This afternoon, I felt the final nail slip noiselessly into the coffin of ye olde world of video games. And what bastion of the old order was filling today’s tomb?
The casual video games trader.
Back in the day when Megadrive ruled supreme, and even the humble Game Boy was a ten year old’s wet dream, every man and his dog was trying his hand at video games trading. This was before the days of dedicated game stores, and the generalist dungeons of Dixons and Virgin didn’t do scummy second hand. But in their place were legion fanboys, and closet entrepreneurs with vaguely related shops, who spotted a gap in the market and set aside a dusty shelf to display their eclectic wares. Five copies of Tetris and a NES being pretty standard fare. These were video rental stores mostly, but you’d always find a goer at the market and then a few randoms like, bizarrely, our local speciality camera shop. Man, they all had a piece of the action.
The video games market was small in the 90s, so the re-sale market was niche – meaning low demand, but even lower supply. And what’s more – no eBay to let anyone compare prices. And those cheeky casual traders spotted the opportunity to rip-off the punters quicker than Ryanair in a heatwave.
But the thing was, they were almost universally crap at it. They had their little catalogues of prices – but badger them long enough and you could always get a deal. (The griggers will remember getting a Megadrive in return for some shiznit game and a bunch of Master System control manuals. I mean, WTF?! that’s freakin GENIUS right there!) Trading in a game was a gamble – sometimes you’d trade massively up, other times you’d barely get enough dollars from a SNES to buy a pizza. But man, it was a beautiful time.
Today, Gamestation wanted to charge me fifteen squidders to swap Assassins 3 for Dead Space 2. Two pre-owned beauts that they’re selling for exactly the same number of dibloons. (£25) So why the margin? Are they roughly in the same demand? Yep. Same condition? Yep. But you want £15 anyway? Yep.
Simple answer – because they can.
OK sure, they need to make the moolah, and it’s their choice if they’ve got enough Assassins so don’t really want to trade. But would they deal? Even just a little bit?! Nope. They just sent out some punk kid who trotted the corporate line. What about a straight swap? Nope. For a fiver? Nope. What if I chuck in some Master System game manuals. Nope. (What’s a Master System?!)
Where’s the fun Gamestation?! Where’s the humanity?!
Truth is, I expected nothing more. High street trades are 100% rip-off and they don’t care who knows it. The market is mass volume now, so they’ll churn enough suckers, even at insult prices, to make it worthwhile. But I just had a glimmer of hope that, with a decent offer on the table, there was still a chance to trade it up old school.
I guess that time has passed.