Periodically we get questions from readers that relate to the arcade industry. Whether you’re looking for arcade repair tips or want to know what it’s like to be an arcade operator, we hope that this column helps to provide answers to your arcade and pinball related questions. To kick off our new Q&A series on the blog, we thought that we’d address the topic of buying arcade games on the cheap. If you have your own question for the All You Can Arcade staff, feel free to contact us at the following link
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Today’s question is does buying arcade games in bulk make them cheaper?
Our answer, undoubtedly! In our experience the market for arcade games in a binary one. What we mean by that is that games will either go for very cheap or very expensive, but almost never anywhere in between. Part of the reason for the binary nature of arcade game sales is the fact that individual titles have a huge impact on the value of a game.
Take our Tron for example. It’s considered one of the most collectible games by collectors. Not only did they make a great movie from the 80s, but they made a remake more recently. In the game, they built four different mini-games for you to play. The cabinet itself uses an innovative flight stick that is hard to replicate on MAMEs and mutlicades. Just looking at it glow from the blacklight can leave you speechless. Because of these reasons, if someone is a Tron fan and really wants that game, the supply is extremely limited. As a casual arcade fan, they likely don’t have the skills to repair a broken game and because they are only interested in that particular title, they either have to wait for years to find one or go up in price. If you wait long enough, you tend to be willing to bid even more for a title. If we tried to purchase an individual copy of Tron, we never would have been able to add it to our library of games, but when we bought out Tron we only ended up paying $200 for it, because it was part of a bulk lot of games.
The operator who sold it to us had a couple of really good games, but he had some less than spectacular ones as well. He certainly could have pieced out the Tron, but because he was in need of space, lived in a geographically remote area and needed a large sum of money, he was willing to throw that game into the mix, in order to entice operators like ourselves to make the long drive for the games. Ultimately, our Tron needed a little bit of work, but when you have a lot of games to work on, fixing them gets to be easy. Instead of searching the internet for a specific title, we were looking for any games at the $200 price level. From our perspective, we may have overpaid for our Sly Spy that was included in the lot, but we got a fantastic deal on Tron, Asteroids, etc. etc. etc.
Ultimately we’ve found that buying in bulk gives you access to the lower end of the binary market. Typically prices will be 75% – 80% lower in bulk then what you would expect to spend for an individual title. Even our Sly Spy has managed to catch a $300 bid since we purchased it, but we like keeping it on hand because Data East made Karnov their unofficial mascot and included advertisements for Karnov in the game. We think that there would be something special about owning every game that Karnov makes an appearance in and already have several available for rent on our website. Whether you’re buying broken games or working ones, paying in bulk also limits the number of qualified bidders on a lot. There are a lot of people who have $1,000 that there willing to spend for a game, but there aren’t that many who are willing to put down $5,000 plus storage for a hobby. Less bidders mean better deals for operators who have the cash. Hopefully, this helps to answer this question from one of our readers. Feel free to submit your own questions and we’ll be happy to answer them on our blog.