Game pricing

I just payed $30 to get a copy of .hack//G.U. Volume 3. I didn’t pay $30 for the first two volumes put together. This price disparity exists with other .hack merchandise as well; early volumes of the games are fairly easy to come across at any GameStop and are relatively cheap, but the last chapters are hard to find and very expensive. Some in the fandom think that the early games were produced in larger quantities, and that Bandai made fewer copies of the later games and sold them at a higher price to induce people to buy the game for its rarity (instead of, y’know, convincing people to buy it because the series is good, and you want to see how it ends, like how most series work).

Oh, look at me! I'm a rare game!

Shut up. The .hack series is not unheard of–it’s actually quite popular in Japan, and is at the very worst just slightly obscure in America (with most people aware of the series because of the well known and successful anime spin-off), so it’s not like there was never demand for the games so they only made 5,000 copies, like with some rare books. Now, E.T. for the Atari is a rare game, because pretty much all known copies were returned to the stores, sent back to Atari, put underneath a steamroller, crushed into fine powder, buried in the desert and covered over with concrete. Clearly, Atari took a page from Chernobyl’s book regarding dealing with failures.

1. Get a lot of concrete
2. Put concrete on top of problem
3. ?????
4. Profit!

Except that the toxicity of the area around Chernobyl is slowly dropping, and will be relatively safe for human repopulation within 600 years, whereas the toxicity of E.T. The Video Game will never decrease. Also, the disaster at Chernobyl didn’t result in the death of the entire nuclear power industry (and in fact encouraged great leaps and bounds in safety and plant construction), whereas the epic failure of E.T. pretty much resulted in the Video Game Crash of 1983. Think about it, if it hadn’t been for E.T., we might have had the Nintendo 3DS and the PSP2 4 years ago.

Atari's failures delayed second joystick technology by 4 years.

Back before Final Fantasy VII was released on the Playstation Network for $10 to download directly to your PSP or PS3, copies of the game were selling for over $100 on Amazon and eBay. Since the game’s release, eBay prices have crashed; the only copies that are being listed for those historically high prices are ‘collector’ quality, mint condition non-Greatest Hits still-in-the-plastic-wrapping-so-it-has-an-indefinite-shelf-life type copies, and even then, they’re not moving if they’re more than $50. Final Fantasy VII is what you could call a rare game nowadays–it came out 14 years ago, and everyone who bought a copy is liable to hold on to it, so used copies are hard to come by. The copies still out there available for purchase are the comes-from-a-smoke-free-home, intact-manufacturer’s-seal copies, and those are bought up by, you guessed it, collectors, not the average Joe who was told that FF7 was a good game and he should play it, but you can’t borrow my copy, brah, I don’t let anyone touch it, and I don’t have a Playstation memory card anymore.

The single biggest hurdle facing those who wish to play Final Fantasy VII for more than 4 hours.

But for the people who merely want to play the game, having to shell out $150 for a mint-condition copy of Final Fantasy VII just to experience the game for its historical value was ridiculous. Now that it’s been released on the PSN for $10, it’s the one of the top selling games on the Playstation Network, and sold 100,000 copies within 2 weeks of release. The beauty of it is that there are infinite copies of it now, so the value on having a hard copy crashed. (Now the prices on Amazon are catering more toward collectors. New copies of the game go as high as $235, but only have that much value to a collector, whereas prices on used copies have fallen to about $35. Ebay prices have fallen even further, though people still list their copies for $500 with a hopeful gleam in their eyes.)

The problem with pricing games for collectors is that not everyone is a collector–or at least, they’re not collectors on the level of ‘I must keep my game in mint condition!!!!!1!!1’. I collect games in that I buy them and tend to hold on to them, but that’s like saying I’m a sock collector because I buy socks and keep them. I hold on to my games because I’ll want to play them again in the future. That’s the value they hold for me, not some sort of hypothetical monetary value. Some people buy games because they want to play them, not because they want to put it on a pedestal.

That’s why I bought .hack//G.U. Volume 3. I wanted to play it again.

But I was hesitant to buy a new copy, and not just because of the price (I saw a price of $125 for a factory sealed copy of Volume 3). I know that there ARE people out there who collect games who would cringe knowing that I bought it to take off the plastic wrap. It’s the same feeling of worry that I get when I see an antique kimono sell on eBay, and imagine it being sold to someone who is going to cut it up for a quilting project. I die inside when I think about that. My friend who introduced me to .hack is a collector of .hack merchandise, so a mint conditioned sealed copy of the game would have particular value to her that it wouldn’t have to me. I personally don’t find a lot of value in a game that I can’t play because it would decrease it’s value. It would be like owning a Picasso, but not ever displaying it. Yes, it’s worth a lot of money, but how much value does something have if you have no way of directly enjoying it?

All through my years of collecting Pokemon cards, I wanted a Charizard. They were the rarest and most powerful card a 10-year-old could ever hope to own. And they weren’t rare like those bullshit Blue Eyes White Dragon cards that were given away at every Yu-Gi-Oh! event ever–you could go through your entire life playing Pokemon and never actually touch a Charizard card. That’s legit rareness. You can bet your ass that if I had ever actually acquired a Charizard, it would have gone straight into my deck. Why? Because the value the card had to kids who played the game was its strength in a deck, not just the fact that it was really rare.

I would have kept it nice, though--I'd have put in a proxy card in my deck for it, so I wouldn't bend up the edges, and kept it in a card sleeve.

I feel the same way about my games. The reason why FFVII costs $235 new on Amazon, and FFVIII costs $12 new on Amazon is that VII is a better game. It’s a better game, and I want to play it. I’ll put a Picasso up on my wall, I’ll put a vintage kimono on my back, and I’ll put a copy of FFVII in my Playstation. That’s how those works are meant to be enjoyed.

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