New York is a very interesting place today. A lot of things are changing at a rapid pace. Some for better and some for worse. Game stores used to be a dime a dozen in any part of the city until they eventually became half-game and half-electronic stores. Then they became pawn shops until finally they were just gone altogether. The city is really good at reinventing itself before you have time to soak it in. Leave for five years and you might come back to a completely different world. Independent game retailers are hard to come by so when I heard about VIDEOGAMESNEWYORK, I had to pay them a visit.
Located on East 6th street, you might mistake it for a classic bodega but look closer and you’ll notice the Mario figure positioned right outside the door and a Duke Nukem Forever poster in the window. This place has a sense of humor right off the bat and you can feel the love for gaming emanating from within even before you step inside. Once you’re inside you’ll be transported to a space that’s unapologetically filled to the ceiling with games and hardware. It’s almost overwhelming and you can’t decide where to begin. But browse the aisles and you’ll find things you treasured as a kid and some things you thought were just myths sitting right there behind glass preserved and put on display. This place is as much a museum as it is a retail space and you could spend an eternity just analyzing the things they have. I had the opportunity to talk with Dan, the general manager, about games, preservation, and the pursuit of happiness.
Who are you guys and what do you guys do?
We are VIDEOGAMESNEWYORK. We’re one of the oldest and largest independent video game stores in Manhattan as well as the entire east coast. We’ve been in business in this location since 2006 but our stock goes all the way back to when the Super Famicom came out in Japan. We’ve been in business a very long time. We kind of find ourselves in a very niche market. It’s what we do. Everything is about quality to us. If you come into our store, everything is priced based on condition. Condition is important. Not everything is the same value if it’s the same game. It’s not always by bar code. New games are generally priced that way. But used games – if it doesn’t have a manual, if the label’s torn up, if the case is yellowed, if it’s scratched, dented or broken, these all take away from the value of the title.
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s easier to list what we don’t have. We are a console based store so everything’s gonna be console so no PC titles.
That’s going to upset a lot of PC master race members out there.
Kind of. Well PC has that story where it’s hard to carry somewhat because of the whole compatibility issue. PC has inherently left the physical world. It’s very digital now except for special editions, everything is code-based and online. Everyone has their own streaming services and going more digital now. I’d love to do older PC. Like DOSBox is out there and lets you play a lot of the older stuff through emulation but a lot of the older diskettes no longer hold their content anymore. They’re degrading in their actual quality so it’s just an issue with PC stuff. Console stuff generally keeps its media because a lot of it is no longer magnetic tape drives. It’s cartridges burned to EPROMs and it’s CD ROMs or DVD ROMs. We carry everything from everywhere in the world. The entire history of video games.
In the store we feature the very first home console that was mass produced: The [Magnavox] Odyssey One. We have that always on display. It’s the complete set so you can actually see how you were never able to buy a different game for the Odyssey. It came with cartridges in it that weren’t actually cartridges. They were almost like DIP switches. Everything was already stored in the system and they never sold anything separate for it but you did have the ability to change the game. We work all the way up from all the different countries from Europe to Asia and all the different things that they’ve put out over the years including, especially, America where video games came from. Beyond that we buy into and support developers of the independent stuff. Anyone that’s making independent titles that actually have an option for retail, we try to reach out to them and try to support them. NG Dev Team and Red Spot Games doing their stuff. And people like Kitsch Bent also reproducing physical-like parts for the older systems and help buy into that and make sure it stays around.
Again a lot of it is digital with PC and independent. Some of it is becoming console but most of it is still digital and not physical. We’re putting together for the end of the year what we’re calling an “Indie Space” which is going to be a program to actually give all these independent developers, that have a physical option, a retail space. So we’re going to develop an actual space in our store where you can put your product and you’ll be able to display. We’ll have actual play events and have people come in and play some of the newer stuff and it’s a chance to retail the stuff. While we’re just in New York, we’re still a pretty big community in a pretty big city. Whenever a new game comes out, you can actually say this will be available for sale here as well as talk to people who have actually played it or even come for a play event.
Is preservation a part of what you do here when it comes to testing products and their quality?
