Report reveals which sealed NES games are the rarest of the rare – Ars Technica

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Now, Wata is beginning to open up a little bit, releasing its first partial population report for NES games and announcing plans to publish more robust data covering more consoles in the near future. The numbers in that first report show just how rare it is for Nintendo boxes to still exist in sealed, unopened condition decades later, and the report gives the public and collectors an idea of which NES games are likely to be the most valuable to the right collector.
So-called population reports—in which a collectible grading service shares the distribution of quality grades for every piece it has ever seen—have long been common in high-end collectible markets like sports cards and coins. But back in July, Wata’s then-CEO (and current vice president of new ventures for new parent company Collector’s Universe) Ryan Sabga told Ars he was hesitant to release such a report for video games.
At the time, Sabga said the small, self-selected universe of games submitted for Wata grading could provide a skewed and unreliable picture of the full market to collectors. A video game population report “would show some potentially misleading information; it would show rare games as common and common games as rare,” he said. “Eventually, things would settle out, but the reality is that it would cause undue turmoil in the marketplace in the short term.”
That was then, this is now. Wata’s first partial population report of NES games breaks down information on over 7,000 shrink-wrapped boxes by Wata’s 10-point quality-grading scale (as well as a portion of its opened “complete in box” and loose NES cartridge grades). Wata also announced plans to issue wider population reports for other consoles “in the first few months of 2022.” Those expanded reports promise to include more detailed information on quality spreads for shrink-wrap seals, more separation of rare variants that are sometimes sought after by collectors, and “live” data that “will update automatically based on graded submissions.”
Sabga told Ars in a recent interview that Wata is comfortable releasing the NES population report now because “the numbers are just enough that, while I think there is a definite selection bias, it is just enough that it can give customers, consumers, and collectors an idea of what’s out there. Collectors were starting to get to a point where they didn’t know exactly where to go with their collecting without a little bit of help from a population report, even a limited population report as this.”
Looking back, Sabga said, “One of my concerns was I was afraid it was going to wreak havoc in the marketplace. The reality is I’m not the guardian of the hobby, I’m not the guardian of the marketplace by any stretch of the imagination. But… I always feel like there’s some level of responsibility.”
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