Itsa me, Millio!
The first-ever 3D rendering of legendary Nintendo icon Mario in a game was a huge deal.
In 1996, Nintendo released Super Mario 64, giving players the ability to control, an admittedly very blocky and pixelated, three dimensional Mario as he collected stars hidden within the paintings of Princess Peach’s castle (you know, a standard day of work for your average Italian plumber).
It was an international success, shifting 11.9 million units and making it the best selling game of its generation.
Now a copy of that game has sold at an online auction for £1.1 million or AU$2 million, making it the most expensive video game ever sold.
Why is it so expensive?
The Nintendo 64 cartridge, the platform for iconic childhood games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, James Bond: Goldeneye, and Super Smash Bros., is an unopened, mint condition version.
It’s like a time capsule from 1996, presumably complete with high-quality retro air, and was in high demand at the US auction house Heritage Auctions for its “historical significance, rarity and condition” since there are “fewer than five copies” in such good condition.
According to the listing, “the cultural significance of this title and its importance to the history of video games is paramount, and the condition of this copy is just so breathtaking.”
The cartridge, sold on Sunday, had received a 9.8 A++ rating by the video game collectible firm Wata, which means it is “like new”, in near-perfect condition and with an intact seal.
The sale of this game is nearly double the price paid for an original Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo Entertainment System from 1988. That game was the record holder for the most valuable game ever sold for just two days when it sold on Friday for AU$1.3 million.
Valarie McLeckie, a video games specialist for Heritage Auctions, told The Guardian that they had not anticipated the game would sell for so much.
“After the record-breaking sale of the first game in the Zelda series on Friday, the possibility of surpassing $1m on a single video game seemed like a goal that would need to wait for another auction,” McLeckie said.
“We were shocked to see that it turned out to be in the same one!”
The games have been bought as collector’s items, not to play. There are still millions of copies of each game out there in the wild, though in much worse condition, and Nintendo has released both games along with updated versions of each on their current generation Nintendo Switch console.
The games and collectables market is going through something of a bull run at the moment. Just last month, a Pokémon card broke the record for most valuable sale at a similar online auction, going for an eye-watering US$360,000.
It’s not just old games and cards either. In the same lot of games sold in the above auctions, a sealed copy of the game The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim sold for US$600 or $800 Australian.
That might not sound like a lot in comparison but bear in mind that this game came out less than a decade ago and into a market flooded with far more editions of the game.
It’s an incredibly popular game, but it’s not even really retro. Bethesda, the creative studio behind the game are still supporting it with online play and content.
An original copy of the game Red Dead Redemption for Xbox 360 sold for $US384 ($513) and a copy of Tomb Raider for the PlayStation 1, released 1996, sold for $US144,000 ($192,326).
It’s all part of a growing trend in the collecting of games and game memorabilia. People have always sought rare items, but never before have games and trading cards been sold by the same auction houses that normally deal in Picassos.
Collectors and experts have warned that the market is probably overheated and that those shelling out for the games are probably doing so in the possibly deluded hope that the prices will one day climb much higher.
These are extremely dangerous waters for a new collector/investor to wade into. While there will be some winners in the grand scheme of this new market, most will end up big losers in the long term.
— Pat Contri (@PatTheNESpunk) July 11, 2021
We don’t know if that’s true or not, but it might be worth having a look through your old gaming stuff (if you’ve still got it) to see whether you might be sitting on something of value.
Just don’t expect anyone to pay $2 million for that battered copy of Mario.