The Game Value Bell Curve

Someone who studied economics could probably explain this concept a lot better than me, but here’s my layman’s way of explaining price changes for video games. As someone who has bought way too many video games in his life, I’ve noticed the pattern of prices and determined the best time to buy and save.

Simply put, the video game industry is unique for the near-universal starting price. As of 2017, it remains $60. That is, shortly after release, 95% of new console games are sold for $60 no matter if it’s a triple AAA title or some upstart company’s crappy first game. This is an odd phenomenon if you think about it. Imagine is all cars were priced at $20,000 when the new model came out. Doesn’t make sense, does it? But for some reason, this trend has caught on in gaming. Digital downloads, remasters, and indie titles have shaken this up a bit, but it still feels like $60 is the standard for a new game.

After some time, new games generally start to drop in value. Used games also flood the market and lower the price point. Depending on the popularity, rarity, and other factors, these price changes can vary wildly in amount and how fast they take place.

Enter The Game Value Bell Curve:

The Game Value Bell Curve

As you can see by this very professional chart that definitely was not hand-drawn in MS Paint, there is a very obvious pattern that game values go through.

  1. Game releases for $60
  2. Game value drops over time and with the availability of used copies
  3. Game value bottoms out at its lowest price
  4. Game value begins rising as age makes the game more rare
  5. Game price either stagnates or continues to grow

While 99% of games follow these steps, the rate of change can vary wildly. The key at the bottom right of the graph explains what each color line represents. Red = Classic games and exceptionally good or rare games such as Pokemon, Zelda, Fire Emblem, etc. These titles tend to go down in value while still widely available in stores, but after a while the value begins to rise as they become more rare and sought after. Exceptionally good or rare games can even surpass their starting price and reach very high price points, especially if still factory-sealed. Super Mario Smash Bros. Melee for example will remain a valuable game forever because it is an exceptionally good, classic title.

Next you have above-average games which tend to decrease in value while in stores, and then slowly gain value as they become harder to find. Games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario, and other popular but not overly rare games inhabit this category. You can probably pick up copies for a reasonable, if not cheap, price many years after their release. They will continue to have and probably gain value the older they become. Other game in this category include niche titles that are harder to find, but not overly sought after.

Lastly you have the forgotten titles. These games were either unexceptional, very abundant, or just plain bad, and therefore have little resale value. Like most games, they probably started at $60 right next to any other game, but quickly their value drops as gamers trade them in or resell them for something different. The market get saturated, most people aren’t interested or have already played it, so the price plummets to only a few dollars. After a while, these games are removed from store shelves to make room for better games. At this point the few people who may have missed this title may go online to buy it, spending a little more than they would have when the stores were trying to get rid of them. The value can go up slightly, but probably won’t ever surpass $5-10 until many years later when someone needs it to complete their collection and few people are looking for/selling copies. These are the forgotten games, all manner of bad titles like old racing and sports games, overly popular titles like the 10th game in a popular FPS series, etc.

So how can this information help you? It’s pretty simple. If you want to buy a game and save money, buy it at the lowest point in its value curve. When it winds up in the bargain bin or at single digit numbers, it’s usually a safe buy. If it’s a popular game that never goes that low, try to guess when it will bottom out. $20 is a pretty common low point for good games before they begin rising in value.

If you are really excited about a games or really like a series, it’s not a bad idea to pay full price for their game. This helps the company make money and know they have fans, and you get to play the game sooner! If you want to see a company keep making the games you like, it’s better to pay THEM for their game than wait and buy it used when you’re just filling the resellers pockets. But if you can live without a game, or need to save money on your gaming hobby, I hope this chart gives you some insight on when to buy (or even sell) your games.


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