Soon, GameStop stores will be able to answer the phone and say, “Yes, we have Battletoads.”
And Super Mario 64, and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, and about 5,000 other classics. The gaming retailer says it will roll out a pilot program that will see 250 stores in New York City and Birmingham, Alabama begin accepting old-school games and hardware at the trade-in counter. The platforms that it will accept are Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, the original PlayStation, and Dreamcast.
But, at least for now, you won’t find copies of Contra at your local store: GameStop told IGN it would send every game it takes in to its refurbishment center in Grapevine, Texas, then offer them for sale through its website. If you walk in to a GameStop location, they’ll help you order classic games—drop your dough in the store and GameStop will ship the game to your door.
As a game collector, I had some questions about how this will work. I spoke with GameStop’s Jon Haes, who is running the program.
What will GameStop buy back? Haes says GameStop will take in any game, console, and first-party accessories for the platforms listed above. If you’ve got a Nintendo-brand spare controller, they’ll take it. They aren’t interested in your third-party aftermarket stuff. “We’ll do a power-up test on the hardware and a visual inspection on the accessories and software” in the store, he says.
What happens then? Once the games reach Grapevine, Haes says GameStop will “do thorough evaluations—testing, repair if necessary.” The testers will make sure the hardware functions, but they’ll also open up the games to check the status of the batteries. You want to be able to save your game in The Legend of Zelda, after all. If a battery needs replacing, they’ll do it there before it’s offered for sale. If something is “beyond repair,” it’ll get junked.
Condition is everything in a collectible market. How will that come into play? For the pilot program, Haes says that stores will have a single SKU in their point-of-sale systems for each game. That means GameStop will offer one flat price, whether you’ve got a loose game cartridge or one with its original box and manual.
Beyond the pilot, what happens next will be determined by what ends up walking through the doors.
“As the product starts to come back into our distribution center, we’ll make a determination around any changes we might need to make,” he says. “If it’s 98 percent just cartridge, or just disc, we may not need to [change anything].” In that case, regardless of the completeness of the game, GameStop’s web listing might just note that the game will not include original box and instructions, and it’s possible that “on occasion, somebody will get a happy surprise when they open up the box” and find a complete game for the price of a loose one.
But if GameStop ends up with lots of games that still have their original box and instructions, it might create two listings per game—one that’s cartridge only, and one that’s complete. In that case, Haes says, he hopes to “pass that additional value on to consumers on the front end, if we know it’s worth more on the back end to the ultimate buyer”—in other words, you might get more for your trade-ins if you bring in complete games.
How do you stop fakes? It’s pretty easy to buy a fake label and pass your worthless crap off as a a rare Nintendo game, especially if the GameStop employees are only doing a visual inspection of the cartridge. But Haes says GameStop is providing the 250 test stores with a guide to spotting fakes. “We had our team do a lot of research,” he says, “and provide pictures of what a real game looks like and what a fake game looks like.”
What if you’re unsatisfied? If you’re spending big bucks on rare collectible games, you want to know you’re getting quality. Haes says the games, like any pre-owned product in GameStop’s inventory, can be returned for any reason within seven days. There’s also a 30-day guarantee against defects, so if something breaks in that period, send it back.
When can we start trading? Buying? The stores in the pilot program will begin taking games Saturday, and it’ll take about eight weeks before we start to see games appear for sale online, Haes says.