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In-Depth: The $2000 Video Game?

Checking out game culture in Japan, we discover some of the more expensive games in Akihabara, from Waterworld to Yoshi's Cookie and more -- many surprisingly terrible.

Ryan Winterhalter, Blogger

September 25, 2009

5 Min Read

[Checking out game culture in Japan, writer Ryan Winterhalter finds some of the more expensive games in Akihabara -- many of which are surprisingly terrible.] Akihabara is a place that has been sold to the outside world as a gamer's paradise, a place where one can find and cheaply buy any video game ever made. Every year during Tokyo Game Show, the gaming coverage is overloaded with trip reports and stories about great Akihabara finds. The reality, however, is not quite the same as the legend. The number of game stores in the famed district has been reduced greatly over the past decade. As the number of small stores shrank, a handful of larger stores gained dominance. You can still find any video game ever made in these stores (Traders and Super Potato being the most famous among them.) However, this ability comes at a price. If one looks hard around Tokyo, the prices at these stores can usually be beat. For collectors, the convenience of these stores outweighs the usually small price difference. From an outsider's perspective, the price of this convenience can sometimes seem to be too much. There are certain games in Akihabara that sell for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Often these games are what the Japanese call kuso-ge (literally “Shitty games”) and only expensive because of their rarity. Other times the games are available in other formats for a small fraction of the price. There are some outrageously priced games in this vaunted nerd heaven. Some of the worst are presented below: waterworld.JPG Waterworld Virtual Boy 29,800 Yen – Around $290 Approximate eBay price for North America version - $49.99 This may not be the most ridiculously-priced game in Akihabara but, I think it is the most absurd. What about this game could justify its price? It was made for a console that is little more than a punchline for gamers telling jokes, and it’s a movie license game for a film that was so bad it nearly destroyed Kevin Costner’s career. justicel.JPG Justice League Task Force Japanese MegaDrive 32800 Yen – Around $320 Approximate eBay price for North America version - $9.99 The mid-nineties were filled with awful fighting games but, JLA stands out as one of the worst, despite being developed by Blizzard. Or at least one of the worst that did not involve sprites based off off digitized photos like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter the Movie the Game. Comix Zone Japanese MegaDrive 17800 Yen – Around $170 Virtual console price - $8 XBLA price - $5 Again with the comics, I’m not sure why but, it seems anything that even smells of western style comics sells for mad money in Akihabara. At least Comix Zone is a game held in relatively high regard. That’s why you can by it cheaply on the Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade. The game so easy to get, why would anyone pay so much for it? wwf.JPG WWF Raw Japanese MegaDrive 95000 Yen – Around $950 Approximate eBay price for North America version - $9.99 Well, at least it’s not about comics but, it’s almost $1000. However, fans of western pro wrestling are as rabid as their comic loving counterparts in Japan. I guess if a group of fans is starved of a regular stream of content, they’ll pay almost anything up to and including $1000 for something new. At this point, you could buy all three modern consoles, a Famicom, Super Famicom, Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast for that amount of money. Dracula X PC Engine CD Used – 12800 Yen - Around $120 New – 44800 Yen – Around $440 Virtual Console Price - $8 Amazon.com Price for PSP version - $9.99 This game was once the holy grail for those in the import scene. It didn’t see an American release until 2007. Dracula X was the last best Castlevania game to be released before the series made the transition from hard as nails action platformer to Metroid style exploration. Its outrageous price was probably justified at one point but, with the game available in downloadable form on the Virtual Console and at retail on the PSP (in a cheap collection that includes Symphony of the Night), the $440 price tag seems excessive. yoshi.JPG Yoshi’s Cookie – Kuruppon Oven de Cookie Famicom 198,000 Yen – Around $2000 This game is not just Yoshi’s Cookie. It’s a special version of the puzzle game that was made by Panasonic to commemorate the release of its Kuruppon Oven. This version of the game included an extra mode called “cooking adventure” and only 500 copies were ever made. Oven de Cookie is about as rare as it gets. As a collector's item it’s value is obvious. Undoubtedly someone will eventually pay the two grand for it. With that in mind it’s still shocking to walk into a store and see a video game for $2000. These games are not representative of Akihabara. Most games you find are reasonably priced compared to the ridiculous amounts some games are sold for at retail in Japan. Still, if you keep your eyes open if you’re over here on vacation or for TGS, you’ll find more than a few games as inexplicably expensive as the ones above.

About the Author(s)

Ryan Winterhalter


Ryan Winterhalter is a freelance writer in Japan. He has written for many publications and websites, including PlayStation: The Official Magazine, 1up.com and Play (UK). He can be reached at Rwinterhalter at gmail.com or on Twitter @rwinterhalter.

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