Ever wondered how brand new copies of Rez, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Gitaroo Man, Persona 2 and Resident Evil 3 for Gamecube just popped up out of nowhere? The story starts with a company called Game Quest Direct. Originally, Game Quest Direct had a chain of video game stores nationwide, but they consolidated their retail locations just in Southern California. Instead of just being another video game store and try to compete with the likes of Best Buy, Gamestop and Walmart Game Quest Direct decided to restructure their company. Aim for the hardcore gamer and use the internet as way to reach them. Their online inventory began with the usual offerings, new copies of Grand Theft Auto and the latest releases at slim discounts.
Obviously this wasn’t distinguishing GQD from any other retailer or the hordes of eBay sellers. They had to carve a niche for themselves. While they unloaded some of their inventory over eBay they noticed that eBay prices for hard to find games skyrocketed way over retail value. Resident Evil 2 and 3 for Gamecube were printed in limited quantity, which made the games sought after by collectors. Game Quest Direct decided to capitalize on the opportunity. They directly contacted Capcom and arranged a deal to reprint the games, but Game Quest Direct would have to front all of the money. They paid a lofty sum and took a heavy risk. Each reprint costs Game Quest Direct nearly $100,000 to do. But instead of getting a low profit margin that retail stores struggle with, Game Quest Direct would get 50% of the profits on each sale. The gamble paid off and GQD made a sizeable profit.
Quickly after Capcom agreed to do reprints Game Quest Direct was hot on the next set of titles to release and what better place to look than Atlus USA. Atlus titles are known to be “rare” in the world of game collectors. Typically they’re printed in low numbers and don’t have the same store exposure as Super Mario Sunshine. You’re just not going to find a copy of Persona 2 at Wal-Mart. Unlucky gamers who couldn’t score a classic on the first round would be forced to shell out loads of dough to by a used copy on eBay. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was one of Atlus’ most critically acclaimed titles, but after it was showered with praise it was nowhere to be found. Prices for a used copy could fetch over a hundred dollars for a copy before the reprint. Game Quest Direct reprinted Persona 2, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure and later on Disgaea: Hour of Darkness in 2005. All of these games sold like hotcakes, even the PS1 titles Persona 2 and Rhapsody. It’s not really a huge surprise since Game Quest Direct was selling new copies of the game way below the price of a used copy.
However, hardcore video game collectors were irked. Reprints could not be distinguished from the originals, which brought the value down of their collection. That $85 copy of Persona 2 purchased used, dropped nearly 50% in price. Speculators who snagged up copies of Disgaea couldn’t profit from eBay sales. Especially proud collectors weren’t perturbed by the economics, but more that they lost exclusivity of being the only one on the block with these a rare game. In a way Game Quest Direct angered the audience they were searching for. On the other hand a bunch of gamers were happy with the situation. More gamers got to try out Disgaea and at a reasonable price.
In between these titles Game Quest Direct were hashing out the final details for two major reprints: Gitaroo-Man a quirky Japanese music game created by Inix (who also recently did Ouendan for the Nintendo DS) and the psychedelic music shooter Rez from Sega. Unlike the speedy process with Atlus and Capcom these reprints took months to work out. Negotiating prices, filing paperwork and waiting for Sony to officially press these games was a long waiting process. Like the other reprints each of these cost over a hundred thousand for each and Game Quest Direct had to give all of the finical security to bring these niche titles back into the marketplace. When Gitaroo Man appeared and Rez trickled in, eBay prices bottomed out since new copies could be picked up for a mere $50. Once again successful Game Quest Direct profits from the reprint and a new group of gamers gets to play these rarities.
But if Game Quest Direct really is controlling the flow of these imports by acting as a pseudo-publisher how are they appearing at Gamestop? Simple, Game Quest Direct is selling them directly to Gamestop. A representative spokesperson has said that they decided to unload a sizeable amount of inventory to Gamestop at a bulk price. However since Gamestop sells used copies of these games at a higher price they’ve taken the liberty of unsealing and selling the brand new game as a used copy. Game Quest Direct is happy to sell a bulk lot to any distributor or even eBay seller if the price is right. Even though they may be the masterminds behind many reprints gamers shouldn’t be surprised to see copies appear at other video game specialty stores.
What’s next in 2006 for the publisher/retailer? Recently they purchased the now defunct Working Designs’ remaining inventory. Copies of Growlanser: Generations Deluxe Edition, and Silhouette Mirage can be picked up. What’s really surprising is a number of extremely rare titles like Sega Ages for the Saturn, Exile, and Cosmic Fantasy 2 for Turbo Graphix 16. They’re currently in talks with Square-Enix, Atari and Konami for more reprints. It’s possible that reprints of Valkyrie Profile, Ikaruga and Suikoden II may pop up eventually. Collectors take note, Game Quest Direct said that they would try to reprint any game that goes on eBay for over $100. On the bright side a second chance to check out gaming glory benefits a large number of gamers out there.
Do you think Game Quest direct is doing a service or a disservice to the gaming community? Leave your thoughts in a comment.