Video game collecting is the hobby of collecting and preserving video games, video game consoles, and related memorabilia. Most video game consoles, and their games, are considered to be collectors' items years after their discontinuation due to their functional longevity and cultural significance. Collectors usually narrow their search to games holding characteristics they enjoy, such as being published for a specific video game console, being of certain genre, or featuring a specific character.
The value of a game depends on the quantity manufactured, the quality of the gameplay, its cultural impact, and the condition of the specific game being questioned. Games that are complete with their original packaging and paperwork are considered more valuable. In many cases, these components are valued more highly than the games themselves. Many times, video games crossover with other mediums, so collections often overlap with those of anime, manga, comic books, and other media.
The majority of collectors focus on collecting officially licensed releases of console based games, and pick from the following criteria to focus their collecting:
- By platform: Collectors sometimes pick to collect for a platform they enjoy, sometimes going as far as aiming to complete a set of official licensed games for one console or computer, such as the NES or Commodore 64. It is up to personal preference whether to include imports, unlicensed games, manuals, or packaging. Some consoles and computers are more popular to collect for than others due to their popularity during their lifetime.
- By region: Most collectors only aim to obtain video games in their region due to the difficulty of buying games from other regions and consoles and computers having regional lockout chips. Language differences may also limit buying options. Some games do not get international release, and become collectible as imports. This commonly affects RPGs and shooters. For example, shoot 'em up games for the Sega Dreamcast are particularly sought after and can be expensive to purchase, such as Border Down, Ikaruga and Under Defeat.
- By generation: Collectors sometimes have preference for one generation of video games. For example, a video game collector who collects video games from the fourth generation would strive to collect games for the SNES, Sega Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16.
- By series: Video game series that give personal enjoyment or are of consistently high critical acclaim are often desired. Some franchises, such as Mario, include many entries across various genres and consoles. Popular examples include The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and Mega Man.
- By creator: Some choose to collect video games encompassing a specific publisher, developer, producer, programmer, composer, or artist. For example, someone may collect games produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, or published by Capcom.
- By genre: A collector may choose to collect games from a specific genre, normally one that person appreciates for its gameplay. RPGs often retain or increase their value by their quality, length of gameplay, and niche popularity. Other popular examples include survival horror, platformers, and fighters.
Collections normally stray outside the realm of licensed console games exclusively. The following categories are also popular:
The Hello Kitty
Dreamcast was released in Japan
only in 2000. Limited quantities were produced.
- Consoles: Video game consoles themselves may be collectible, especially if they include original packaging. Consoles that are sought after are normally either limited editions, variants, hotel consoles, display consoles, odd and interesting consoles, console clones, or prototypes and cancelled consoles.
- Unlicensed games: Some video games are not licensed for their respective video game consoles. One example is Bible Adventures for the NES. Most Christian video games for consoles are unlicensed because many console manufacturers, such as Nintendo, do not want religious video games on their systems. Homebrews and ROM hacks would also fall under this category.
- Bootlegs: Bootleg games, systems, and add-ons may be desired for their unofficial status. Also, video game collectors can get rare video games on a reproduction cart, so they can still have them in their collection. Since this may violate the copyright law, these can be considered black market collectables. Multi-carts from China are popular bootlegs to collect.
- Prototype and development releases: Games and equipment may become collectible by virtue of its unavailability. This includes games available only in prototype form, which may have left the company because of liquidation, theft, journalistic review, or other cause. Games that were not released to the public are still of interest to the gaming community, as their software can be copied and distributed over the Internet. Prototypes tend to decrease in value when their ROM, ISO, or EXE is released publicly. Because these titles are not supposed to leave their respective companies, they can also be considered black market collectibles.
- Arcades: Arcade games and system boards can also be collected. Many arcade game collectors usually buy used arcade games from restaurant and arcade owners. Most arcade game collectors change the DIP switches on the game's circuit boards to make the games free play. They may also refurbish artwork to make it appear new. Arcade collecting is becoming more common due to the current decline of arcade gaming.
- Memorabilia: Memorabilia includes any merchandise related to video games such as toys, figurines, posters, giveaways, or promotional items. It can also include retail displays and kiosks that were previously unavailable for purchase.
