Cex beneath the covers

When does collecting old video games stop being fun?

If Twitter is a yardstick it’s certainly a question being asked by many this week, following the revelation that high street retailer Cex is reprinting games covers to replace “damaged” stock.

Ordinarily, I’d throw in the word “allegedly” before such a suggestion, but the company’s social media team have admitted to the practice in the public domain.

Lets just digest that for a second: “Please be advised that we don’t sell fake items and have some covers reprinted if they’ve been damaged or town.” I know that I had to re-read that last line several times!

Having looked through row upon row of PS2 titles in the Aberdeen branch I’ve often thought that some of the cases looked a little suspect.

But is this something we should be getting wound up about?

If you ask me, the answer to that is a resounding yes.

Let’s pretend the shoe was on the other foot. You’re queuing for an eternity to trade in a pile of games and, just as you approach the counter to sell your pile of unloved games, the store assistant inhales loudly and tsks at you, before breaking the news: “This one’s got a ripped cover, so we can’t offer you as much.”

Naturally, your heart sinks a little.

But hey, that’s perfectly reasonable. You’re disappointed. You’re going to get less for that game because of its condition – which means the next owner will pay less for it, right? Wrong!

Because with a little Photoshop magic and a half decent printer, Cex have now got your “incomplete” title looking as good as the day it first went on sale. And that means full resale value!

Not only does this practice seem questionable from a Trading Standards viewpoint, but it’s also removing the joy – shared by many – of owning a complete and original retro game.

The insides of these “reproductions” seem to carry an acknowledgement of exactly what they are. Almost a quiet admission of guilt.

But this is one of the fundamental problems – they’re certainly not being sold as such. And given the value of some of the rarer retro titles on the market, surely serious questions need to be asked about this practice.

While this is an issue that’s been trending a hell of a lot over the last week or so, it’s definitely not a new problem. A thread on the RetroCollect forum suggests that it’s a practice which has been happening for at least three years.

It’s hard to say where saga this could lead. There are several tweets suggesting that the infringements have been reported to the publishers themselves, notably Nintendo. And while Cex continue to maintain that they’re doing nothing wrong, all we can do is wait.

And perhaps hope that the printer runs low on ink sometime soon…

About Martyn

Martyn is a 30-something broadcaster, craft beer fan and lover of retro games. Living in a cave, somewhere in Aberdeenshire, he is responsible for looking after Shaddow, the Games Den mascot. Though some say it's really Shaddow who takes care of Martyn...

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