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.

The Data

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.

 

 

This project is an attempt to preserve as many catalog and circular ads for electronic games as possible.

There are several reasons I think this is an important project. The way games are seen and the language used to talk about them has changed significantly over the years, and how stores have tried to entice sales is a good example. These ads show how much games cost when they were new, and how quickly or slowly that price changed as they became older. We can compare prices of games across stores and see how different stores pushed different games, and we can directly compare disc and cartridge based game prices. Sometimes games have beta or mockup cover art.

This is also a fun nostalgia trip back to a time when you used to plan what games you wanted to ask for for your birthday or Christmas.

To be included the advertisement had to be from a retail store and it has to feature an electronic game or an accessory for such. Electronic game for our purposes includes consoles and games that are played on a television, handhelds with or without interchangeable media, computer games, and some miscellaneous gadgets that you can play games on, such as watches. All ads are from American stores and prices are in United States Dollars. I came across a few examples of catalogs aimed at retail stores, made by manufacturers of software or hardware, those are not included.

The quality of these scans will vary considerably. Some have many watermarks, some are small, some were not scanned well, and some were in poor condition. I am including everything I could find in the name of preservation.

I currently have images from 1975 to 2020 and about 30 different stores. The ads are organized by alphabetically by store on each year page and by page number when applicable. When there are multiple catalogs or weeks of circular ads featured within a store section I have ordered them chronologically when possible. The amount of information I had about when the ad was released varied from exact date to nothing but the games featured.

You can click the images in the galleries to make them full size, press the left or right arrow keys to go to the previous or next image, and press escape or click outside of the lightbox to close it.

If you can find or scan any ads that you don’t think I have, please send me an e-mail at thespritecell@gmail.com, or message me on twitter at SpriteCell. I currently have posted everything I have from the United States.

 Current total images: 2852

1970s

1975 – 2 images – Montgomery Ward, Sears

1976 – 5 images – Montgomery Ward, Sears

1977 – 16 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears, Spiegel

1978 – 12 images – JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears, Unknown

1979 – 14 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears

1980s

1980 – 15 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears

1981 – 21 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears, Skaggs Drug Centers/Alpha Beta Food & Drugs

1982 – 42 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1983 – 73 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears

1984 – 29 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears

1985 – 9 images – JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, RadioShack, Sears

1986 – 9 images – JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears

1987 – 25 images – Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Toys “R” Us

1988 – 46 images – Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1989 – 29 images – JCPenney,  KB Toys, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1990s

1990 – 76 images – Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1991 – 164 images – Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, KB Toys, RadioShack, Sears, Target, Toys “R” Us

1992 – 253 images – Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, KB Toys, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1993 – 168 images – Captron, Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Software Etc, Toys “R” Us

1994 – 101 images – Best Buy, Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears, Software Etc, Toys “R” Us, Unknown

1995 – 117 images – Best Buy, Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us, Unknown

1996 – 67 images – Best Buy, Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1997 – 154 images – Best Buy, Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, KB Toys, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1998 – 28 images – Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears, Toys “R” Us

1999 – 41 images – CompUSA, Electronics Boutique, FuncoLand, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears

2000s

2000 – 20 images – JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears

2001 – 20 images – Circuit City, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears

2002 – 17 images – Electronics Boutique, JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears

2003 – 15 images – JCPenney, RadioShack, Sears

2004 – 21 images – Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Fry’s Electronics, JCPenney, KMart, Kohl’s, Sears, Target, Walmart

2005 – 22 images – Best Buy, Circuit City, JCPenney, KMart, Kohl’s, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2006 – 24 images – Best Buy, Circuit City, GameStop, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2007 – 40 images – Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, FYE, JCPenney, KMart, Kohl’s, Microcenter, RadioShack, Sears, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2008 – 53 images – Best Buy, Circuit City, FYE, GameStop, KMart, Kohl’s, RadioShack, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2009 – 40 images – AJWright, Best Buy, GameStop, JCPenney, KMart, Kohl’s, OfficeMax, RadioShack, Sears, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

 

2010s

2010 – 34 images – AJWright, Best Buy, Fred’s, GameStop, Hastings, KMart, Kohl’s, OfficeMax, RadioShack, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2011 – 36 images – Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, GameStop, Hastings, KMart, Kohl’s, RadioShack, Sam’s Club, Sears, Shopko, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2012 – 35 images – Best Buy, GameStop, Hastings, KMart, Kohl’s, Microcenter, RadioShack, Sam’s Club, Shopko, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2013 – 49 images – Best Buy, eBay, Fred Meyer, Fry’s Electronics, GameStop, Hastings, KMart, Kohl’s, Sam’s Club, Sears, Shopko, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2014 – 46 images – Best Buy, eBay, Fred Meyer, Fry’s Electronics, Gordman’s, Hastings, KMart, Microcenter, Newegg, Sam’s Club, Sears, Shopko, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2015 – 37 images – Best Buy, Five Below, Fred Meyer, GameStop, Hastings, HHGregg, Kohl’s, Micro Center, Rakuten, Sam’s Club, Shopko, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2016 – 40 images – Best Buy, BJ’s, Circuit City, Fred Meyer, Gordman’s, HHGregg, Kohl’s, Rakuten, Sam’s Club, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

2017 – 79 images – Best Buy, BJ’s, Fred Meyer, Fry’s Electronics, GameStop, Kohl’s, Newegg, Sam’s Club, Shopko, Target, Walmart

2018 – 230 images – Best Buy, BJ’s, eBay, Fry’s Electronics, GameStop, Kohl’s, Newegg, Shopko, Target, Walmart

2019 Part 1 – 212 images – Best Buy, BJ’s, Fred Meyer, GameStop

2019 Part 2 – 213 images – Gamestop, Kohl’s, Newegg, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart

2020s

2020 – 63 images – Best Buy, BJ’s, Dell, Five Below, GameStop, Kohl’s, Newegg, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart

 

Sources

Christmas Catalogs & Holiday Wishbooks has hundreds of text searchable catalogs.