- Accessories: Accessories includes special controllers, lightguns, memory cards, add-ons, or other devices. An accessory that has found very limited release will be more collectible, such as the Dreamcast broadband adapter. Online modems or network equipment for retro consoles may be collected for completeness despite their official inoperability. Many PC video game collectors collect video cards, sound cards, keyboards, joysticks, and other computer hardware. Third party accessories may also be of interest.
While all video games can be seen as collectible, some are noteworthy for being particularly rare or desirable, which in turn contributes to high values. Prices may vary depending on condition of the packaging, paperwork, whether the item is sealed, how many inserts are retained, and whether the spine card is still present.
Some of the most collectible games in existence include:
- Chase the Chuck Wagon (1983), Atari 2600, NTSC-U. Was only available through a mail order promotion from the now defunct Chuck Wagon dog food line of the Ralston Purina company. Since most buyers of dog food were adult dog owners and (at the time) adults rarely were interested in video games, very few bothered to order the game. Although not the rarest Atari 2600 game, it is a fan favorite among 2600 enthusiasts.
- Air Raid (1982), Atari 2600, NTSC-U. 12 known copies. The only copy with package known to exist sold for $31,600 in 2010.
- Pepsi Invaders (1983), Atari 2600, NTSC-U. 125 copies produced.
- Red Sea Crossing (1983), Atari 2600, NTSC-U. 2 known copies. Produced by Steve Sack, Inc of Inspirational Video Concepts. The yard sale copy found in 2007 was sold on GameGavel for $10,400.00 in a 2012 auction. Another copy was found in Philadelphia and was eventually auctioned off on eBay for $13,800 in 2013
- Stadium Events (1987), NES, NTSC-U. 2000 cartridges produced. Considered the rarest licensed NES game available for purchase in North America. The game's packaging alone has been known to sell for $10,000. One of two known sealed copies was sold for $22,800 on eBay.
- Tetris (1989), Sega Mega Drive, NTSC-J. Three to eight copies produced, supposedly due to copyright issues.
- Nintendo World Championships (1990), NES, NTSC-U. 26 copies of the gold cartridge and 90 copies for the standard gray cartridge. The gray carts were the actual carts used in the Nintendo World Championships tournament while the gold carts were prizes for winning a Nintendo Power sweepstakes. Gold cartridges have sold for over $10,000. The game has been called the rarest and most valuable NES cartridge released aside from promotional cartridges.
- Nintendo Campus Challenge (1991, 1992), NES, NTSC-U. Most copies were destroyed after competitions, except one copy which was sold to Rob Walters in 2006. The copy is believed to be the only one in existence, eventually selling for $20,100 on eBay.
- Nintendo PowerFest '94 (1994), SNES, NTSC-U. 33 cartridges made, only two known to still exist.
- Virtual Bowling/SD Gundam Dimension War (1995), Virtual Boy, NTSC-J. The two rare games make completing the Japanese Virtual Boy collection difficult.
- Kizuna Encounter (1996), Neo Geo, PAL. Fewer than 12 copies exist. Howerver, the Japanese AES version is not as rare and is identical except for the packaging and inserts.
- The Ultimate 11 (1996), Neo Geo. 10 known copies. Also known as Tokuten Oh: Honoo no Libero. One buyer reportedly paid $55,000 for both Kizuna Encounter and Ultimate 11.
- Bangai-O: Prize Edition (1999), Sega Dreamcast, NTSC-J. Five copies produced.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Fortune Hunter Edition (2009), PlayStation 3. Only 200 copies made.
- NBA Elite 11 (2010), PlayStation 3. 15 known copies. Originally announced by Electronic Arts to replace the long running NBA Live franchise, the game was universally panned when its demo released. The demo was full of glitches and the game was cancelled just weeks before its scheduled release. An extremely small number of retail discs were produced and while most were destroyed by EA, a scant amount made their way to the public. NBA Elite 11 is considered the "holy grail" of PlayStation 3 collecting.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle Exquisite Edition (2013), PlayStation 3. One available, includes the game, special packaging and a Swarovski figurine made out of 6000 Swarovski crystals. The game was auctioned at eBay for £687.