Retro games get a new life as demand for defunct consoles, games on the rise

Some vintage titles are selling for nearly 10 times their original cost.

Video byDara Elasfar
December 1, 2022, 8:21 AM

They were once coveted birthday and holiday gifts for millions of millennials and Generation Xers.

They were Nintendo Entertainment System bundled with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt or that copy of Pokémon Gold for the Game Boy Color.

And even though those vintage game systems and cartridges are long gone from store shelves to make way for more advanced tech, the beloved games are still in high demand. In some cases, they can sell for thousands of dollars for collectors and retro gamers.

PHOTO: Vintage Nintendo 64 systems are in high demand according to retro game retailers.
Vintage Nintendo 64 systems are in high demand according to retro game retailers.
ABC News

"Everybody's into this stuff because this is the stuff they grew up on," Nick Pittelli, the CEO of the retro gaming store "The Game Island," told "Impact x Nightline."

"Impact x Nightline" takes a look at this growing and lucrative trend in an episode now streaming on Hulu.

Although retro gaming has had a following ever since the first video game systems hit the market in the 70s, experts say the trend has boomed in recent years, and along with it the profits.

PHOTO: Employees at DK Oldies sift through their inventory of retro gaming systems and games.
Employees at DK Oldies sift through their inventory of retro gaming systems and games.
ABC News

The industrywide resale price for Nintendo 64 systems, which sold for $199.99 when it launched in 1996, or roughly $375 in 2022 dollars, can now fetch as much as five figures depending on its condition and rarity, according to experts.

Brandi Ahmer, a Maryland police officer who has a giant collection of video games, arcades and other vintage electronics, showed off her basement where she keeps her gaming relics. She told "Impact" that she was able to snag some rare consoles at bargains.

PHOTO: Retro game collector Brandi Ahmer shows off her various N64 consoles that she's acquired.
Retro game collector Brandi Ahmer shows off her various N64 consoles that she's acquired.
ABC News

"That one goes for about $8,000," Ahmer said of a rare red Nintendo 64 controller. "That's what I was offered, but I paid $12.50 for it. I found it in a video game store."

"Then this one right here is a chrome Nintendo 64...There's only ten of these in the world," she added. "And I was offered close to $20,000."

Ahmer said she has no intention of selling any of her vintage systems or games and is always on the lookout to add to her collection.

PHOTO: Retro game collector Brandi Ahmer shows off her basement game room to ABC News' Ashan Singh.
Retro game collector Brandi Ahmer shows off her basement game room to ABC News' Ashan Singh.
ABC News

"There's something about these older systems," she said. "But it's like there are memories of a simpler time, you know, your childhood."

Ahmer isn't the only one feeling that nostalgia.

Pittelli said that demand for vintage games grew during the pandemic and the value of some items in his shop has gone up by 40%.

PHOTO: Nick Pittelli, the co-owner of The Game Island, speaks with ABCNews' Ashan Singh.
Nick Pittelli, the co-owner of The Game Island, speaks with ABCNews' Ashan Singh.
ABC News

Joey Walker-Denny, the social media manager for the Pennsylvania-based retro game store DK Oldies, told "Impact" that his team gets about 300 emails a day from customers looking to either buy or sell their used games.

"I've seen larger emails than that," he told "Impact."

Walker-Denny noted that his team, which has grown tremendously since the store opened in the 2000s, takes great care to ensure that the games are in working condition for their customers, in some cases going as far to replace key components, such as a Game Boy screen.

PHOTO: A NES is repaired and cleaned by a "The Game Island" technician.
A NES is repaired and cleaned by a "The Game Island" technician.
ABC News

"A lot of the stuff that we sell is over 30 years old. So you can imagine it needs a thorough cleaning," he said.

Pittelli and other retro gaming experts said they expect that more people will be on the lookout for vintage games to reclaim their youth.

"I think there's a stigma, like, 'Oh yeah the people who shop or go to a video game store. They're super nerdy.' No, it's not like that anymore. Rappers come here. Artists come here," Pittelli said.

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