Debate Club:  Should You Keep Games You’re Done With or Get Rid of Them?

Steve’s stance: Get rid of them

I feel like this debate club is bound to raise some spirited debate with Chris.  I know that he hangs on to as much of his old gaming stuff as he can.  To me, that’s fine.  It’s his choice and if he enjoys owning it, that’s cool.  I however, find no issue with selling back old games and equipment, and I see no reason that the average gamer should feel that way either.

For the most part, they’re of little value.

I hate to break it to you, but nobody wants this.

Sure, there are some titles out there that have actually gone up in value since their release.  If you happen to have an original copy of The Legend of Zelda for the NES with its original box, that’s probably worth a pretty penny.  The average game though, not so much.  Anything from the PS2 era and beyond is probably worth diddly-squat on the enthusiast market, with the exception maybe being an incredibly rare import, a special run of a game, or maybe even a copy of a game that includes a glitch that the developers later fixed.  My point is that your copy of Madden ’02 isn’t worth much of anything, and will likely never be worth anything.  If you’re collecting games because you enjoy the act of collecting things, then save the ones that you think might have some legitimate value later.  An original copy of Shadow of the Colossus for example might be worth something someday, but the vast majority of your game library is filled with titles that came and went and no one will ever care about again.  So instead of hanging on to that copy of Madden for five or ten years why not just sell it back a few months before the next one comes out?  If you get even $5 for it, that’s probably more than you would have gotten otherwise, and it’s $5 toward the upcoming year’s copy.

Let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to play them again.

If you need your Street Fighter fix are you going to play this, or just play Street Fighter IV?

Part of the reason that I believe we hang to some of these old games is this overly romanticized idea that we’re going to go back to them sometime.  It’s true that we might go back to one or two titles from a bygone era sometime later, but replay our entire libraries?  I highly doubt that.  Not just that, but each year old game systems get harder and harder to play.  I believe that the original NES only supports an RF adapter.  I could be wrong about that, but even if it supports composite video, those are both technologies that are on their way out.  As the years progress it’s only going to get more difficult to hook up those old consoles.  I’m not saying it’s impossible right now, and maybe it never will be, but I wouldn’t bank on that.  So now, in addition to keeping your old consoles and your old games, are you going to also have to maintain an old TV set.  That all feels like it’s getting out of control pretty fast.  All that stuff to keep around, just so that you can play a library of games that, again, you’re most likely not going to play.  If I was going to preserve my old consoles and games I would keep only the my top 10 favorite games from that console, and as soon as I no longer had a simple way to hook up said console, I’d sell all of that stuff.

There are easier ways to play old games.

Between Steam and similar services for the PC, the Xbox Live Marketplace, the PSN store, and the Nintendo eShop, a vast number of older games are still available.  Yes, I’m aware that you might have to pay for those games again, but what are you really paying?  If you you’re maintaining a huge library of old games and hardware then you have to find a place for that stuff, right?  So it’s probably either in your basement, your garage, or a storage unit.  If it’s in a storage unit, then you’re paying something every month to store it all.  If it’s in your house, then it’s free to store, but you still have to take the time to search through boxes and boxes of old stuff to find what you’re looking for.  Sure, there are a few people out there who maintain a pristine retro-gaming setup, complete with every console hooked up and working and every library available at their fingertips, but I don’t think that’s the norm.  I think that the vast majority of game collectors would love to have that type of setup, but for financial reasons or family pressure, they can’t find the space to do so.  So it all sits in boxes, impossible to find.  I’m sorry, but if I really want to play Tecmo Bowl that bad, I’ll buy it on the eShop for $5.  And that $5 I dropped on Tecmo Bowl, I would have saved it by not paying for a storage unit, or made it back by selling all my old stuff.

Embrace the future.

If you have the space and you have unlimited funds then sure, collect until your heart is content.  But if you’re like most of us and you don’t have room for all those game, or time to play them all, why keep them?  At the very least maybe they could be donated to a kid in need.  They could find new life in that Toy Story kind of way instead of rotting away in a box somewhere.  And if you do decide to sell them, you now have more money in your pocket for something new!


Chris’ stance: Keep them

It’s no secret to anybody who read our debate about physical media vs digital that Steve definitely has a “just get with the times, people!” vibe towards those of us who still buy physical copies of games, and with this debate, that judgement is extended to people who also collect games. While I do consider myself a video game collector, in reality it’s a label that seems to be automatically applied to anybody who has physical copies of more than 20 games in their house, and to have physical copies of games that are more than three or four years old. To not have a constantly revolving door of old games going out and new games coming in, and never keeping around much more than what you are actively playing, seems to make you a “collector” by default–and either way, Steve once again alluded to the crotchety-ness of collectors both hardcore and assumed by subtitling the last part of his article “Embrace the Future.” But I’ll get to that. There are other accusations and assumptions he made in addition to that that need to be addressed first.

