With the recent resurgence of interest in all things retro gaming, the demand for classic cartridge games continues to rise. Most brick and mortar game stores have long since stopped carrying titles for older systems like Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis. So, unless you’re lucky enough to live next door to the world’s greatest used game store, you will probably have a tough time finding an original copy of your favorite classic game. If they do have it, you can almost bet that it will be overpriced and not in the best shape. So where does the retro gamer go to buy that original copy of Mario Kart 64 or Donkey Kong Country? For more and more gamers the answer to that question has been simple: the internet.
Fortunately, eBay is just one of many great places sports to find those classic video games that your local game store no longer carries. The variety and condition of titles available for purchase can be overwhelming; just about any game title you can imagine is there waiting to be sold. But before you run off and start bidding on game auctions, I would like to offer a few simple tips to help you navigate the staggering number of auctions you are likely to encounter. Hopefully, if your careful and follow a few basic suggestions, your online game buying experience will be a positive one for both you and the seller. Let’s get started.
Make sure the actual item you are bidding on is pictured in the auction. I know this sounds simple enough, but you really have to read the fine print. Most auctions do have pictures, but many game sellers use “stock pictures” to sell their games. These stock pictures may be the image provided by eBay, usually a picture of the box the game originally came in, or it may be a picture the seller took of a similar game at some point in the past. Whatever the case, avoid stock photos. You are less likely to be disappointed with a purchase when you can see, before buying, exactly what you are getting.
You will often find terms like “picture is for reference or education purposes only” and “condition of the game will vary somewhat from example shown” or some other such disclaimer designed to protect the seller when you complain about the junk you just got in the mail. The buyer often doesn’t read the fine print and is ultimately disappointed when the game they bought arrives dirty, covered in rental stickers, and has “Chris” written in black sharpie on the back. This is why you should always:
Read the item description. You would think that’s one of those no-brainers, right? You’d be surprised at how often people don’t read the item details and description in a listing. I know this because I always get questions about things that are clearly answered in the text of the auction. Look out for those sneaky disclaimers I mentioned earlier. Also, watch for any hidden charges like insurance fees and additional shipping costs.
If something is not specifically mentioned in the description, don’t assume it to be true. For instance, don’t assume that the “save game” function has been tested and works just fine. If it doesn’t say it, they may not have checked it or even been aware that it is there to begin with. Not everyone selling games on eBay is a professional seller or even a gamer for that matter! It could just be that Joe Bob is selling one of Johnny’s old games that he found covered in dust down in basement. Other times, the seller just doesn’t have the means to test the item. There are few things worse than dropping $20 on a copy of Pokemon Emerald just to find out that you can’t save the game! That brings me to my next point:
Ask questions if you are not sure about something. Most sellers are quick to reply to a potential buyer. After all, they are here to sell things. If they don’t get back in a timely manner, or they don’t satisfactorily answer your question, find a different seller. Not answering a message on eBay is the equivalent to not answering your phone at a retail store. My time is valuable and I expect a timely response. How fast they answer your inquiry gives you some insight as to how they would respond should any issues arise with your order down the road. You want sellers that provide good, competent and quick customer service.
Item conditions on eBay mean nothing – at least when it comes to video games. I have seen games listed as being “very good” and “like new” then scrolled down to see a picture of the nastiest, filthiest game I had seen in months. On the other hand, I have seen games listed as “acceptable” that looked like museum pieces. This is another reason why seeing pictures of the actual item listed is critical. If you make a purchase based on a stock picture and stated item condition, you are asking for trouble. If you want to roll the dice and take a chance, then go to Vegas.
Shipping Charges – Watch out for inflated shipping charges. Some sellers will sell a game for a penny and charge $10 to ship it. Most of time, they are doing this to circumvent eBay selling fees. For instance, most Nintendo 64 games weigh between 4 – 5 ounces each, and USPS postage to ship that weight in a size #00 bubble mailer is just over $2. I understand that many sellers build the cost of shipping an item (mailer, ink, label, postage, etc.) into the shipping charges, and personally, I am fine with that. While I understand the costs of running a business, I am not looking to be gouged either! Shipping fees are capped at $4 in the games category and $6 in the vintage game category. Expect to pay more for expedited shipping or Priority Mail. Also, I look for sellers that offer free delivery confirmation and state they will send the tracking number to me.
Look at the seller’s feedback rating. Just because a seller has plenty of positive feedback doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good, reputable seller. The feedback number you are seeing could have come from BUYING on eBay – not selling. The opposite is true as well. If a seller is not at 100% positive feedback or they happen to have some negative ratings doesn’t automatically mean they are bad sellers. So how do you determine which sellers are good and which are risky to buy from?