Chad Jillian showing off some of the stock at That's Entertainment
Once the years of adulthood begin creeping into the present, we all seek ways to break the monotony and seriousness of the real world. It’s tough learning that life cannot always be about the simple things from our youth. One way that many young adults are choosing to cope with this realization: video games. Specifically, older consoles from previous decades, like the Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo, and Sega Dreamcast are making a reappearance in dorms and apartments across the country.
“You’ve hit on a hot market. There’s definitely resurgence,” says Chad Julian, employee of local pop culture and amusement store, That’s Entertainment.
Past the dark hall in the front entrance to the 10,000 square foot store is a world filled to the brim with collectables, toys, comics, records, games, and action figures to satiate any customer to come through the doors.
As Chad said with a satisfied grin, “People from all walks of life shop here – cops, professionals, college students. They all find something they like.”
The self-proclaimed, “video game guy” and “hardcore geek” of That’s Entertainment has been working at the store for 6 years, and he still admits to finding new things on hand. The Worcester-based shop has been in the business of selling fun for 30 years, and sales of older video games are showing no signs of slowing down.
“The older, cartridge games are one of the biggest things we sell,” Julian said. “We probably sell 100-300 games a day; a third if not a half of those are old.”
The same trend can be seen online. Auction website, Ebay.com, has almost 100,000 titles of games predating the millennium, some of which are selling for a higher price than current releases.
Standing next to the case of games from Banjo to Battle Tanks, to Bomberman are drones of customers peering past the glass. The alphabetical list goes on, with a large portion of the cartridges labeled with the ever popular name, Mario.
“Right now, it’s pretty sparse,” Julian said as he gestured to the Nintendo 64 games behind the glass case. The rest of the two large book shelves as well as the two more behind us are also filled with older games. It may not seem sparse to the untrained eye, but to Chad Julian, having shelves of games just isn’t up to par.
“We couldn’t keep Nintendo 64 games in stock at Christmas,” he said with a laugh. “Most stores couldn’t keep the Wii’s in stock, but we were struggling with the older systems, too.”
Sure enough, countless customers passed by the Playstation 2 and GameCube racks and headed for the multiple bookshelves filled with plastic, bulky cartridge games. These customers aren’t just your run of the mill college students, either.
“Our core is probably the group from early 20’s to mid-30’s,” said Julian. “But we even see people in their 40’s and 60’s. I’ll ask a customer, ‘Oh, is that for your grandchildren?’ and the answer is, ‘No, it’s for me,’” he said with a laugh.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, younger customers are just now being introduced to some of the popular video game characters. One toddler in the store immediately ran to the rack of stuffed Mario dolls, smiling with glee. Though she can only see a small portion of the store from her level, That’s Entertainment lives up to its name.
One way older games are making an appearance to the new audience is through adaptation. Mario Kart, originally released for the Super Nintendo in 1992, has recently been reworked for the more recent consoles. Chad Julian thinks it’s a beautiful thing.
“A new generation is getting introduced to the same characters and games. It’s great.”
“We see all age groups. It’s everyone. For someone my age, I get excited about the Atari section. I see other kids in their late teens eyeing the Nintendo area, and there are even younger kids looking back on the PlayStation 2,” Julian said.
“The old games that were popular in their day are still popular today. Anything with Mario on it we have a hard time keeping in stock,” he said. Those same games that earned a profit in their prime are still making millions.
Originally released to the public in 1981, the little, lovable Italian guy in the red hat is still the number one selling video game franchise in the world, having raked in $222 million since his debut. Though exclusively owned by Nintendo, Mario still manages to appear in new releases.
Besides new games being made, emulators are also bringing the games of old back into the present. By downloading certain software, gamers can play classics that were once only on GameBoy’s or Atari’s on their laptops. Eras that were once technologically decades apart are now being melded together.
“People talk about their emulators, and how they can play the games on their computers, but it’s just not the same,” Julian said with a furrowed brow. “Feeling the controller in your hand, the cartridge… it’s a very nostalgic process.”
A fairly new company to hit the scene, Yobo Gameware, has started taking advantage of this market and the fact that hardware for older games is no longer being manufactured. For a relatively cheap price, a combination of older games can be played on one handy system.
“Yobo is making decks that play the older games like Atari, Sega, and Nintendo,” Julian said. “The old copyrights on the consoles are wearing out, but companies like Nintendo don’t care about the old models; they have the Wii.”
As seen in the sales of older games through stores like That’s Entertainment and the internet, there is certainly something to be said about the feeling of nostalgia.
Clark University student, Xander Fraum said, “I used to play these games when I was a kid. They’re still fun and coming back to them. You also get an appreciation of how awesome game designers are that they can make games that move you, especially when they didn’t have the technology to make the most lifelike visuals.”
Videogamepricecharts.com is an impressive compilation of just about every video game ever created, and its comprehensive search allows one to quickly see that the older models need not be counted out of the race so quickly. Three of the website’s top four platforms to be searched, the Nintendo, Neo Geo, and the Super Nintendo are all consoles from the 80s and 90s. A quick browsing of the price lists proves that nostalgic games still have a very lively market.
With all the new graphics and technology of today’s video game realm, one must wonder why so many customers are choosing to stick with the oldies.
“Nostalgia is a big factor, but some people don’t like the complexity of the newer games. It’s about the simplicity,” Julian said. “It’s simple to play Tetris with two buttons. The new games have much more going on.”
“I play Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo most of the time,” said Clark student, Marissa Millman. “I prefer older games because they are highly nostalgic. They remind me of my childhood and playing games with my brother and cousin. I’m not a huge gamer, so when I play video games I opt for games that I know and love. There’s a kind of solace I find in playing them.”
Another Clarkie, Carly Lenz shared her experience. “Sega Genesis was a treasure in the house I grew up in, and it actually brought my family together,” she said. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s just utter nostalgia, but old-school video games today still have this enduring sense of charm and amusement.”
Regardless of the indescribable feeling of connecting with things from childhood, Julian offers a simple explanation as to why these games have stood the test of time: “Nostalgia is a big part of it, but they’re just cool,” he said, grinning.
“Everything comes back in 10 years, they say, but with some things, it just stays. It’s like the smell of an old book; it’s just nice.”
With his words still ringing in my head, I thanked Chad and began wandering through the nearly overwhelming amalgamation of things at That’s Entertainment. I came to a shelf of less flamboyant comic books labeled, “all ages comics,” and something clicked.
“Everyone has a kid inside,” Julian said, and as I looked more and more through the store, it really showed itself.
As I came to the back wall, a comic-esque illustration of President Barack Obama caught my eye. Hanging from a web behind him on the cover was Spiderman.
The Donkey Kong, Sonic, and Mario games aren’t the only things selling to satiate the kid in us. Everyone has something they’re trying to hold on to.