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I woke up this morning much like I do every morning. I lift my dumb face off the pillow, roll onto my side and immediately reach for my phone. It's a terrible habit, one I'm sure many of us share. I peek at Facebook: oh dang, one of the specialist retro gaming stores I follow has one of my all-time favourite games in stock, one that comes around so very rarely. How much? I scroll. And I find: £600.
Six hundred pounds, for a video game. You think that's wild? I flick over to ebay, because surely £600, for a second-hand (albeit pretty great condition) copy of a game from the 1990s, is asking a bit much. Here's one that's new, still in the shrink wrap, with its original cardboard spine, too. Let's see. Oh. A bargain, at £1,699.99.
Granted, there's another copy of the game in question, Konami's Snatcher for the SEGA Mega CD, up for auction on ebay, too - second-hand, but with "no cracks on case", which is good, I guess. But with five days to go at the time of writing, it's five pounds shy of three hundred, so can be expected to ultimately sell for a lot more.
I won't bore you with too many details on why Snatcher is... Okay, it's not my favourite game of all time, because I'm not sure I have that one perfect game. But it's absolutely up there, top 10, maybe top five. Designed and directed by Hideo Kojima and initially released for the PC-8801 in 1988, Snatcher is a cyberpunk-flavoured graphic adventure (a bit of investigating, a bit of chat, a bit of shooting) that takes more than a few cues from Blade Runner. You play as Gillian Seed, a JUNKER charged with finding Snatchers, robotic creatures that kill and take the place of humans. Ultimately, you uncover a plot that dates back from the game's mid-21st century setting to the Cold War. It's gripping, charming, funny, and sometimes quite horrific, actually. It is, in short, a very excellent video game.
The game was expanded in 1992 for the PC Engine, using the console's CD-ROM peripheral to add a whole extra act to the story, as well as fairly comprehensive voice acting. This version of Snatcher was then converted and adapted for SEGA's own CD-ROM add-on, the Mega CD (or SEGA CD, in the US) in 1994 - and for the first and only time, it was given a North American and European release with English-language text and voice acting.
Snatcher didn't sell well on SEGA's outgoing platform, already superseded as it was by the Saturn, but I borrowed it from a school and sixth-form friend a few times in the mid-1990s. I loved it, and offered to buy it, but they wanted £35 for it - which seemed a lot of money at a time for a teenager then obsessed by buying albums and going to gigs. So I didn't hand over the money, and wherever that copy of Snatcher is now, I hope the owner is happy indeed. Me? Still bruised from all the kicking myself I've done in the years since.
Fast-forward to today, this morning, and here I am staring at an ebay listing for a game where the seller wants the best part of two grand. Of course, they won't get that much. Such a price is ludicrous in the extreme. When you look at what copies of Snatcher for the Mega CD have sold for on the auction site, you get a clearer picture of its value: a copy went for £620 in early July 2020, and one for £505 a few days beforehand. In May, the US version of the game - with different artwork - sold for £568, and a copy in a reproduced case (hence the lower price) went for £220.
Which is to say: even in its roughest form, this is one expensive game. Nowhere close to the most expensive ever, of course - that honour belongs to a copy of Super Mario Bros. that sold for just over $100,000. But come on, 600 quid for me to get this in my life again? That is a serious obstacle for anyone but the most committed collector with the very deepest pockets to overcome.
And it could be avoided. Physical games produced in limited numbers but of significant collector appeal, like Snatcher, will always command some hefty asking prices. Super Mario Bros. is a game playable on a vast array of Nintendo consoles - I can turn on my Switch right now and enjoy it. Snatcher? Sure, it's featured on the Konami-manufactured PC Engine Mini, that came out earlier in 2020 - but it's entirely in Japanese. Versions for the PlayStation and Saturn, that came after the Mega CD release: also in Japanese. The solitary English-language version of this game is completely unplayable, outside of illegal ROMs, on any contemporary hardware; and to get it for the original SEGA platform, which I still own, just isn't an option.
Surely, it wouldn't take much for Konami to make Snatcher available again for current-gen consoles and PCs, without denting the value of the original physical editions - after all, the company has released its old Castlevania and Contra games as collections for said systems, as well as a compilation of arcade shooters. It's OKed the Japanese-language PC Engine release, on the Mini (which is a great little piece of kit, by the way, if you're in the market for a new mini), so what's become of the SEGA version? Whenever I've asked anyone associated with Konami, the answer's been the same: we just don't know.
Publishers, please. If you want to strike a blow to those who will steal your IP with illegal ROMs, make your old games available. We'll buy them! I've bored many friends and peers with my affection for Snatcher (I even made a video about it, once), and how much I'd love to see it released anew - and heck, the Mega CD version of the game will hold up fine today, as it is. Its visuals are crisp and clear, its voice acting enjoyably hammy without feeling overly dated, and its cyberpunk aesthetic? Seriously, in the year of Cyberpunk 2077, Konami isn't thinking about doing something with Snatcher? And at a time when Hideo Kojma is considered one of the all-time great game directors, but one of his most important early titles is unavailable? This is the time for its comeback, surely.
But then, I've thought that several times over the last decade or so, as games of the past have come to new consoles in digital form, for a fraction of the price of their original boxed releases. And, still, nothing. Should have spent the £35, I know, I know - but given the chance to spend that same money now, on a download of Snatcher for Switch? Just take my money, Konami; and I'll probably buy a few extra copies, too, just to show these guys how good this game really is. Throw in Policenauts while you're at it, and I'll happily part with some extra pennies on top. Fifty quid? Deal.
Alternatively, if someone wants to chuck me £600 out of the kindness of their clearly more-money-than-sense heart, you know where to find me.
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