Video games have had a major problem with resellers hiking up prices for a long time. As games exit retail stores and copies get rarer, prices often rise to unfathomable heights — and it can happen to any game. Sometimes games become popular because they’re bad. Sometimes they become popular because they’re historically significant. But the most common reason games become expensive on the resellers market is because they’re produced in limited quantities.
Special editions are particularly rare as they’re usually available for a limited time and often pre-sell out at the retail level.
This is why Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water for Wii U has been so hard to come by for the last few years — the game only released as a special edition in Australia. If you’re looking to purchase an original edition of the game (released as Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water in PAL territories) you’ll need to fork out at minimum $220 as of writing.
It appears you can still purchase the title online via the Wii U store — but this comes with a caveat. Digital storefronts are fine for newer games, but they have an incredibly short shelf life. In the case of the Wii U, the official console eShop has already been shut in several countries. Earlier in the year, a similar fate was set for PS Vita and PS3 users but huge outcry stopped the planned shutdown in its tracks.
When digital stores close, huge swaths of gaming history are lost. For fans, collectors and developers, it’s always a massive shame. But physical releases guarantee ownership of a title you can’t take away.
The problem is you can’t always get these physical copies.
As games get rarer and resellers buy up remaining stock, prices get pushed up on even the most mundane titles. Want the special boxed edition of Uncharted 3? That’ll be $400. Want a regular copy of Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest for GameCube? That’ll be $1,000. Got a copy of the original PS4 release of Fortnite from 2017? Reports say that’ll net at least $1,300 on the resellers market.
But resellers are currently contending with a very important player in the market: game remasters.
At E3 2021, Nintendo announced Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, a Switch port for the original Wii U version of Project Zero. With a single announcement, Nintendo shattered the reseller market for the game.
Why would fans fork out $220 (or even $1,000) for a game they could easily nab for under $70 on Switch?
While physical editions are important to collectors, the majority of people interested in copies of Project Zero likely wanted the game to actually play it. With the remaster, there’s now a simple solution that doesn’t require gamers to fork out their life savings.
It’s important for historical preservation, but also so that everyone can play games regardless of age or rarity. Each game represents the culmination of hard work and talent from a range of global teams, regardless of whether you think of video games as art. Much like film and TV, they’re an important part of our cultural history — but even beyond that, they’re just plain fun.
Everybody should be able to play games, but older physical releases being prohibitively expensive means gamers can be prevented from playing important titles. Remasters ensure games remain accessible — and as a byproduct, they also destroy the appeal of the reseller’s market.
While Nintendo’s intention with the Fatal Frame remaster was likely to share the game with more modern audiences, it’s also an important choice that will help to neuter the growth of unfair price gouging for older games.
There will always be ‘rare’ titles and collector’s editions. Older Mario games will always sell for ridiculous amounts at auction. That’s the nature of the games industry, and of being a pop culture collector. But reducing price barriers and maintaining long-term accessibility is important.
Nintendo may not have intended for the Project Zero return to be a blow to resellers everywhere, but it sends an important message regardless. Games are for everyone, and everyone should be able to enjoy them — not just those with the deepest pockets.