As someone who buys a lot of used video games, especially from older generations, I have long wanted to know how game prices change throughout the year. Do they tend to decrease and increase at predictable times of the year?
If you search for the answer to this question you will find many articles that are more about new and currently popular games, which mostly suggest looking for deals on Black Friday, or perhaps in January. That doesn’t really apply if you’re looking for something more than a few years old.
So in late 2018 I made a new account on PriceCharting.com and added 50 complete in box games from 23 systems to my “collection” so I could track its price; a sort of price index of 1,150 used games. Every morning at just about the same time I recorded the value of the collection. The systems I included were the North American versions of everything from Nintendo, Sony, Sega, and Microsoft, but not the most current systems at the time (Switch, PS4, Xbox One), or some small and short lived systems (Virtual Boy, Sega CD, Sega 32X, Sega Pico). The newest system’s games weren’t included because their prices haven’t stabilized. I chose the 50 most “popular” games for each system on the site, the games that were getting price checked the most.
I excluded all games that cost over $200. My thinking is, games over this price are being searched for because they are known to be rare, and people are curious about how high the price is now, are looking to complete a collection, or are looking to buy games that they suspect will go up in value, not that they are personally interested in playing. Perhaps I should have set the threshold higher or lower, but I think this was useful in not letting speculative market manipulation have an outsized impact, and to keep the data more useful and practical for more people.
That said, two years later 59 games now had a value of over $200. Most notably, as of this writing, Kuon is selling for $564 on average when complete. Pokemon Crystal, Emerald, and Sapphire also rose over $200. No games from the 7th generation rose to this price.
There were a few anomalies with the PriceCharting site. Twice a game was removed from my collection, and I assume from the site. I didn’t keep a list of every game included so I have no way of knowing which these were. There were also a few days where the total value of the collection changed by less than a dollar, which probably means that sometimes the site didn’t update prices for an extended period of time.
I was initially just going to do one year. Then in early 2020 thought I maybe two years would be good for a comparison, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep recording. Eventually it became pretty clear that the pandemic was going to be a big thing and that there wasn’t going to be a nice comparison year, but a year that should be interesting in its own right.
Please note that the Y-axis does not start at 0, which makes the change from highest to lowest look more dramatic.
On January 1st, 2019 the average value of a game from the included systems was $40.59, and on December 31st, 2020 it was $61.68.
Assuming 2019 is a typical kind of year that we may return to in 2022 and beyond, prices grow most quickly in February and March, continue to grow in April and May, and then decrease or grow very slowly June through November. I’m quite surprised November was the biggest decrease in price. There’s a lot of Christmas shopping in both November and December, yet the change between these months is the most dramatic of the year.
2020 starts much like 2019, but in March people realize they will be spending a lot of time at home and game prices spike, hitting a high in May, and not approaching pre-pandemic price changes until October. November again sees the largest price decrease of the year, but it’s an even larger swing.
While prices have begun to shrink a bit, we’re still a long way from pre-pandemic. I don’t expect prices to get anywhere near what they used to be, or for the price decreases to last much longer. We just experienced an unprecedented surge, but game prices have always increased over time and I don’t think anything will stop that.