Hughes Johnson has personally scanned a number of catalogs for his site and blog. His scans are available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license . No changes were made to his scans.

Video Game Art & Tidbits has personally scanned a number of catalogs, as well as other art & tidbits. The individual tweets are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 , 12

Black Friday Archive has many ads from many stores from late November.

Weekly Ads has many weekly circular ads from many stores.

RadioShackCatalogs specializes in RadioShack catalogs. Some of their scans credit AlliedCatalogs.com.

Totally Target has many Target weekly ads.

Archive.org has all sorts of miscellaneous items. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9

GottaDEAL has a lot of ads, especially for Black Friday.

BFAds has a lot of ads, especially for Black Friday.

Kotaku by way of reddit user Sketchbreaker.

BassGuitari from AtariAge contributed the Spiegel 1977 scans.

Bored Panda

Retro Junk

AusRetroGamer

imgur user trolling4soup

imgur user ProfessorPancakes

Reddit user m08inthem08 (same as previous, this particular catalog is easily the most commonly posted)

Reddit user isaynonowords

Reddit user Dedennecheese

ResetEra user Deleted member 3321

Nintendo Times

Mental Floss

Tumblr user lenimph

BuzzFeed News

Twisted Sifter

Brad’s Deals

Consumerist

Warosu’s archive of a 4chan thread.

TecheBlog

Mother to Earth on Twitter thinks that this image is from Earthbound Central, but I couldn’t find it there.

Earthbound Central via “a fellow by the name of Mother_fan”

Vintage Computing took credit for scanning a Toys “R” Us ad which I got from somewhere else.

Reddit user cyber_electronics

Vintage Ads from Target’s Holiday History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was really excited to do this one, I buy almost all of my games used and wanted to quantify some things people kept repeating about prices. Originally posted on reddit.

People often say that Nintendo games are more expensive, or even that they never go down in price. Sometimes people clarify that they only mean first party titles. As someone interested in collecting I’ve been curious about this for some time, so I decided to look into the average price of games on different platforms. I entered the prices of 50 games in loose, complete in box (CIB), and new condition for 19 systems, generations 5 through 8.

Since I grouped by company, here are the generations for reference:

  • 5th: N64/Playstation/Saturn
  • 6th: Gamecube/Gameboy Advance/Playstation 2/Dreamcast/Xbox
  • 7th: Wii/DS/Playstation 3/Playstation Portable/Xbox 360
  • 8th: Wii U/Switch(I guess)/3DS/Playstation 4/Vita/Xbox One

Some notes and takeaways

None of Switch’s games are even a year old yet, while most of XBone’s and PS4’s are, which is part of why its games are so expensive. I also had to include almost every physical release on the Switch, so there is some obscure stuff there.

Nintendo games are indeed more expensive on average, although I expect the gap to be smaller when the Switch is as old as the PS4, and 3DS is basically tied with the Vita.

One to two generations old seems to be the sweet spot for cheap games.

The Xbox 360 has the cheapest games on average, but Xbox, PS2, and PS3 are pretty close.

I thought first party games would be consistently more expensive than third across the board, but it was only true for Nintendo games (sans DS) and Saturn.

The Gamecube had the largest difference between first and third party prices.

Some systems had many more first party titles among the games I used than others (N64, Wii, DS), so the third party prices could be fairly different if more games were included.

New prices don’t become too crazy until 3 generations back.

Panzer Dragoon Saga was the most expensive game included – $510.1 CIB, while Madden NFL 2002 for PS2 and World Series Baseball on Xbox were the cheapest CIB at $2.78

2,850 prices were used in total for this data.

Methodology

It’s difficult to know what a good representative sample is, but I wanted to focus on games people are likely to want to buy, and cut out shovelware. First I looked for a wikipedia page like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_PlayStation_4_video_games

and added the 15 best-selling. Then, I went to metacritic and added the 15 highest highest rated games that didn’t include anything I’d already added. I filled out the rest by going back and forth between these lists. For systems without a nice wikipedia list, or not featured on metacritic I googled for best of lists.

I only included games released in the U.S. with a physical release. Why only physical? When people discuss these game prices it’s usually in the context of the second-hand collecting market. Digital stores price games based on very different criteria, and there’s less complete data available. This means no DLC, or digital-only, and few indie games were included.

Only the most basic edition of a game was included – no collector’s edition, no Nintendo Selects or Greatest Hits, no plastic instrument bundles.

This method includes a lot of yearly sports titles, which possibly shouldn’t count. The original Xbox’s games are especially sports-laden. I’m not very familiar with these games, but someone who loves sports games, and is buying older games might pick up the ones with the specific mix of mechanics they like, right? Or maybe the ones with team rosters they enjoy. Regardless, I didn’t want to pick and choose which sports titles would count, so I included whatever came up. These sports games are a bit cheaper than other genres (it’s hard to quantify how much cheaper), somewhat dragging down the average price of systems with many of them.

I considered first party to be games published by Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft. I originally was considering only games developed by those companies, but things get complicated and subjective quickly that way.

Price data was retrieved from https://www.pricecharting.com/ from late December 2017 to early January 2018. All prices are in US dollars.

If you want to see the whole spreadsheet with the specific games, here you go: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ssPpo68hAx3y2TjZ9I5knR26-qgprINnD0dmegrHfp8/edit?usp=sharing

It’s ugly and I didn’t care about writing the complete names or fixing typos. Scroll down for the bar graph.