Video game collectors are strange creatures. They buy up all sorts of merchandise for all sorts of reasons — scarcity, nostalgia, perceived value and completion — except the collectible’s original purpose. In the case of sports cards, this is fine. Unless the collector has an unusual craving for hard, twenty year old bubble gum there’s no purpose to sports cards beyond collecting them. That’s all they’re there for. Toys and video games are different. They are meant to be played with. Yet, to a collector nothing is of more value than a mint, factory sealed copy. That is why a sealed copy of Chrono Trigger recently sold in excess of a thousand dollars.
The average person would scoff, “twelve-hundred dollars!? For a game you’ll never play?” They’d be justified in thinking that. That’s a lot of money for something that’s just going to sit in some archive. It’s throwing money away. On the other hand, I can understand the collector’s point of view. I can relate with the thrill of it because, for a brief time, I was a collector. I’m better now.
It was 2001 and I had my first real job, my first real steady pay cheque and my first substantial disposable income. That kind of novelty makes for excessive spending and, in no time, I bought a Playstation 2. After a several year long lull I was back into the world of gaming. It was a gateway drug. Soon I had an XBox and a GameCube and a light-modded Gameboy Advance. But that wasn’t enough. As a kid growing up I had to make due with what I had and while I enjoyed all the games I had access too, there were so many games that I missed. Games that were oft talked about and revered and highly sought. Now, as an adult, I had the funds to see what all the fuss was about and I started acquiring old systems and old games.
Before I knew it, I was frequenting collector message boards, hitting eBay, making long treks to random game and discount stores and attending swap meets. I was a collector. It was around this time when Rez was released on the Playstation 2. Commercially, it flopped. It was understocked, underprinted and it never had a chance in the market place of the time. Being in that collector’s mindset I tracked down and bought two copies (which wasn’t easy to do.) I did play Rez at the time, but only a little bit. I certainly appreciated it and enjoyed it for what it was but I was more interested in its scarcity and trade value than the bits and bytes on the disc itself.
As time went on I grew tired of the “scene”. There were too many new games worth playing, leaving me with little patience for the time and money investment required to find twenty year old rarities. I became disinterested in the community and its underlying disregard for modern games and, well, any games that weren’t worth collecting. I traded in that spare copy of Rez (for, I believe, an original — not “Greatest Hits” label — Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and something else) and boxed up everything that wasn’t of the current generation and focused on the now. I haven’t looked back.
With Rez HD on XBox Live now (and, indeed, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) there’s no need to look back. Digitally distributed games will never have an issue of scarcity. So long as the service remains active those games will always be available and their price will be immune from eBay inflation. Anyone that discovers the game, now or years from now, will be able to, in an instant, play it. It’ll always be there waiting to be found and enjoyed by anyone willing to give it a chance. This, of course, scares the shit out of the collectors. All their hard-sought titles that they feel they have an exclusive right to are now available to anyone on XBox Live or PSN or the Wii’s Virtual Console. Their value is greatly decreased by their availability. But the cultural value is that much stronger. It’s a brilliant game. Every one that has ever handled a controller should experience it at least once. Collector’s be damned.