Level 14: Has the gravy train rolled out of town? 

Remember when this was the scene at a flea market or yard sale? Boxes of games usually set at an arbitrary price of a few bucks each, now most markets have a dealer there with individually priced games and the yard sale scene has got rough as well with more and more sellers knowing that games are worth money. 

Nothing is more frustrating than over priced games at yard sales, the guys at the flea markets usually have reasonable market prices give or take, but the regular Joe looking to sell their gameboy advance at his yard sale, not so much. People are starting to go to ebay before pricing things at their yard sales and it leads to some astronomical price differences. Everyone wants their old Mario 3 or Blades of Steel to be worth $50 but they just aren’t and it can be frustrating when trying to haggle said item down from that price. 

There was a time in the 90s where getting was definitely good, people were selling off a system and a box of games for maybe $20-30 and most games could be found in second hand stores for under $5. Those days are gone for sure as most of that old stock found its way into the hands of collectors and resellers who had the foresight to sit on them until they would be worth selling. 

Even today there are a lot of stores like Value Village, Talize, Goodwill, Vinnie,  etc depending on where you’re from but they all operate on the same business model, the public donates their items and the store sells them for profit and  donates part to a charity they’re affiliated with. They were also once a place to get amazing steals on games because they just priced them generically and that would sometimes allow you to score big. However these stores are now turning to ebay too, but only really on retro and gaming items. As a guy who frequently scouts his local stores and has found many a good find, I’ve also watched the prices jump…a lot over the last few months even. At one time I could walk in and get a Nintendo 64, Playstation 2 or GameCube controller for $2-3 which is awesome, however in the last few months that price has jumped to around $20. Yes I know $20 isn’t a rip off for a controller in good condition but the guy selling the controller at the game store still had to pay to get the merchandise.  I inquired one day why a gamecube the store was selling was $12 but the separately priced controller was $20 the answer I received was “We compare with ebay and local game stores”….WTF? I had to ask “but isn’t your stuff donated to you for free?” The answer back was a simple “that’s what everyone else sells them for..”. 

I have no problem with people making a few bucks, I sell games myself in my spare time to support my own habit but I also have to pay to get those games, nobody just donates a pile of them to me. If I received them for free I couldn’t really in good conscience sell them at a major profit because in that case it’s all profit. This is an issue I’ve touched on before as every collector/seller has to go through this and decide how they choose to handle it. 

So even the last places that were once the caboose of the gravy train are starting to catch up to the retro game engine’s speed as it plows ahead into the market. This creates an extremely vicious community as everyone now wants top dollar because they have to pay the next guys top dollar on items they want. I’ve found in my area anyway that this has really slowed down the market a lot, items posted on various buy and sell sites that used to get a lot of responses get none as even the lowballers have become tired of trying to squeeze blood from a stone. 

Maybe this is the catalyst the market needs to start changing, now that everyone wants top price I feel a lot of casual collectors will start to wander away from the hobby again as will some serious collectors as things continue to climb and put full collections out of reach. I had a conversation recently with a guy who had been in the hobby for about 2o years now and it was interesting to hear his take on how the hobby is cannibalizing itself. 

He deals a lot in the States and in doing so sees a lot better prices because there’s still a lot of swap meets and flea markets there that haven’t jumped the rails yet into the ebay pricing world. So it’s interesting to me as a Canadian to hear him talk about $2-3 common games when here in the great white north the same game starts at $5 and some even dead common titles find their way to the $15-20 mark. A lot of the pricing has to do with greed rather than the market, in Canada we bought millions of Nintendo and Sega Genesis carts when they rolled out in North America and I don’t find it that hard to come across games here in comparison to the States, but somehow the prices here reflect a scarcity  that doesn’t really exist. 

That’s where things like the second hand stores, the goodwill’s and the yard sales  used to come in handy, it was an opportunity to round up games without the insane price tag. But unfortunately it looks as though the train has left the station on those deals which is sad as it will discourage new collectors from wanting to get into what many of us consider a fun and rewarding hobby. Like I said though, maybe this will be the straw that finally starts to break the camels back and we’ll start to see the much needed correction in the market but until then myself like many others will be waving goodbye to the gravy train from the station waiting for the good times to come back around and unfortunately wading through our now ebay infused market while trying to carve out a deal here and there. 