Everything you own isn’t intended to be a financial investment, so why do games have to be?

Yes, the majority of my games are worth much less now than what I paid for them, and had I traded them in within a year or two of their release I would’ve gotten a lot more money for them. The fact is, this applies to most of the things we own – things just decrease in value the older they get, if they even had any real second-hand value to begin with. But for some reason, we’re made to feel like it’s silly to hold onto our games as they get perpetually more worthless (from a monetary standpoint) and not get them sold in the window while we can still get more than 5 bucks for them. Just because there exists a market for second hand video games but not one for, say, towels that you don’t necessarily use every day anymore shouldn’t make keeping those towels a no-brainer but keeping your old games silly. I don’t know anybody who has a constant rotation of bringing in brand new and getting rid of old furniture, dishes, clothes, appliances, wall art, picture frames, tchotchkes, and so on. But when it comes to video games, you’d better get that game sold back as soon as possible so you can get as much of your initial investment back as you can! It just doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t see how it’s any different. Besides that, some of my games are, in fact, worth as much as, if not more –and in some cases, a fair amount more –than I paid for them. And the fact of the matter is, there isn’t always a rhyme or reason to what games are going to become valuable, and when. So if you were to look at it merely from the perspective of only keeping games with value, there isn’t a clearly defined blueprint for what does and doesn’t cause a game to spike in price years later, so by just keeping them all, I don’t run the risk of selling some game at a yard sale for $5 only to see it fetching $80 on eBay a few years later.

Also, I feel that it was a little facetious of Steve to use Madden as an example, since sports games are obviously an entirely different beast and should almost be exempt from this discussion. Whether or not you may revisit Assassin’s Creed III once you’ve bought AC IV is not remotely the same thing as going back to last year’s Madden once the next season’s edition is out. Annual sports games automatically make their previous editions obsolete for the most part. Non-sports franchises don’t generally do that, certainly not in the same way, even annual ones.

Playing old games isn’t really all that daunting of a proposition.

It’s true that if you just take your NES with its factory default audio/visual hookups and try to play them on your average modern flatscreen you’re going to have a bad time. But things aren’t quite so “out of control.” For me personally, just simply keeping around a nice CRT television isn’t a completely ridiculous notion, but there are plenty of options beyond that should you be so dependent on having a pristine 1080p picture in every single room of your home that you can’t have just one old TV hooked up in a spare bedroom or something. For one thing, you can go with something like a RetroN5, which allows you to play your actual cartridges in a system that hooks up effortlessly to your TV via HDMI. There are also any number of component cable options for a lot of older systems even if they didn’t come with them, and a quick Amazon search will have you up and running in no time. In fact, there was a Kickstarter campaign  to bring component cables to even the SNES and Genesis, and there have been many more like it. There is also an ever-growing market of portable consoles that play your old school cartridges directly on them without even needing to hassle with a television. I could go on. The point is, it really isn’t all that difficult to get your old games up and running even if you don’t have some elaborate retro-specific gaming rig, and you don’t have to be some tech whiz to do it.

Rediscovering old games – or discovering them for the first time – can be a lot of fun. And you just can’t replicate that by having to buy them now digitally. 

So in an effort to meet us collectors halfway, Steve suggested maybe just keeping around your absolute favorite games, the ones you are most likely to actually play again someday. The problem is, by doing that you are denying yourself the possibility of discovering old gems that you either forgot about, or that you bought but just never got around to. Maybe my favorite thing about still having all of my old games isn’t actually replaying my favorites, but coming upon some game that I bought way back when but didn’t play for whatever reason, and giving it a spin. In my current living situation, I don’t have the space to have all of my games out and on shelves, so it’s a matter of only being able to have a certain number out and playable at any one time and having to keep the rest boxed up. And every time I “rotate” my collection, it’s almost like Christmas when I open those boxes and see all these games that I either haven’t seen in awhile or literally just forgot I had. And yes, I most certainly do play them. Sure, it’s more “convenient” to pay 5-10 dollars for old games and play them on one of your more modern systems. But when you do that, you are most likely only going to seek out those old favorites or go-to classics, not the more obscure titles that you missed – if they’re even available on Steam, PSN, Xbox Live, the eShop, GoG, etc. In fact, I would say that of the 1,000+ games I currently own physical copies of, I bet that less than 25% of them are currently available to buy on a digital storefront.

Embrace the future? A future where I say goodbye permanently to 750 games? No thanks. To each their own of course. It’s definitely easier not holding on to that many games (and their accompanying dozen or so systems) for years and years. But for all the reasons I’ve detailed, the benefits certainly outweigh the inconvenience –which isn’t nearly as unmanageable as a lot of people make it out to be.