Until recently, I was a tried and true game collector. My collection topped out at nearly 3,000 games. But throughout 2009, I got a continuing feeling that my efforts seemed pointless – that I was fighting against a tide that would eventually overwhelm me.
As 2010 begins, I’m in the process of paring and honing my collection, shifting to digital downloads and trying my best to approximate a central iTunes-like availability for most of my gaming.
For other game collectors with the same sneaky feelings I had, or just for those curious, I present the top ten reasons I am a recovering hoardcore gamer.
1) It is impossible to have a complete collection of physical games for any current-generation system.
Collectors relish complete NES collections, or even complete Dreamcast collections. The sad truth is that the days of being able to complete a system or franchise collection with box and instructions are over. Just in the past year it has become impossible to have a complete Contra, Mega Man, Castlevania, Ratchet and Clank or even Mario collection without having at least one digital-only game. Before the entire gameography of a franchise could be laid out in physical boxes, but no longer – the full Wipeout Collection just isn’t the same with a print-out.
2) Most PS3 games require large hard drive installs, making regular play of more than a few dozen games arduous
This might seem like a trivial point, but even with the maximum 250GB hard drive, that is limited to say sixty games that can be played any time without juggling hard drive game installs. If a collection is to have dozens or hundreds of games, plus downloaded games, it adds an additional time burden for memory management. Of course this has only just begun on PS3, and on the iPhone in some respects, but it could be a barrier down the road as games increase in size.
3) Older systems and games have a limited shelf life
A few months ago, I went to test an NES system I could lend to a friend and lo and behold, it didn’t work. Not worried, I went to another NES I had stored, and it too did not work. Only my top loading NES was working at all. The NES systems were likely over twenty years old, and I can probably clean them again or do something to jumpstart them into temporarily working condition. But the clock is ticking, not only on older cartridge based systems, but especially for disc-based systems with tons of moving parts any of which are failure points for the system’s operation.
4) The value of older games plummets when they are released as digital downloads
Once upon a time, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a valuable PS1 game – especially the non-Greatest Hits all-black version. The game has since been released on XBLA, on PSN, as an extra on PSP and even on Konami compilation for Xbox 360 released in December 09. Suddenly one of the most exciting parts of game collecting – having super valuables games – was in jeopardy. How long until my Panzer Dragoon Saga on Saturn is worthless because it’s 800 points on XBL?
5) It’s unwieldy to continue collecting forever
As someone who collected nearly 3,000 games, it was becoming an impossible task to inventory and store the games in a logical and efficient manner. Not to mention the fact that it was nearly impossible to play games on various systems at any time. Keeping shelf space for all these games, especially older games with bulkier boxes, was turning out to be a part-time job in itself. On top of the games, keeping dozens of systems set up or stored reasonably had also become cumbersome.
6) It’s impossible to play every game in my collection
My collection was intended for use. I didn’t collect factory-sealed games. In that respect, it was already too large. If you add up the gameplay hours in every game, it would be literally impossible to play them all in a lifetime, not even including the games that are released every week. I had dozens of RPG’s that I’ve never tried – would there ever be an opportunity to play dozens of 100+ hour games? Am I really going to play Super Widget on Super Nintendo? Ever?
7) It’s redundant to have the same game on many systems
I’m a huge Mortal Kombat fan, but is it necessary to have it on ten different platforms? Many of them – such as the Genesis or Game Gear versions – aren’t good arcade conversions. There are so many games for which I have multiple versions – Smash TV on Genesis and Super NES are both pretty weak compared with the arcade game, which I have on Midway Arcade Collection. There was so much redundancy throughout my collection that just eliminating doubles was a task.
8) Most game companies produce black and white manuals
This is a huge pet peeve of mine and continues to get worse. Sega has classic, diehard-focused franchises like Sonic and NiGHTS, but includes flimsy black and white manuals in the box. Not as bad as the cardboard slip-box red-striped boxes late in the Genesis lifecycle, but still pretty weak.
9) Battery backups are dying
For many cartridge games, long games could be saved directly to the cartridge with a battery backup. However, with many of these games now over twenty years old, the batteries in these cartridges have run out of power, rendering the game unsavable. There are work-arounds, such as manually replacing the battery or simply leaving the system on, but these are not convenient or sustainable. The loss of the ability to save cartridge games that don’t utilize passwords is a major drawback to holding onto older games.
10) It’s better to have downloadable versions
Most game collectors are completists in some way. Having all of the games in one digital source, playable instantly via a menu or interface is the optimal way to have all games at your disposal. Even though its not legally possible to get every game yet, over time more and more games will be available. It’s eminently more fun to sift through classic games and be able to play them quickly in succession than it is to manage a physical collection across multiple systems.
Of course it’s bold of me to declare that game collecting is dying simply because I’ve decided to move away from it. However, game values are going down, and less games are apt to be produced in physical form in the months and years to come. Game collecting will almost certainly exist for decades to come, but it might simply be limited to antique-like collectors looking for relics.
Jonathan Widro is the publisher of Diehard GAMEFAN and owner/CEO of the Inside Pulse Network. He has worked as a writer and publisher for over a decade, after working in game-related retail for over five years. He has worked in game development, most notably creating user-generated gaming portal Fyrebug and over 100 Flash games. Gaming Under Construction, Jonathan’s perspective on the gaming industry, is published every Wednesday on Diehard GAMEFAN.