Hopefully wherever you find yourself you’re able to still wheel some deals. 

I’d be interested to hear how things are for you in your area in the comments. 

#8bitliving

#retroredneck 

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Boss Battle: The N64 turns 20.

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Originally developed under the names “Project Reality” and “Ultra 64”, it’s final name by launch was the Nintendo 64 and this June it hits it’s 20th birthday.

Nintendo had been riding high off the success of the original NES and Super Nintendo but things were brewing on the gaming scene, Sony was coming out with their gaming system the Playstation and it was promising big things. Nintendo is never one to be left out or sweat too much when it comes to console development as through the NES and SNES generation Nintendo proved itself to be the quality platform for gaming that was accessible and family friendly.

Any kid who had a subscription will remember seeing the sneak previews of  this new Nintendo system that was talking about true 3-D graphics and it almost seemed too good to be true. As development continued screenshots would make their way into the magazine and with each one you would be more tantalized with the prospect of this new gaming development.

When September of 1996 rolled around everyone and their grandma were wanting to be first in line to scoop up what was now known as the Nintendo 64, it had a sleek design, a strange looking controller and wait for it ….2 launch games…that’s right Pilotwings 64 and Mario 64. Ok so that wasn’t that awesome or was it?

Both of the launch titles were fun and definitely showed off what the Nintendo 64 was capable of, but Mario 64 blew the roof off of anything you knew about games until that point. Mario 64 had everything you had dreamed of since hearing about “Project reality”, slick graphics, cool 3-D design and great controls that allowed you to quickly grasp the new gameplay concept and get right to the fun.

Mario 64 wasn’t the only titles to really light people up, games like wave race 64 showed some really great water physics, Mario Kart 64 brought the SNES classic to the next level, Zelda gave Link a huge world to explore, pokemon stadium was like nothing Pokémon fans had seen previously on the Gameboy but there’s one game nobody can deny blew the rest away if only for being such a time hog:

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That’s right, GOLDENEYE!!! When Goldeneye came out everyone dropped what they were doing to play it. You had a main story which allowed you to unlock levels and cheats for the game which also came in handy for the best part of all…the multiplayer.

I remember spending countless nights with friends playing the multiplayer, a friend’s church would often let us use their projection screen which was like everyone having their own 32″ tv to play on for your section of the screen. Much like Mario Kart this was a game that could damage friendships but everyone lined up to play. Everyone had a favourite character or weapons set up and one jerk would always be odd job but you just went out of your way to beat on them first.

The Nintendo 64 sold over 20 million units in North America had a library of around 388 games, much less than the NES, SNES, Playstation and Sega Saturn but the library had many impressive games in it and to its credit many are best selling and highly acclaimed games for that game generation such as Mario 64 being the best selling game even against Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy 7.

The N64 Also came out with some interesting accessories and add ons just as it had for previous consoles. They released a memory card that fit into the controller to allow saving data from games, the rumble pak that although required batteries gave you some interaction with various games, the failed 64DD disk drive that only saw 9 games released it for it and the expansion pak that allowed certain games to access extra ram for bigger games like Donkey Kong 64.

The 64 was also released in a myriad of colors and designs aside from the original charcoal grey system, the most common ones people know are the colored units that were orange, blue, smoke, grape, red, jungle green and the Pokémon themed unit. The controllers came out with several colors as well but in the later units the 2nd controller would be atomic purple instead of the standard grey.

The N64 is a system that has stood up well over time provided you have a CRT tv or an upscaler as on new tvs the graphics tend to look washed out or fuzzy. As far as the games go many people still look back on Goldeneye as one of the best first person shooters of the time even if now the graphics look a little rough and Ocarina of time consistently makes it on to the top lists of all time best Zelda games. Some games have been left in the dust for not holding up well but the ones that do are still fun and still look great today.

