pet peeve.
- Prices vary wildly in terms of what they are vs. what they should be. There’s a very real chance you could find a game worth $30 on eBay for $5. Sometimes that corporate algorithm just isn’t working right.
- Online Gamestop: Game systems via gamestop.com are legitimate. They’re refurbished and have been opened for one reason or another, but the tech dudes that refurb these games don’t mess around usually. Systems are often equivalent in price to eBay and worth your time. Controllers are the same bag. Games are a mixed lot and mostly missing brochure and case.
What Games and Systems Are Super Cheap Right Now?
Older PS4 and Xbox One games are getting down in the single digits at many places. As people eye the PS5 and Xbox Series X, they’re dumping off their older 2013-2017 titles in favor of newer ones. Absolute gems like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided are around $5 which is a huge steal.
Obviously PS3 and 360 are littering all the store shelves right now. If you’re into Call of Duty, now’s the time my friend. You can get each and every Call of Duty since CoD4 for less than $3 each. You’ll get to know which games are extremely common (besides sports games, bleh) by how often you see them in stores and how many duplicates sit back to back. Any of the racing, sports, shooters and action/adventure titles are a dime and dozen right now and for less than $10 each. If you’re spending over $10 for any one of these, you’re doing it wrong.
Atari 2600, NES, SNES and N64 cartridge games are still widely available and found on-the-cheap, albeit cartridge-only. Your local retailer should have at least a cursory selection of each, with perhaps a few exclusives. Don’t forget about these systems, you hear me?
Not the store Target, as there’s never, ever anything good there. Just new stuff, yuck. Anyways, you really should be snapping up games that are exclusive to the systems you’re collecting for. It’s easiest if you play to the strengths of the console as well. Xboxes generally have more shooters, fighters, racers and the like whereas Playstations will have greater depth at RPG. Nintendo consoles tends to have oodles of shovelware, a term best described as the multitude of trash third party titles that plague all the DS iterations and the original Wii. But. And it’s a huge but. Nintendo has some of the best first-party titles of all time. Zelda, Mario, Metroid, F-Zero, Super Smash Bros, oh my!
If you’re after multi-platform games, it’s best to pick a console that was easy to develop for. The original Playstation, the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 come to mind. Both the Playstation 2 and 3 were built on extremely complicated CPU infastructure (Emotion Engine and Cell, respectively) that led to decreased performance on their systems by largely lazy third party developers. Don’t take this as bashing, as I think the Cell still is something really friggin’ cool. Up until recently, it was used in super-computer clusters by the US Military. Can the 360 say that? Can it?
A system that is easy to develop for will have vastly more third-party titles but may or may not have decent first-party titles. Very few consoles have gotten this formula right of having both first and third party support down. The X360 and the Switch come to mind with adequate balance of support.
Don’t Discount Online Methods
Two websites will become your best friend in your search of the perfect gaming collection. Decluttr.com and eBay.com both of which have given me absolutely zip nilch nada to write this article. Sad panda. Well, either way, Decluttr has been my best friend lately. While I absolutely do not recommend selling your hard-earned games to them as their rates seem even worse than Gamestop, I wholeheartedly recommend buying from. Oh good god, yes. Their prices are on-par with in-store Half Price Books. Sure, the selection is lacking and they don’t have much of anything older than the original Playstation, there’s one key fact you need to know.
To sell to them, you need the original UPC on the back of the outer packaging. This means only one thing: People can only send them CiB materials. Incidentally, people who keep their fifteen year old products CiB tend to take good care of their products. Ergo, everything I’ve received from Decluttr (something about 20 games now) have been complete and immaculate. PSP, DS, PS1, PS2, PS3, XBone, so far. If you’ve been collecting for any time at all, you know that PSP and DS are very very rarely boxed and never for the price points that Decluttr sells them for. Absolutely astounding and I hope they stay in business.
Obviously, there’s eBay, but good God almighty is eBay a mixed bag of sadness and grief. For every mint condition PSP with carrying case, 6 memory cards and 8 games for $100, there’s seven thousand misrepresented games with inadequate descriptions and what you end up with in the mail a week later is something even farther removed than thought possible.
You know, but game lots. Game lots are lots of multiple games. Yep.
Buy In Game Lots
People selling lots tend to be in three distinct groups.
- 1)Resellers who know the prices of things and know to package in one or two sports games because reasons and they hate me
- 2)Absolute noobs who are just selling mass quantities of their unwanted things and will accept whatever price
- 3)Parents of absolute noobs who are selling alien artifacts essentially and don’t label auctions correctly or photograph things well
Section 1 doesn’t reward much, but you’re more likely to get a quality product, sure. The price will be appropriate, oftentimes. Section 2 will reward you with a below-average price but there’s a chance that they mislabeled the auction and you end up with something weird or different than you wanted. Section 3 is what you really want, though. These people don’t list all the games in the description or title, but maybe add them in via photo at the very end of the gallery. You’ll get an Advance Wars DS for $5 because they didn’t realize that was a good game and needed to go into title or description or even have a clear photo. Ah, good times.
Buying Games Has Never Been Easier
With the access of the internet and services like Craigslist (which I don’t recommend, myself), /getting/ things has never been easier. Still, there’s a plethora of options available to the average collector that just makes things so much smoother. Even so, I still believe that hunting for these titles in-person feels that much more real and personal than grabbing that specific title online. There’s that feeling of victory when you find Metroid Prime CiB without any boogers on it or awful Gamestop labels on the spine for $10. You just feel giddy. Like you did when you opened your first Gameboy back in 1993. That sense of possibility and wonder, like anything at all is possible. Sometimes, we never grow up, and that’s okay.