For gaming collectors and preservationists, it’s a high score: hundreds of classic games, many of which, according to video footage of the discovery, appear to be factory sealed. The entire thing is eventually getting sold, and when it does, it could clock in as one of the big ones, potentially raking in somewhere north of seven figures.
The trove is an impressive haul, encompassing games from the 3DO, the Sega Genesis, the Sega Saturn, and of course the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). An eight-minute clip showcasing the library made the rounds earlier this week, courtesy of Gameroom, a three-outpost video game retailer based in Nebraska whose owner, Chris Thompson, is serving as a liaison for the sale.
You’d think it’s the sort of once-in-a-lifetime find that comes out of the blue and makes instant waves (and instant viral social media success). But Thompson, in a phone interview with Kotaku, said the video dates back to last fall, before the holiday retail rush swarmed Gameroom.
“An employee called me one night and was, like, ‘Chris, you’re not gonna believe what just walked in,’” Thompson said.
You might not either: a factory-sealed copy of Mortal Kombat II for the SNES, held by a guy who just wanted to get a rough sense of its worth. (Apparently, the man had a second game with him that was more shocking than Mortal Kombat II, but Thompson declined to clarify what it was, noting that the owner has requested anonymity throughout the process and that the game was such a unique find it could be identifying.)
Thompson met with the owner, who said he had way more where it came from, vestiges of a video game store that was shuttered in the mid-’90s. The two went back and forth for a bit, and Thompson floated an idea: He’d film some footage, cut together a short video, and drum up some attention for the sale (and, sure, for Gameroom’s budding YouTube presence, too).
“I bring out my camera that I don’t even really know how to use, and I’m afraid of tripping on a game worth more than, y’know, my house,” Thompson said. “So I get a bunch of footage and then we say goodbye.”
That was December. Thompson only just posted the video earlier this week. Since then, interest has skyrocketed. The original video currently has close to 40,000 views. It’s been covered by IGN.
Thompson acknowledged, however, that some details were published hastily. The video is titled, “Video Game Store Closes 1994 Inventory Found 27 Years Later Factory Sealed SNES Sega Genesis Saturn” (emphasis Kotaku’s). But some of the showcased games — Chrono Trigger, for instance, or the ‘96 sports titles — came out in 1995, which resulted in some scrutiny. Some commenters called foul. Others tried to use the misfired date to pinpoint the exact location of the original store. (Thompson declined to provide the original store’s details to Kotaku.)
The specific year is beside the point: This total cume is worth a lot — likely a whole lot more than some initial estimates, which pegged it at “tens of thousands,” Chris Kohler, editorial director of Digital Eclipse, told Kotaku via email. (Disclosure: Kohler was formerly a features editor at Kotaku.) A shrink-wrapped copy of TMNT: Turtles in Time recently sold for $US38,400 ($53,307), Final Fantasy III for $US36,000 ($49,975), Chrono Trigger for a bit under $US20,000 ($27,764).
“I made a joke that everyone wants Chrono Trigger … I’ve got 40 different people saying, ‘I want Chrono Trigger and I can bring you the briefcase full of cash,’” Thompson said, noting how that’s absolutely not how a sale of this scale is gonna happen.
Chrono Trigger is the big one, but the haul is flush with other coveted finds like Street Fighter II Turbo, Zombies Ate My Neighbours, Castlevania: Bloodlines, and Breath of Fire II, alongside no shortage of sports games from the era: your Maddens, your FIFAs. The vast majority appear to be factory-sealed.
“There are just so many of them that, while the collection easily gets into the ‘hundreds of thousands’ range if it’s worth a penny, I think you also have the potential for, once all is said and done, this ending up being a million-dollar find in today’s crazy market,” Kohler said.
Mint-condition classic games have always had buyers, but in recent years, there’s been a sea change in just how eye-popping some of the tallies can be. Just last year, a copy of 1987’s The Legend of Zelda went for close to $US900,000 ($1,249,380). That was immediately followed by a copy of Super Mario 64 sold for $US1.5 ($2) million, once you factored in the 20 per cent buyer’s premium. The market is nuts right now.
“I think we’re seeing these hauls pop up more and more because more video game sellers are on YouTube now,” Kohler said. “The last generation of sellers tended to keep these things to themselves.”
The video may have picked up some serious buzz this week, but it’s only the beginning. Thompson said the clip isn’t indicative of the full library, estimating that what’s shown publicly could only be half of the total find, though he suggested that some games in the non-filmed portion of the haul could be unsealed. He’s fielding interest, including some offers — possibly not fully thought through — in the million-dollar range, but described those as, “honestly, probably low.” He has yet to survey the entire collection. He still has to document it all — beyond just an eight-minute shaky-cam snippet on YouTube. And then there’s the matter of, oh, getting the whole collection rated by an official organisation, like Wata. This all takes time.
“There’s a right way and a wrong way of going about this,” Thompson said. “And honestly, what’s more valuable than the stuff itself is the historical significance.”