It was a different looking system with a strange shaped controller with an odd button layout but it provided a ton of fun and outlived it’s competitors in the collectors market. Playstation and the Saturn were good but not often looked back upon as fondly as the Nintendo 64 and the prices of 64 games reflects this is comparison to the other 2 major systems of the time with the exceptions of some great games on the other 2 platforms. Once again Nintendo knocked one out of the park and continued to keep themselves on part with their competitors as the console market kept moving forward into the next generation of systems.

So if you have a Nintendo 64 sitting in a closet somewhere, bust it out and toss in some Mario 64, Goldeneye, Crusin’ USA or any of the other great games you loved and take a trip down memory lane with what was one of the best systems of that console generation.

I’ve got mine set up and I think I hear some Goldeneye calling name.

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#retroredneck
#8bitliving

You can also find The Retro Redneck on Facebook. Drop in and say hey y’all.

Cheers!

Level 13: The Gameboy

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July 31, 1989 Everything you knew about handheld games changed forever, up until that point handheld units were usually subpar LCD games, often sports like football or baseball. These games were fun being what they were but didn’t compare to systems like the Nintendo or even the Atari consoles available during that time.

When the Gameboy launched you could finally take familiar games on the go with you and people snatched them up to the tune of 44+ million units sold in North America. The Gameboy came with Tetris as a pack in game as well as a few early titles like Baseball, Alleyway, Tennis and an all new Mario game called Super Mario Land.

The Gameboy was designed to be the successor to the popular Game and watch series of handheld games which only gave you one built in LCD game per unit. When the idea was pitched at Nintendo the initial response was surprisingly not one of excitement, internally there was a lot of scepticsm as to whether this new “dot matrix game” would find success.

Due to Gunpei Yokoi and Nintendo research and development 1’s previous success with the Game and watch and several NES titles the system was given the green light to continue. The Gameboy brought together aspects of the NES and the Game and watch to create a new system. When the Gameboy was initially released in Japan the first 300,000 test units sold out almost immediately and Nintendo realized they had something big and turned their sights to the North American and European markets.

As stated earlier the North American reception was huge, the Nintendo entertainment system had created a huge splash and North America’s love affair with video games was back on, so there couldn’t have been a better time to release a handheld system. NES was great but had one downside, you could only play it at home. Every kid dreamed of being able to bring Mario on the go and Nintendo was about to make that dream come true.

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Super Mario Land was the next installment of the Brothers Mario after the hugely successful Mario Bros 3, most kids who opened up a Gameboy for their birthday or christmas most likely had Super Mario Land with it.

Although straying away from Mario 3 in the same way Mario 2 was a completely different experience from Super Mario Bros, it was however an interesting game and I know I definitely put some time into it as a kid until I beat it. It brought in elements never seen in a Mario game before like Mario’s sub and airplane? Princess Peach was not to be found in any castle this time around as you’re out to rescue princess Daisy instead. The game also featured all new enemies and bosses with Bowser and the Koopa family nowhere to be seen.

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Even Koopa kings need a holiday

It was popular enough though to see the release of a sequel Super Mario Land 2: 6 golden coins which was far better received, brought back a familiar look to the Mario games and introduced us to a new boss: the gold hungry Wario.

The Gameboy had entrenched itself well into the gaming scene in North America through its advertising campaigns, hype and price point. The Gameboy debuted at the $90 mark, Nintendo had done it’s best to keep prices down most notably by sacraficing color for a green/black dot matrix display instead of a color LCD.

At the time nobody thought much of it until then main competitor Sega launched their Game Gear handheld featuring a color screen but at the cost of price and battery life (6 for GG vs 4 for GB). Sega was not the only competition to try to take a slice of this new game market, there were also the Atari Lynx and the TurboExpress which also offered color screens and in many cases better hardware, visuals and games.

Although these systems were often superior to the Gameboy, pricing helped to keep Nintendo the choice of most parents who were looking at having to buy systems for multiple kids. Nintendo continued to roll out games for the Gameboy creating both new titles and ports of popular NES games, because of the agreements with developers Nintendo had they were able to constantly keep 3rd party software limited to the Gameboy.

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    Sorry buddy

The Gameboy has gone on to have an interesting legacy, not just as the first portable gaming system but as f Nintendo research found out: it was the first system that was incredibly popular with women with 46% of users at the time compared to only 29% on NES and 14% on Super Nintendo.

