The Master System in 1987 and the Megadrive in 1990 were massive successes, the MS selling 13m units worldwide and the MD selling 30.75m, and the elevation in unit sales made Sega a company to be reckoned with. Sega ran a pretty flawless sales campaign with the MD, launching strongly with graphics that made the average child look on in awe – early games such as Altered Beast and Strider were pretty much perfect arcade conversions – and the pricepoint was high, but reasonable enough that many of the children who asked for one for Christmas in 1990, 91 and 92 got one. Indeed, the pricing structure was kind of genius; as time went on, the base price decreased and the console was bundled with more games, meaning that Sega was selling more consoles due to the decreasing price, whilst continuing to sell games to the early adopters. And at £40 a game, with just 8MB and 16MB of ROM to fill, good games were fairly easy to code if the initial concept was sound. Even if a child had more or less stopped using their MD at some point in the year, they were likely to get one of the newly released games for their birthday or Christmas – so Sega had created the Holy Grail of toys – an item that sold at a premium, and had buyers returning to them time after time to buy additional items for the initial purchase. I call it a toy and refer to the players as children as that was exactly what the market was – the Megadrive was firmly aimed at children aged 7-14, and this was perhaps the last generation of video games consoles to be firmly aimed at young gamers.
One of the things that happened during this era of gaming was that the young owners of Megadrive consoles in the Christmases of 1990 and 1991 started to become teenagers. A child who was 13 or 14 at Christmas 1990 would have been 17 or 18 by the time the 32X was released, probably still living at home, probably would have a part-time job, and certainly would have had disposible income, along with their reliable, rock solid MD which would be working fine (try to find a MD that doesn’t work now, almost 30 years later- those things are rock solid!)
With such a small number of games, and with just a few titles that probably sold in the low hundreds when first released, there was always going to be an explosion in prices for 32X games. The past few years have really seen that prediction happen! Primal Rage selling for £995, and who would have thought it back when Rumbelows were clearing out their unsold copies for £2.99? Indeed, games that are usually not worth anything on any retro system – for example Fifa 96 would be worth pennies on any other system – are accelerating in price, Fifa attracted 22 bids in August 2015, almost getting back to the original RRP and highlighting just how crazy 32X prices have become. A game most would value at £1 selling for £37, and attracting a lot of auction interest is madness.
As always, the scarcity of 32X games means that i’ve not seen T-Mek sold so far in 2015. It’s going to be interesting as time goes on to see how eBay prices rise as some of the rarest games go into collections never to see eBay again. Indeed, it took months to see a copy of WWF Raw turn up on eBay, and the fierce bidding saw it sell for £39.22. I wonder if this formerly £5 game could ever reach £100 once it becomes a ‘the only copy listed on eBay this year’ sort of event. It’s certainly within the realms of possibility in the crazed 32X collecting scene.
My initial prediction in 2011 was that a complete set of 32X games would be worth £10,000 by 2030. The prices have risen from £1621.56 in 2011 (well, if Motherbase, MotoCross and NFL had turned up at say £100, £10 and £10 respectively, then £1741.56) to a mammoth £2666.30 (again, if T-Mek surfaces at £200 that would be a total of £2866.30. A rise of £1000 in four years, coupled with the fact that the total number of rare games that are now locked away in collections surely means that a £10,000 value in fifteen years is reasonably likely. Indeed, if collection prices rise by £250 a year, a total collection price of £5000 by 2020 which would surely wipe out many of the ‘just found a 32X in the attic’ copies of games could easily lead to Darxide, Motherbase, Primal Rage, and T-Mek alone costing a potential buyer £5000 by 2030. Either way, if you sunk £1741 into a complete 32X collection back in 2011, you’re looking at a massive profit if you ever come to sell it.
Check out this Sega emulator for your PC