Are We in a Retro Game Bubble?

In a recent video by Karl Jobst, he proposes that we’re in a retro video game bubble that’s been artificially inflated by the same folks who have done so with coins and comic books. That prices right now are unsustainable and that the market will collapse, leaving sellers with no buyers. Which is kind of scary for folks who love video games and kind of hard to take in for those who are attempting to invest in retro games.

Well, when we ask if we’re in a retro video game bubble, the answer is very likely dependent on the game itself and the condition of the game. Loose cartridges, CIB games and games that are new but not graded are all right now showing minor inflation due to higher demand during 2020 and 2021 lockdowns for older games, especially in the Gamecube market. Collectors may have to pay a premium for some of their favorite old games in 2021 / 2022. Limited releases like Limited Run Games and games with short prints are also seeing fairly high prices from scalpers, but while prices may retract some short term, long term the short prints and scarcity will keep the prices at a minimum of 2x retail.

Are we in a graded video game bubble? That is dependent on the game as well. Less popular games are generally priced accurately, while more popular first party Nintendo releases are seeing some hyperinflation in pricing, which can only mean that people are speculating. So I’d highly encourage caution with any graded game over $5,000. While some graded games will always hold value just due to scarcity, the actual games are not scarce enough yet to demand prices above 100x retail ($59.99 x 100 = $5,999).

Are we in a video game bubble? Outside of the graded and retro game markets, no. Video games in of themselves are cheaper than ever considering inflation and almost no price rise. Scarcity of some titles make the secondary market copies cost more than retail, but otherwise the video game market in of itself is fine right now.

Warning Signs of a Bubble / Bad Deal

Start doing your research into something you’re excited to purchase if you’re seeing any of the below:

  • Rapid price inflation without any corresponding events. For instance, if a game surges 10x in price but there isn’t any specific reason. This could be someone manipulating something like PriceCharting by listing and then purchasing from themselves a game on eBay at a considerably higher price. It could also be hype or hysteria around it within a community.
  • Prices that exceed 100x MSRP. So most games should cost you less than $200 or 4x what they sold for new, which is actually probably not the best return on investment but games are generally plentiful right now and there is rare reasons for a game to go over that $200~$250 mark. Rule of Rose right now averages about what 12 times what it originally sold for. That’s still pretty reasonable. When you’re above 100x the original retail price, that’s when I think it’s really time to dig deep into if this is actually worth the price.
  • When it’s just the graded version that’s selling high. So this is an interesting thing, you can often find games that are selling at auction or on eBay for considerable amounts, but the new versions are selling for very reasonable amounts. This tells you that there is plenty of new stock on the market or low demand. Dig deeper.
  • When nothing has sold for the asking price. If someone is offering a game at a price considerably higher than comparable games that have “sold” (i.e. filter on eBay sold) and don’t have justification, then it may not be the best buy.

When I say do your research, I mean it! It’s important to know more about what you’re purchasing if you’re making a big purchase. You need to really dig deep and figure out if paying $x is really worth it for you.

David Piner, an accomplished video game journalist since 2001, excels in developing comprehensive guides and engaging content to enrich the gaming experience. As the esteemed former Managing Editor at TTH for over a decade, David established a strong reputation for his perceptive analysis, captivating content, and streamlined guides.

Having led skilled teams of writers and editors, David has been instrumental in producing an extensive collection of articles, reviews, and guides tailored to both casual and hardcore gamers aiming to enhance their skills.

Dedicated to player-centric content, David meticulously crafts guides and articles with the players' interests in mind. He is a proud member of OUT Georgia and fervently champions equity and equality across all spheres.