Nintendo also kickstarted worldwide phenomenon when they released Pokémon on the Gameboy, it allowed players to battle/trade other players via the link cord and had a huge marketing boom with the simple tag line: “Gotta collect em all!” and man did people take that seriously making Pokémon the most successful franchise on their handheld systems with multiple versions available and creating the ability to have them interact across platforms in games like Pokémon stadium for N64.

The original Gameboy was one of Nintendo’s longest supported systems and had several interations such as the Gameboy pocket and Mini before the Gameboy color was finally rolled out. Since then Nintendo has continued to dominate the handheld market with the introduction of the Gameboy Advance, Advance Sp, the DS, 2 DS and currently the 3DS.

Nintendo has consistently dominated thanks mostly to its strong stable of 1st party franchises like Mario, Zelda, Starfox, Metroid and Pokémon. These beloved franchises have kept buyers consistently keeping the Nintendo systems at the top of the marketplace, over the decades since it was first unleashed the Gameboy has seen many handheld systems come and go while Nintendo systems continued to push forward to take it’s place as the best portable gaming systems of all time.

After thinking about all this kinda makes me want to fire up the ol Gameboy and play one of my favourite games: Super Pro AM.

#dotmatrixliving
#8bitliving
#retroredneck

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You can find me on Facebook @ The Retro Redneck.

Level 12: Nostalgia blinders.

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We all have a certain way we remember our beloved childhood treasures…of course things were awesome back in our day, how could kids today even fathom the awesomeness of the console wars, Saturday morning cartoons, and the toys and pop culture items that tied into them?

Well today we’re going to take a more harsh look at just how awesome some of this stuff really was. Now don’t get me wrong I’ve been a Nintendo fan boy since that christmas I first got my action set but I’m also objective enough to know that a large number of the hundreds of NES cartridges I have proudly displayed on my shelves are not the gold I remembered them to be.

I’m going to stray a little from just talking about video games…as any kid from the 80s knows, the pop culture was tied into everything: the shows, movies, toys and obviously video games so it’s hard to talk about 80s nostalgia without taking it all into consideration. So let’s get started!

First up: Saturday morning cartoons(commercials)

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I remember having this conversation with a few friends in regards to today’s kids shows being more focused on “edutainment” where in our day in the 80s cartoons were just half hour commercials for action figures.

Looking back I remember watching G.I Joe, He-Man, Transformers, TMNT, M.A.S.K, etc and I sure had a lot of action figures from these shows, not really a coincidence though, these shows knew exactly what they were doing. They would get you hyped about the show and every commercial break usually had at least one for the figures from the show and as kids are want to do…you drive your parents nuts until they bought them for you.

Parents definitely had their wallets reached into as there was always multiple figures, vehicles, buildings, accessories, mail in’s, etc. Transformers even had a war to kill off characters just in time to release a new series just in time for Christmas…well played Mattel.

There’s still toys made to go along with popular kids shows today but aren’t marketed as hard as they were in the 80s, back then there seemed to be an attitude amongst toy companies that these cartoons were a license to print money, and they were right. Many of these toys from yesteryear are so well remembered they continue to be highly collectable today…now I wish I hadn’t sold all my ninja turtles for that NES game I just had to have.

Action figures:

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Wait what’s that? I hear you thinking “Drew…you’re crazy brother…action figures were awesome..give your head a shake”. But were they really that awesome? The kid in the picture seems to be having a blast because he has a mad set of figures there and both castles, I see a battle cat in there, etc but that was the problem unless you had all of them you couldn’t always play out you favourite show, who is He-Man going to fight if you don’t have Skeletor? Cobra Commander? Mumm Ra?

No, you needed to collect them all and that meant you needed money. Now when I was an 8 year old kid I didn’t have a job so there went just buying them myself so the only other viable route was to clearly hit up my parents. Now at 8 I knew nothing about how money worked either so you’d ask for a laundry list of figures but as parents understood money would buy you what they could afford so you’d slowly build up a collection.

