Sunday, December 4, 2011

Book Off: Price Gouging Happens in Japanese Game Shops too!

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you might have an unrealistic image of Japan as a Mecca of cheap retro game shops. This is because I tend to over-report my fantastic bargain finds and under-report the amount of stuff that I find which is ridiculously over-priced. In this post I`ll try to bring a bit of balance to that situation by demonstrating the ridiculously over priced side of the Japanese retro game market.

I was in a Book Off downtown yesterday. Book Off is a very large chain of used book stores with hundreds of locations across Japan. Some of them also have retro game sections, including the one that I happened to be in yesterday:
Book Offs are very hit and miss with retro games. In my experience (I have been to a couple dozen of them), the statistics break down like this:

60% of Book Offs have no retro games at all.

20% of Book Offs have some retro games and their prices are quite good.

20% of Book Offs have some retro games and their prices are mind blowingly unreasonable.

This particular Book Off falls into the latter category. It has some of the worst prices on games I have ever seen. I had my camera on me so I photographed some of the most egregious Famicom examples.

First, Mahjong:
Yup, 950 yen (about 12$ US). That is about the most common cart for the Famicom that is out there. I`ve seen it for as little as 10 yen at other shops and outside of this example I`ve never seen one priced over 300 yen.

Then, Baseball:
950 yen again. This cart is worth about 100.

950 yen. For a sports title that you can`t give away.

Devil World and Soccer:
1550 yen (about 20$) for Devil World and 950 yen for Soccer. Devil World at least is a good game, but the average price for that one elsewhere is about 500 yen and, of course, you can find cheaper copies if you know where to look. As for soccer, I paid 10 yen for my copy of that one.

Interestingly, not all of the games were ridiculously over-priced here. Terra Cresta, for example:
250 yen is actually a good price for that one. Go figure.

I suspect that this is another example of a store that hires people with no knowledge of retro games who just put random prices on stuff. It is about the only way these prices can be explained.

I should end by noting that if you ever visit Japan for the purpose of retro game shopping, Book Offs can actually sometimes turn up incredible bargains. The problem is that the vast majority of them do not. So if you are walking down the street and happen to see a Book Off, then by all means I recommend popping in to see what they have because you might get lucky. Don`t go out of your way trying to find them though, in all likelihood it will be a waste of time!


  1. I think that goes for about ANY store or garage sale or whatever that one goes to: sometimes you find something REALLY good, but mostly you won't be so lucky. Still, great post, and if I ever go to Japan I'll be sure to check out any Book-Offs or Hard-Offs if I come across them.

  2. Trust me, when I travel to Japan I am going to call you, otherwise they will rip-off my pockets very hard.

  3. Skyrunner - Yes, that is too true! If you do see a Book Off or Hard Off, I do recommend dropping in, you never know what you might find!

    elfamilygame - LOL, yes! Best advice is that any shop that sells mahjong for over 300 yen is to be avoided! Actually there used to be a really useful price guid for Famicom carts on Rising Stuff that (though not entirely accurate) could help one avoid rip offs, but sadly it seems to have disappeared.

  4. Wow, some of those prices are shocking, Sean! I was especially surprised by Devil World for 1550 yen -- as I bought a CIB copy of this game for about $20 on eBay a while back, and eBay is fairly infamous for price-gouging.

    Anyway, I'm guessing you tend to avoid Book Offs during your treasure hunts? Also, what's your go-to store for these trips?

  5. Here in Los Angeles there's actually a Book Off in Torrance. There they sell new imported titles, but much like these, the prices are way jacked up. There are other local import shops that get them at a fraction of a price. I will remember to stay away if I visit!

  6. Bryan - 20 bucks for a CIB Devil World isn`t a bad deal! At Mandarake they go for about the same!

    I do go to Book Offs whenever I see one just in case, I have on rare occasions found something good at them for cheap, but Omocha Souko is my go-to store!

    Mark - Oh yes, I had heard something (perhaps from you) about Book Offs in the US, but with the jacked up prices. Their prices for books are actually quite cheap so it is a bit disappointing! If you see one on a visit though I do say pop in, some of them have decent prices and selection on their retro game stuff!

  7. We have a book off here in San Diego, CA too. I've found the pricing to be pretty random too.

  8. Well, this post makes me feel a bit better for paying through the nose for retro gear online vs the great deals you get over there :)

  9. Stealthlurker - San Diego too, huh? I guess the random pricing is a worldwide thing;)

    Sean - yes, don`t feel so bad! The normal retail price of retro games in Japan is nowhere near as cheap as this blog sometimes makes it out to be:)

  10. Nice to see the other side of the story, good post! That's how things are over here - any retro stuff I've seen in stores is stupidly over-priced, and it's insanely rare to even find anything these days too... :|

  11. LOL, yes this is the other side of the story! Too bad that it is all over priced there, here at least there are bargains to be found!

  12. If I ever found gameboy and sega genesis games in the shop, my love for nostalgia might just damage my wallet :(

    Nice post, loved it.

  13. LOL, thanks Ali:D! They did actually have a few Game Boy games and one or two Mega Drive games in there too....