Made in Japan: a TRUTH about a retro gaming and record marketplace in Japan

It is not a warn that a retro gaming materialisation that has grown massively over a final 15 years or so has now, in terms of hype and cult following, surpassed a normal stream era of video games.

If we followed a daily coverage from E3 this year (day 1, day 2, and day 3) we already know how a vast video diversion program companies are, increasingly, customarily producing secure IPs to keep their marketplace share and distinction in tact, as if they didn’t they would be punished by a batch marketplace (see Capcom’s 7~9% tumble with a recover of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard).

So from a commencement of a 2000s “new concept” games such as Rez or Shenmue, and/or innovative ideas logically shifted toward a prolongation of reduction costly and protected mobile games with determined IPs and established, mainstream genres. Naturally, hardcore gamers criticised a miss of creation in these new titles, however, as we mentioned in a E3 reports, hardcore gamers do not foreordain a courtesy and a courtesy remained sealed on a same course, that is something that is still in justification today.

The some-more mainstream revaluation of comparison generations of games started, arguably, in a midst 1990s with a recover of a heyday arcade emulator ‘Mame’, that for a initial time on a normal PC authorised a whole era of gamers to replay games mislaid and lost about, games that used to live in a arcade centres years before.

This materialisation (than labelled by video diversion magazines as ‘retro gaming’) has year by year grown in a gamer village as a new trend, not usually for a fun of rediscovering golden age classics from a midst 70s and 80s, yet also for a millennials who were innate after and never got possibility to play them. For many millennials classical games such as: Pac-Man, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Dragon’s Lair, and OutRun are unheard of, let alone titles they have indeed played.

This trend has grown so significantly that even giants such as Gamestop have started to resell retro games in vast numbers interjection to a flourishing demand, while Sony and many other publishers have started to resell them online in a form of HD remasters (examples include: Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, etc), or offered these comparison titles as DLC directly on online shops such as a PS store or Xbox Live.

In Japan yet this materialisation hasn’t unequivocally happened as, simply put, retro gaming never went divided to start with. Due to a chronological honour for a enlightenment of video gaming, engorgement of second palm video diversion shops, and a fact that many of a industry’s inaugural companies are formed in Japan (Sega, Namco and Nintendo in particular), classical video games are played via Japan.

Welcome to a retro gaming district

And, articulate of retro shops, a biggest and best shops are particularly strong and located in dual places, or to be accurate in dual streets: a Den Den city of Akihabara (in Tokyo) and Nippon Bashi (in Osaka).

Unlike in a west, in Japan 80 per cent of a specific difficulty of products (example: clothes, pro-audio, and video games) are collected and sole all together in usually a singular travel or a singular retard (labelled -Ku, example: Shibuya-ku for a clothes).

Now many people might consider a a shops that sell a many and a rarest games are not on a categorical travel (apart Retrocamp), yet indeed they are all around a retard in buildings of opposite sizes and on opposite floors (contrary to a west here many of a buildings from groundwork to a tip building are pristine shop). This is given a lease for this “concentration” is very, unequivocally high, and logically a vast distributor bondage such as Laox, SofMap and Trader compensate tip dollar to resell a stream generation’s games in a best, street-level, categorical travel locations.

In fact, given of this conditions many Japanese retro diversion shops have to constantly change locations to keep a costs down and be means to tarry while creation adequate distinction to live.

Of course, retro gaming compared to a stream gen’s marketplace is a niche, yet interjection to a internet economy and a devaluation of a Yen (thanks radically given of Abenomics) has brought some-more western tourists entrance privately for theses aged consoles and games. Unfortunately, what appears to be a good thing for retro gaming, is also where a genuine problem lies, with a exaggeration between existence and notice being manufactured.

While it is not singular to find posts on forums or amicable networks from unknown users claiming to have bought singular games such as Sapphire, Dead of a Brain, Dracula X for PC Engine, Radiant Silvergun,Tower of Doom for Sega Saturn, or Metal Gear Solid Gold chronicle for peanuts, a existence of a retro gaming shops here is, in roughly any case, distant from what these unknown westerners explain them to be, something that we will entirely denote below.

