Even if you're a digital-only gamer and seek to reduce clutter in your household at every available opportunity, it's easy to see the appeal of retro game collecting. The intrinsic allure of physical items continues to drive sales on modern systems with a seemingly endless procession of collector's editions, but old-school consoles like the NES, SNES and Game Boy are blessed with eye-catching and chunky cartridges which just beg to be hoarded, fondled and treasured for years to come - even if there are much more convenient (and cheaper) ways to experience them in pure gaming terms.
However, retro game collecting is also an insanely expensive pastime, especially in the age of eBay. Some titles change hands for many times more than their original purchase price, and we've reached the point where a select few collectors don't even play the games they own - they simply put them on a shelf like some kind of trophy before moving onto the next conquest.
Wherever you sit on the retro gaming spectrum, it's highly likely that at some point during your gaming career, you've been faced with a daunting choice: sell or keep? Like all collectables, video games have value which can be unlocked to fund other purchases; and we've personally heard many stories of entire collections being put under the hammer to fund a change of lifestyle - sometimes out of necessity more than anything else.
A friend of the site recently introduced us to a person in this exact position; Kevin Bowers is a UK-based financial adviser by day, but he used to work in the games industry and has amassed quite an impressive selection of games - all of which are up for grabs.
Keen to understand what could make someone with such an enviable haul sell up in one go, we sat down for a chat.
Nintendo Life: Can you give us some background on your gaming history?
Kevin Bowers: My father used to own a Commodore 64 many years ago and that was really my first taste of computers and gaming. I absolutely loved Street Surfer; I never got far but I still remember the music that became faster as you gained speed! Then there was BombJack that I must have played to death. Unfortunately, the C64 died and I remember wanting a Donkey Kong Dual Screen Game & Watch, which I never managed to get my parents to buy.
Years later I remember asking for a NES, but after two years of pestering, my parents got both me and my brother a Master System 2 with Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in, and Spy vs Spy. That was my first proper games console. A few years later both my brother and I traded in our Master System and put the funds towards a SNES. My dad always said that playing games is a waste of time, but then he was hooked on Super Mario Kart and had to eat his words! I would come home sometimes to see that he'd beaten my ghost in time trial and I had to try and get the best time again! It was at this time I really got into games, and spent hours playing the likes of Illusion of Time, Zelda: Link to the Past, Super Punch-Out!!, Secret of Evermore and Secret of Mana. My next console was an original PlayStation, and when I turned 18 I decided to build my own computer.
I've had small jobs in gaming shops since I was 16, and I ended up as an assistant manager of a Gamestation/GAME store before coming out of the industry completely. I eventually wrote for various PlayStation magazines back in the day; that was a fun couple of years back when the PS2 was released. I remember hating on Final Fantasy X in my review, and still hate it today!
When did you start collecting?
Earliest I can remember actually collecting was when I got a job on the magazine Station 2, back in late '90s, just before the PlayStation 2 was released. I got quite addicted to eBay and back then there was no PayPal. If you won an auction you sent a cheque off, hoped it would arrive, waited for it to clear, then waited some more for the seller to send the items in the post. There was a good 10 to 14 day turnaround back then! After that, I picked things up from many shops I've worked in.
You have a lot of sealed promotional copies in your collection - where did you source these?
The promotional copies, like the Dreamcast games, were all from my time in Gamestation. We always bought stuff from customers no matter what it was and we had a little rule in the shop where if you bought it in, you had first refusal on it.
What would you say are the most interesting items in your collection?
Well, for me it's Super Mario World. I don't even remember where I got it and it wasn't until recently I realised how valuable it was in sealed condition. Other than that, I love the GameCube; it's the original Japanese hardware with a USA mod switch in the back so you can play both regions in one console. Super Monkey Ball and Luigi's Mansion were (and still are) amazing!
Why did you never open your copy of Super Mario World?
I have a large number of SNES cartridges that I picked up for pennies back in the day, and that included Super Mario World. So when I got the sealed one I had no reason to open it - and then forgot about it! SNES games - especially boxed ones - have risen sharply in value lately; it's insane how much some very average titles are worth.
Why are you choosing to sell everything now?
Two main reasons. It's all sat in storage in my parent's place and they're moaning about it all taking up so much room. I know I'll never really use them again and I'd rather someone appreciate them. Plus, I need to get a deposit to put towards a house. I'm sure I'm not the first person who has sold a treasured collection to fund a big change of lifestyle!
Would you say your life priorities have changed, or are you simply finding other ways to play these games?
Life priorities have 100 percent changed since I left the gaming industry. It just doesn't seem as important once you are out and not surrounded by games 24 hours a day. I still love gaming but find myself picking and choosing what I play a little more carefully these days. I have my gaming PC for any of the big games I want to play, and I have a Switch for everything else. Since I don't care about multiplayer games I'm just in it for great single-player experiences - almost the opposite of where the big games companies want to go nowadays with 'gaming as a service', something I have zero interest in. So while the cash will be welcome the way I play games has changed as well.
Could you ever see yourself regretting selling all of these items?
Yes, I always think 'what if'. But my thinking now is why keep something that has just sat in storage in the dark for almost 20 years? I'm just hoarding and not even appreciating them; plus I can emulate it all in future if I wanted to play it again.
If you fancy making Kev an offer on any of the stuff in these photos, drop him a line at [email protected].