Next problem was you needed the vehicles, G.I Joe looks a lot less tough using Jem’s roadster to launch an armored attack on Cobra headquarters. So you would have to wait until things like your birthday or Christmas to scoop up the good vehicles because again parents were all like “these ain’t free”.

Plus you couldn’t just have one, Hasbro  made sure there were plenty of vehicles and bases to collect. So as awesome as action figures are unless you were rich you probably didn’t have a full set of any of your favourite figures. There were also the send away items that required points and money and the only way to get points was to buy figures and vehicles so the cycle begins again and of course the mail in figures were always the coolest so you had to have them so if you were not able to get them it was a huge dissapointment.

So really action figures were just designed to make you drive your parents insane so you could collect them all…and they succeeded…mostly I never did get this under the Christmas tree:

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Damn you Santa..

Collectible cards:

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Oh yeah…remember these? You’d go down to the store with your allowance and grab a few packs of cards, you take them home and open them up, take out your checklist card and discover you got 8 more doubles and 2 cards you could use.

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Anyone need a 5th Steve the Tramp?

You tried to trade them with friends but they were missing the same cards you were and if someone had it they weren’t about to trade it so back to the store to try again and again and again until you eventually gave up because you were always a few cards short of a set.

They made these cards for everything too: TV shows, movies, music, cartoons and the various comedic things like Garbage pail kids. So if you wanted to collect more than one kind you had to spend a ton to buy packs for everything and now you have piles of doubles nobody wants.

These cards have remained somewhat collectable but are usually only sought after in complete sets, sealed packs or boxes so even today nobody wants my Steve the Tramp doubles.

And because this is a video game blog…let’s get to our final contestant!!

VIDEO GAMES!

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The thing so many of us look back on with the most fondness…our old video games, they sure were awesome! It was like having your own arcade at home! I remember spending countless hours playing nintendo…so awesome, or was it?

We all know there’s some incredible games that came out in the 80s and 90s but let’s be real you know there’s more than a few stinkers in there that somehow slipped past Nintendo’s rigorous seal of approval system because you know…money and stuff. So a lot of what we got are games that were not always complete, buggy, glitchy, frustrating pieces of shit stuck inside a grey plastic cartridge.

As a kid you usually had to ask for games for birthdays, etc as games were expensive and nothing would ruin a kids birthday faster than cracking open a copy of Friday the 13th, Fester’s quest or Kid Kool, popping it in the NES only to find out it was a steaming pile of 8 bit shit.

Maybe you had the local video store where you could test out games before you bought them but sometimes parents just got suckered in because the sales guy at sears said everyone is buying Jaws for NES not Mario 3 this Christmas so you got a mediocre game that you had to occupy yourself with until your next birthday or holiday unless you could trick a friend into a trade, but then you’d be short a friend once they realized how much it sucks and that they just got screwed and depending on what they traded you, you may have exchanged one lemon for another.

A lot of times too your only reference for deciding to buy if it wasn’t for rent at your local store was the 3 screen shots on the box, the box art and the biased reviews in Nintendo Power. Sometimes you just had to wing it because it wasn’t like you could just pull out your smartphone and look up reviews so sometimes even if everything looked cool you could still get a dud.

I remember doing it with Renegade, it looked awesome from the box art and screen shots, I remembered it being fun in the arcade…and all I can say is I was lucky enough to be able to return it and fortunately my 2nd attempt at winging it did pay off as I ended up with a game I had never seen before but turned out to be awesome: River City Ransom.

So the collectability of old games is clearly going strong but we all know we have maybe 30-40 games we actually like and the others get checked to see if they work, go on a shelf and stay there because we know they stink but still need them for the collection.

Well this is all just my opinion, I still love all things retro but it’s good once and a while to take the rose colored glasses of nostalgia off and step back to actually take a hard look at how actually awesome these things are versus the way I remembered them as a kid. Not everything is as awesome as it once was but that hasn’t stopped me from collecting them anyway ha ha! At the very least it’s something cool to show the kids one day so they can see all the weird stuff the old man was into back in his day.

But seriously anyone need a Steve the Tramp card?

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#8bitliving
#retroredneck