Retro gaming in Japan has been partial of a video diversion enlightenment given a bang in a late 70s and has always perceived respect, friendship and a following. Even in a days before a internet went mainstream in a 90s, in Japan – already in a 80s – Mooks (portmanteau of “magazine” and “book”) were printed out in vast quantities with a story, specs and sum of many retro games.

Another good instance of what we am articulate about can be seen in a singular OutRun Laserdisc published Sony.

So from this it is flattering transparent how in a land of a rising object masterpieces like OutRun, Space Invaders, and Mario in their several formats (Ex: Arcade Pcb, Mooks, LDs, Vhs) and conversions (Ex: Famicom, PC Engine, Saturn) have always been objects of cult and collection.

While in a west during a 80s and 90s a gamers changed along with a marketplace (example: from NES to SNES, or Master System to Mega Drive) offered off immediately all their aged things and not gripping it, in Japan a materialisation of collecting a aged things was already present, with dedicated shops.

And this still happens today, where a normal Joe goes into a vast bondage and sells all their books, DVDs and video games for 1/3 of a value.

From this a Japanese gamer gets a income they needs to buy other things they want, and also to beget a space in a partially tiny apartments in that they live (trust me, I’ve lived in Japan a prolonged time).

And it is from this conditions that Japanese retro gaming shops such as Super Potato, Mandarake, Trader and Retrocamp were born, and currently keep on shopping and offered retro consoles and games.

Everything you’ve review is a lie

The problem is that, distinct what that unknown user pronounced on that forum a other night, games and other retro products do NOT sell for peanuts in Japan’s stores. To be some-more precise, Japanese retro diversion collectors are intensely troublesome when it comes to a matter of peculiarity and, as such, direct a best peculiarity products. Naturally, a best peculiarity products cost critical money.

A famous motto in Japan translates roughly as that it is “better a accurate thing in a tiny thing than in a vast one”, that tries to communicate that, discordant to a widespread perspective in a west, bigger here is not automatically better. Quality unequivocally many depends over quantity.

So some-more than quantity, Japanese (and in this box collectors) unequivocally compensate courtesy to any tiny blemish on a cover and/or on a CD, not to discuss if it is blank even some tiny invalid tools of a strange console package (such as a strange manufacturer guarantee). All these things unequivocally matter here and, logically, they are reflected in a prices shown.

A transparent instance of what we am observant can be seen in  what it costs to buy a genuine NOS PC Engine RX: 150,000 yen (approx. $1,315/ £1,020 GBP).

You can find a PC Engine RX on eBay for half a price, however, it is not a same peculiarity in terms of being a completed, peculiarity package.

Another good instance can be seen here with this NOS / genuine packet Super Grafx that is listed for 98,000 yen (approx. $860/ £667 GBP).

This is a cost that to a gourmet in a west (even not factoring in shipping, 8 per cent internal VAT and a tradition duties from Japan) would be deliberate approach too high and a “rip off” given they are used to traffic with eBay-quality products and their reduce costs.

And eBay-quality compared to genuine Japanese retro gaming shops really, unequivocally sucks.

It’s all about a grades

And here we arrive during what many people don’t know about a Japanese retro gaming market; there are 4 opposite grades of quality: A, A’, B and C.

Each one guarantees good peculiarity overall, and B positively doesn’t meant a console is junk, yet rather that there are tiny manifest defects.

Another good instance can be seen in Nintendo’s handhelds. In this box we can see with a strange Japanese handheld of Zelda in 3 opposite conditions: A, A’ and B.

Naturally they differ in cost from 29,000 yen (approx. $255/ 195 GBP) to 47,000 yen (approx. $410/ 320 GBP).

