By BILL KUNKEL
Video games have been an established component of worldwide popular culture since 1971 when Magnavox introduced The Odyssey — the first interactive game playing system that interfaced with a TV set — and a California start-up company dubbed Atari introduced an arcade game called “Pong.”
In the four decades that have passed, these electronic entertainment devices have evolved into one of the world’s dominant media. Even in a soggy economy, company after company in the hardware and software sides of the industry are showing profits.
Two of the three dominant console systems — Sony’s PlayStation 3 (which is also an excellent Blu-Ray DVD player) and MicroSoft Xbox 360 — joined the third player, Nintendo’s game changing Wii, and have introduced entirely new motion and/or voice-activated interfaces (along the lines of the wildly popular Wii kinetic controllers, dubbed “Wiimotes” by gamers).
And while Sony’s vaunted “Playstation Move” motion control technology has drawn mixed reviews and uncertain word of mouth, Microsoft has clearly scored a winner with the Xbox’s own motion-based control system, Kinect, selling a million units worldwide in its first 10 days on the streets. Micrsoft is predicting Kinect will be in five times that many homes by the end of the holidays.
In fact, while the Wii was still last Christmas’s must-have game system, in the year’s final quarter, the 360 will be the 900 lb. gorilla in the electronic game market (despite Nintendo’s Wii relaunch of its popular Donkey Kong Country franchise). At press time, sales of the 360 are up 34 percent over last year and there are now 3.5 million systems out there in need of software.
But does the success of the retail video game market translate into secondary sales value for pawnbrokers? There’s no simple answer. The margins are apt to be so slim on software (and the hardware is subject to so many variables) that walking away from video games altogether might not be as uninspired as it sounds.
On the other hand, there can be a worthwhile amount of money to be made in buying and selling hardware and software as well as gaming collectibles. The information is out there and can be obtained free of cost, but you have to be willing to do your homework and monitor the game business seriously.
To get you started, here are five things every pawnbroker most definitely should know:
1. Yes, there is money to be made in restoring and flipping coin-operated arcade games.
2. Video game hardware never increases in value.
3. If a customer wants to pawn or sell several hundred dollars worth of new console or handheld video games, is it worth the gamble?
4. Is there any percentage in buying old — first generation, 1970s-era — game hardware, software or other materials? Does anybody collect this stuff?
5. Should you be in the video game pawn business in the first place?