A Retro Gamer’s Buyers Guide.
Buying new games is a fairly easy and straight forward affair. You pick up a game off the shelf, take it to the counter, were the person behind the counter takes your box and disappears out the back for what seems like several hours, before coming back with a shiny new box wrapped in un-pealable plastic cellophane. You buy that and leave. Or you can go to a shop that actually trusts its customers and pick up the wrapped game off the shelf and buy that straight away and dodge the standing around like a plum bullet. Consoles pretty much follow the same sequence but it’s always going to be the disappear out back technique because a) these days, consoles are more expensive than my sisters first car, and b) watching them wobble carrying the box from the back to the counter gets me off. The only advice I can offer on both these processes is check if the case/box has been opened. If it isn’t, great! Get it and go home safe in the mind that what you got was new and untouched. If it has been opened and sealed again with one of the store brand sticker seals instead of just left with the normal company of whoever stickers, ask why they felt the need to open the tamper-proof seal and tamper with it. If you feel like the excuse is bad, you can just say no and walk out, but this is an extremely rare occurrence.
Buying old on the other hand can be a different process. There are quite a few pitfalls and traps that the un-wise and inexperienced can stumble blindly into. So as the retro gaming guy of the site, I’m going to help you get through these issues and enjoy gaming old school and hopefully cheaply.
First here are some things to remember when you embark on buying old.
You will always be second-hand.
This is pretty much the most obvious point but it is always worth remembering because you can’t get to picky about what you pick up. The disks, or even cartridges, are going to be pretty lived in when you get hold of them. Consoles more so. This doesn’t mean that you have to take any crap. This leads me on to my next point…
You still have buyers rights.
Even though you are buying second-hand (or even more handed) merchandise, you can still complain if what you bought didn’t work. If you brought a broken or damaged product from a street side shop, like CEX or GameStop, then you entitled to go back and get a refund because they sold a faulty product which is illegal. But always be wary of their return policy. For example, my often used shop CEX have a policy where you can just return the game within the next few days after purchase and get a refund, no questions asked. I call it their ‘Opps, wrong game‘ policy. But on top they have a standard return policy that lasts a few months where you can return the game for store credit if the game is broken or breaks. I call it their ‘Broken gift‘ policy. Every store has a policy (by law) but it can be different from store to store so make sure your clear of the time limits and what you get if you want to return a product. Some times its just a full refund, sometimes just store credit. One is cash, the other comes down to getting a replacement. On the rare occasion, you have a small time limit before the return policy ends entirely. It’s always worth checking. Especially if you buying second-hand as a gift.
The Internet is not necessarily your friend.
This is where people will jump down my throat and scream at my innards for being cynical. Yes, you can use eBay and yes there are many listings. I just advise against it because the quality of the product is very variable, and all it takes is one miss label and you’ve bought something from another region that won’t work in yours or you don’t have enough to even turn the thing on. On top, there is no refund policy so if you buy a duffed product, you stuck with it. As a rule of thumb, I just don’t use it for buying consoles. A lot can go wrong with getting consoles online. Mainly just in shipping the thing with a postal service that thinks ‘fragile’ means ‘throw lighter’. Games on the other hand, as long as their securely wrapped, can be flown half way around the world and back because they can be the same size as a rather thick letter and just posted through letter boxes. The paper that your game is being sent with would cause less damage than the bricks your console would be sent with. Your free to use it but just remember that it’s not the only way and there are quite a few issues with getting electronics that are quarantined second-hand from people and places unknown.
Search around before you buy.
Games are produced en masse so after a while their prices will plummet. Then there are niche markets, (the older the game is, the less people want to buy it) which drops the price even more, (in stores and for physical copies at least.) I’ve seen (and bought) games for as little as 50p because they where a not that popular game on release and were for the PS2 or the Windows ’98/XP outmoded platforms. Console machines on the other hand are produced to such a degree where the broken variants can be used to fix other broken machines which is something disks can’t be. Cartridges can be repaired as well but the game code on them is another matter. This just means that consoles (depending on age) can be perpetually repaired which plummets their price. This brings up my next point…
Don’t afraid of repaired machines.
Consoles can be easily repaired (if you know how) so people who can fix them are a good person to know. They are also a lot more common than you think. A quick search online followed by a few quick emails and phone calls and you can get some good deals on console repairs by some very competent people. This also means that you can get some good deals on buying repaired consoles from guys who repair them. In my view, the more modern the machine, the more complicated it is to fix. For example, not many people know how to fix the latest and most expensive chipsets in PC’s but everyone knows how to fix old XP’s or older. This segways nicely to my final, and very specific, point…
All PC’s are backwards compatible.
No matter the age of the game, no matter what it was developed for, every PC game can be played on any machine that came out after it. 95 and 98 games work on XP, XP games work on Windows 7. I would say that everything works on Windows 8 with that being the most up to date system but that system is a giant arse of a program and I advise against using it at all for anything. PC’s are everywhere because, like me, people use them for work and not just play. Some games can take quite a fiddle to get them to work (getting the 95 disk version of “Red Alert” to work was murder) but if think about it and work systematically then you can get anything working. If you get really stuck, there are emulation programs like DOSBox that can imitate old computer systems and get things working in a small, ‘phablet’ sized window. At least it gets it working.
That’s that for things you need to remember when getting retro games. Next time I’ll get stuck into the nitty-gritty and talk about some specific things and problems to look out for when getting an old games and how to look after them when you get them.