Yeah absolutely. That’s rule number one when it comes to what we sell. Also what’s kept us in business for all these years is that we pay attention to detail. We do not sell you anything that we wouldn’t personally put in our house. Everything is 100% guaranteed. We’re an actual brick and mortar store. We’re open every day of the year. We guarantee everything to every bit we sell. It’s very difficult to do that. Even the bigger companies like Gamestop, unfortunately, have more of a warrantee to lean on so they can just sell you whatever and if you have a problem, you can bring it back.
We’re selling gifts to people, we’re selling memories to people. It’s why we pay more attention to the condition of everything. If you’ve ever seen videos of our store. The store’s sometimes a mess. We do a lot of shows and we have stuff everywhere. More stuff than we can physically fit in this location. If we were twice as big it would be the same thing. I have more stuff than I could fit in that size. We individually clean up everything, we wrap everything, we inspect the inside of systems when we purchase them, take them apart and make sure there’s no bugs inside, no nasty smells coming out of it. Nothing that someone found on the curbside that a dog pissed on. We’re not gonna put that in you’re home.
Do you have a personal favorite console that you might want factory-sealed?
As much as I love the factory-sealed thing and I completely understand it, I love to play games. I love hardware. I will always want to open something up. We have brand new games for 64 and Super Nintendo that people love to buy but at the same time some of them – and I love this – they’re buying it because they want to open it new. So when I see someone open a Final Fantasy anthology or, we used to have Killer Instinct for Super Nintendo brand new, it’s always exciting that they’re buying it that way.
Well it depends on what you consider, personally, rare because I have a lot of crazy things that may be worthless to you. It’s all about the perspective. Like I have an original DS signed by Miyamoto not once but twice. Hand-signed by him. At the original launch, they had an event where the first 100 people got to go in and have something signed by him and for the first 200 people he actually hand-signed DS skins that Nintendo gave out to everyone in line. So that person, in turn, got his DS signed and then put the signed skin inside. It’s a little redundant, a little silly but it’s an original DS. To some people it’s just a signature from some guy and to someone else it’s the greatest thing in the world. And with something like a Metal Gear Solid PS3 signed by Hideo Kojima, it’s another thing that, to some people it’s worth something and to other people it’s not.
Then you have stuff that you cannot find value for; the weirdest stuff in the world. I have a brand new factory-sealed Game and Watch unit. The story behind that is incredibly interesting because if you bought a Game and Watch when it came out in the stores, Nintendo did not seal these units at all. The only way to get an actual Nintendo sealed one was to order it through the mail. So a lot of collectors have looked into this and most of them have never seen a seal in their life on one. It just came that way. It’s just bizarre to even find that thing. Another thing is Ms. Pac Man Coleco Vision mini tabletop. It’s brand new. Never been opened. I cannot find history of any of those on ebay ever being sold or being verified as new so the value is whatever. So that could be a million dollars or a thousand dollars. It depends on the person who wants it and the person who understands it.
So those don’t have a set price I’m assuming?
Right. You’ll find items in our store that we don’t put a price on that’s important to be here. Our original Odyssey and some of the sealed things. We are still a store so everything is at some point open to offers. We even have a Nintendo World Championship cartridge, again, that would be incredibly valuable. Some of this we retain as a part of the culture that we’re in to. We’re not a pressure environment. We don’t require you to buy something when you come in. We’re used to people bringing their friends here and just showing them stuff. And part of this we’ve dedicated to maintaining certain things that’s fun to actually come in and show people. Parents showing kids what they had back in the day and other people from different countries showing what they used to play and what was available to them and what wasn’t available.
This is a very big part of history that’s a part of our country. Video games have grown to become the largest medium in the world and everyone’s now getting into the preservation of it and showing it off. MoMA has an exhibit and Sony’s wonder lab and the Museum of the Moving Image. A lot of that we’ve actually helped them out with, donated stuff and worked with them. Other stuff we just maintain here. There’s a few things that are just impressive whenever you come in for the first time to really get to see things that were from your childhood and to learn there was more from your childhood or for someone to show you “this is what I had”.
Any final words to anyone looking to visit?
We’re not scary. We’re open late and we’re open every day of the year. Just come by and feel free to talk with any people in the store. You can send us emails if you’re looking for anything specific to add to your collection. We’re generally a fun place to visit. Great place to buy gifts. We repair a lot of stuff, we buy a lot of stuff, we have just walls and walls of games to browse through. Come by and see us!
202 East 6th street
New York, NY 10003
Tel. (212) 539-1039