Grade A means a packet console, A’ a unequivocally good condition console, B a good console with some tiny defects, and C a good complement yet with some vital forsake (such as a large blemish or, say, miss of instruction manual).

If a diversion or console is not rated it means that it has unequivocally vast problems or blank components such as boxes or accessories (all issues are customarily created on a plaque on a package).

In contrariety to this, on a internet and generally on eBay, it is class C or reduction peculiarity equipment (compared to Japanese shops) that are put adult for sale and bought by westerners – radically a products listed on eBay are a rabble that struggles to sell in Japan. There are some exceptions, naturally, however it seems flattering unchanging from my experience. 

Often presumably packet equipment on eBay aren’t mint, generally compared to those accessible in Japanese retro gaming shops too. A transparent instance can be seen here by checking a strong Mario Bros.

Even in this box a cost differs from 13,000 yen (approx. $115/ 85 GBP) to 27,000 yen (approx. $235/ 183 GBP). A singular initial NES chronicle (not yellowed and complete) costs 24,000 yen (approx. $215 / £165 GBP).

Apart a disproportion in peculiarity that a gourmet can find right here, a apportion – generally on unequivocally singular games and console – is unequivocally superb too and surpasses eBay easily.

Just to get an suspicion take a demeanour during this finish full set of a singular Tomy Pyūta during 200,000 yen (approx. $1797 / £1379 GBP), or a “B” ranked non-yellowed strange Famicom during 27,800 yen (approx. $249 / £191 GBP).

So who indeed buys these AAA+ rated items? 

There are customarily dual kinds of collectors who unequivocally buy these singular gems (that truly are in those top, tip conditions): Japanese hardcore collectors, and some western collectors from a US or Europe that come in chairman to check square by square any console and compensate in money in some of these shops (a good instance is ‘Friends’ in Akihabara that does not accept credit cards).

But in series they are a unequivocally tiny volume of people compared to a “normal” buyers and tourists that come right here now any year jacked adult by high or one-off tales on forums and amicable networks of picking adult retro gaming sell for peanuts. Naturally, when they arrive here in Japan they learn a sour law about a Japanese retro gaming market, and they can't buy what they suspicion they were going to before leaving.

So what do they do then?

Simple, they finish adult inside these retro shops sneaking nearby a “junk” basket (that is placed nearby a exit) where we can buy loose, damaged or ‘sold as-is’ carts during 100 yen each, and/or outward a shops in a travel with regulating a phone’s calculator to check any cost with a acclimatisation app from yen to $, Euro or GBP (probably looking for some fabulous discount that, roughly certainly, doesn’t exist).

Surely a games aren’t as bad as a record though, right?

Things are not unequivocally opposite from what I’ve mentioned above to be honest. For example, this Battle Garegga for Sega Saturn costs 32,800 yen (approx. $288/ 220 GBP). If we check on eBay yet we can find copies of a game, in not as good condition of course, for $195.

Another instance is Stellar Assault during 49,800 or DonDon Pachi during 29,000 yen, again, frequency a “steal” or peanuts in terms of cost.

So is Japan a place to go to buy retro gaming stuff?

The answer is – it depends.

If we are looking for NOS or unequivocally packet retro gaming consoles that here in Europe or a US we will never see (and that logically are sole during aloft prices here), and are prepared to compensate whatever it takes to move them home, a answer is YES definitely. 

If peculiarity is your idea (i.e. to have during home a PERFECT Neo-Geo AES or PC Engine) afterwards Japan is really a place we should go.

But if we are looking for a bargain, a lax retro object or to collect adult a not NOS console or accessory: a answer is NO.


Because it will be cheaper to find them on eBay, and we won’t have a required costs of going to Japan (flight, food and hotel) to cause in.

We know for many that this will be a tiny of an anti-climax, yet we feel it is a purpose as reporters to expose a dark truths of a retro gaming courtesy in Japan. We did a same final year when we reported in on Sony’s PS4 woes in a local land, and will continue to do so going forward.

Next week we continue – be certain to check behind in then.


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