The world of gaming has seen many platforms come and go but very few have had such a successful ‘afterlife’ as the SNK Neo Geo.
The name may well be unfamiliar and that is because it indeed was a niche of its own even when first released in Japan in 1990 and never truly crossed from the enthusiast market to the mainstream. The quality of the machinery has never been in doubt with the Neo Geo boasting specifications that outstripped its competitors – however, this was both its unique selling point and its downfall. The Neo Geo came to market with an RRP of $649.99, equivalent to an eye-watering $1,480 in 2023, comfortably making it the most expensive home video game console ever released; the games themselves could cost a staggering $200, almost one third of the console itself – one can see why it both became known as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the video game industry and how the platform failed to reach beyond a dedicated hardcore of moneyed enthusiasts. Despite attempts by SNK to adapt to market conditions with the introduction of the more cost-friendly Neo Geo CD and the short-lived introduction of the Neo Geo Pocket and Pocket Colour handhelds the combined competition of Sega, Nintendo and latterly Sony proved overwhelming and production was eventually discontinued in totality by 2004.
However, this niche audience persisted in their enthusiasm and a dedicated secondary market of buying, selling and collecting emerged for what were, certainly compared to other contemporaries, scarce consoles, games and accessories. Driven by the expansion of eBay and the rise in retro game prices wholesale as investors sought to diversify and target potential growth markets, the Neo Geo family of products have seen a marked price rise in recent years, only accelerated by the global pandemic when buyers eagerly snapped up collections emerging from storage when owners needed to raise additional funds.
As such it is always a minor event when a hitherto unknown Neo Geo collection enters the market and as some desirable rarities of this particular product legacy are on offer good competition is expected. Highlights include a scarce Hanshin Tigers Neo Geo Pocket in a striking colour scheme inspired by the Japanese baseball team of the same name (only 5,000 were produced so this is one of the most sought after models) – as well as the game SVC Chaos SNK vs Capcom, a classic fighter that is towards the upper end of the rarity scale.
This will be somewhat of an acid test for the era of the ‘new antique or collectible’ as sold by what would be termed in the US a ‘bricks and mortar’ premises as opposed to a purely online marketplace. However, as the presence of online auctions grows in the public consciousness and a new generation of collectors enters the buying space we anticipate international interest in a collection set against a backdrop of record upon record price being set for scarce or mint condition copies of video games from the 1980s to 2000s. It is not unreasonable to say that we have come ‘back to the future’ of the collecting landscape for the foreseeable years to come.
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