By Nikki Hedrick
As videogames evolve with astounding graphics and complex story lines, nostalgia and collectors are driving an altogether different market.
In November, Nintendo released the NES Classic, a smaller version of the original Nintendo complete with 30 preloaded games. It sold out faster than anyone was prepared for, helping solidify that a growing, hungry market for older games and console systems exists.
Joe Alonzo, owner of Fort Walton Beach-based Rad Junk, understands the desire for classic video gaming better than most.
“It is driving sales of original hardware,” says Alonzo of the NES Classic. “Because the thing is so hard to find, the supply was so limited and demand was so high, and because people miss that tangibility of holding a cartridge in their hands, it has increased awareness and visibility of the retro market.”
It isn’t a cost prohibitive jump either, with stores like Alonzo’s sending customers out the door with the original Nintendo consoles and a couple extra games for under the $100 price point.
The NES Classic isn’t the only animal that created an additional drive towards retro gaming in 2016. “I think the retro stuff was already gaining some momentum early this year, but when Pokémon Go came out…I have never seen anything go as crazy as that did.” Alonzo shares that everyone seemed to want to “catch them all,” from casual players to longtime fans of the franchise. He dubs it “a revolving door of Pokémon madness,” as demand for older Pokémon games continues to rise.
Retro stores like Rad Junk offer additional services—replacing pin connectors and cleaning both consoles and games to prolong their life spans. “We are dealing with a finite supply,” he says.
Alonzo is also quick to dispel the myth that blowing into a cartridge is a good idea, as it can cause buildup on the metal connectors and affect a game’s ability to play properly in the long run.
As some games become rare, their prices are driven up and fakes begin to appear on the market. “From a collector’s standpoint you want the real deal. You want the real cartridge. Some of the games are getting really pricy, so we are seeing an influx of those higher end titles being reproduced heavily.”
But Alonzo isn’t necessarily opposed to reproductions of hard-to-find titles, “If it is clearly labeled as a reproduction, I have no problem, because at the end of the day that’s what we all want to do. Just get our hands on games that we want to play and have fun.”
To spot a fake, Alonzo suggests looking for a difference in how the plastic feels. Reproductions often using cheaper materials. Labels can be another signal that a deal is too good to be true, with coloring or depth of the image missing the mark from the original printing.
“Ultimately, the best way to figure out you have a fake is to get a ‘game bit,’ a little screw driver that fits into the security bit on the back of cartridges,” says Alonzo. “Open it up and look at the board and Google it. If there is any difference in the configuration, it is likely a fake.”
Rad Junk features consoles and games from the Odyssey 2000 (which birthed a tennis game that I’ll always refer to as Pong) to the latest generation of consoles like the PlayStation 4. They also carry a selection of videogame themed gifts, and host monthly trade nights and weekly retro gaming tournaments.
Learn more at radjunk.com.