Let’s not mince words here; classic games are serious business. A few years ago, it was possible to make real bargains when hunting for games from bygone eras; nowadays, everyone and their dog seems to think that their crusty old discs and cartridges are worth a fortune. Didn´t that bloke on the news talk about some lady in the United States who found some 'stadium' game in her attic and sold it for a bazillion dollars? And didn´t some other person make bank with a copy of Super Mario 64?
Simply put, scouring flea markets, used-game-shops or checking eBay just isn´t as fun as it used to be. However, since 2018, there is also Retroplace, a new option for the pursuit of classic games – one that does its best to remedy many of the inherent flaws of other platforms. We recently got the chance to speak to Christian Corre, one of the founders of Retroplace, about its inception, and we are surprised to learn that the service originally wasn´t even supposed to be about buying and selling at all.
"I've been collecting video games for a long time," Corre explains. "And for me, there was no collection management [site] that I thought was good enough for my Japanese games. I noticed that even the ones that existed at the time, the collection management for American games and European games were missing far too many games in their data set. And so the idea came to start a collection management system where users can become active themselves and add missing titles. In 2018, I found a partner who could program and who also had an old track record with retro games. So we got together and launched Retroplace."
But while a good place to manage one’s collection is certainly a welcome offer, Retroplace found its true calling when an actual marketplace was added – a move that was born out of necessity at first, as Corre recalls. "At the very beginning, it was really just a collection management system, but we soon realised that we wanted to finance it in some way. We thought it would actually be quite nice to have a marketplace, apart from Facebook groups or Ebay. We only take 7 percent commission, as eBay, with its roughly 12 percent, is way too expensive. I think we're also better than a Facebook group where you have to write back and forth a lot before a purchase. That was the approach; to be cheaper than eBay and easier to use than private groups. At Retroplace, if the item is in the database, you can offer a game for sale worldwide within 30 seconds."
Easy access is one of the strong points of Retroplace, even though compromises have to be made sometimes. "We want to avoid offering too much data," explains Corre. "If you are an active retro collector, then you are so deeply involved and you might miss things on Retroplace. But you have to reach mainstream visitors in order to be sustainable. Too much text and too much data can confuse people. That's one reason why we now make a complete data distinction between regional variants. For Retroplace, a Super Famicom is a different system from a European Super Nintendo. That may not make sense at first glance, but if you put the EU Super Nintendo and Super Famicom in one data set, people are likely to become confused. They are more interested in whether they can buy this game and play it on their European PAL system. You always have to remember that video games are a huge thing – in Germany alone, there are now 19 million console gamers – and there are a lot of people who are simply not that familiar with the deeper intricacies of the subject. That's why you have to make such a website simple."
Still, buying games – or any other goods – from sellers online still feels a bit risky to some people, and that's why a few safety mechanisms are on board, as Corre explains. "All purchases are secured via PayPal. When I had my own game shop called Nippon Dreams, I easily had 100,000 transactions with PayPal over the years. I have had exactly one case where I had trouble. A person chose pre-payment and then bought a Nintendo Switch for 300 Euros from a newly registered seller with zero ratings and never received his console. You have to appeal to people to think a little bit when they buy. But in this case, we stepped in, even though we didn't have to. The only thing we wanted was for a report to be filed with the police. Based on this report number, they got their money back from us. We didn't want this to give Retroplace a bad reputation."
Leaving aside such unpleasant subjects, there is one feature that Corre is especially fond of. "We have the so-called 'retro-scan' – you can scan the barcodes of your games with your mobile phone camera simply from the mobile website, in order to quickly manage your collection. And that works really well; it's very quick. I recently scanned another 50 games, and it was done in less than 10 minutes. If the data set is available at Retroplace, it's really very quick. That's a feature that I'm really very, very proud of. We also now have a price graph – a price history for all the games that have been traded on Retroplace so far. We don't take the current data from other platforms, but only those that were traded on Retroplace. With some titles, you can see quite nicely how things have changed. We always have the date, the scope of delivery and the condition. The goal, in the long run, is to be able to see a nice price development, just like on Discogs."
Looking forward to the future, things are looking rather bright for Retroplace – new plans are already being made to expand the store. "As we have 70 percent of visitors via the mobile website, there will be a transformation so that the mobile website works much, much better," says Corre. "If we see that it keeps growing, I think there will also be a dedicated app sometime in 2024. However, app development is between 60,000 and 70,000 Euros, and the database, which was built in 2018, cannot be used for an app today. Everything has to be rebuilt at some point. And that would only happen when success is foreseeable. When Skin Baron (a trading place for Counter-Strike skins and our financier) see that there is enough growth, then they will be willing to invest more. But until then, we will build a mobile site that will work better. To me personally, it would be very important that we expand the social media character. That could be like... I'm following an acquaintance on Retroplace. He buys a game, and then it appears in my timeline. And then there's a short discussion – if that's what you want. A sort of 'all-in-one' cosmos where you feel comfortable as a video gamer."