Most of us have experienced walking into a game store hoping to sell old games and raise enough money to buy new games. This is often followed by dismay, when the story clerk makes some risible offer for our precious goods.
In Vintage Game Shop (video above), the tables are turned. In this "documentary game" you play as a retro store owner buying and selling classic games, trying to stay in business as customers scheme to fleece you with their broken cartridges and inflated price estimates.
The browser and mobile game is the work of French outfit LudoScience, which tends to focus its efforts on video game history, such as The Game Classification Project, which groups thousands of games based on their educational function, rather than pure genre.
Vintage Game Shop is an extremely simple game. You are offered various old consoles and games by sellers, who have certain expectations of their value. You negotiate until you make a deal, or until the customer walks away. The items are then sold according to their current market value. You seek to make a profit, or at least to avoid bankruptcy.
This straightforward mechanic is burnished with additional informational buttons, which give the game a sense of being an educational experience. You can learn about the games and consoles' history, as well as looking at images and videos. You also get a good sense of what classic games are trading at right now.
An expert is on hand to offer advice (for an in-game currency fee) on the value of items, most especially those with a high ticket price.
One of the game's makers, who calls himself Dr. Ludos, says he was inspired by the television show Pawn Stars, in which members of the public sell antiques and memorabilia to the colorful owners of a Las Vegas dealership, who make use of experts to establish an item's real value.
"I'm an amateur game collector myself, so I've been bargaining vintage games on eBay and garage sales quite often in the past few years," said Dr. Ludos. "I think that fueled most of the game concept. Oddly enough, inspiration actually struck me while I was watching an episode of Pawn Stars. I wanted to make a game where you're trading vintage games to buy the rarest video games ever.
He hopes the game will appeal to those people who enjoy collecting old games. "My target audience is retro gamers who want to enrich their knowledge about the video games they grew up with. Many of them are now in their 30 and 40s, with a day job and a family, so I chose to create a casual game that could be enjoyed in very short sessions."
He wanted to keep the game simple, Not every comment from players appreciates that choice. "I chose to streamline the game and focus on the questions about the history of the items instead of designing a full-blown shop management game, though not every player seems to agree with that decision."
During the development process, he contacted eBay sellers of consoles and games to ask permission to use their item photographs in the game. Everyone he spoke to was agreeable to the idea. However, he triggered an auto-spam defense mechanism on eBay and has now been banned from the site.
"About a week after I sent the messages, my eBay account was banned due a 'serious security threat to the eBay community'. I tried to appeal that suspension, but it seems that eBay no longer have any humans working on their customer support. The only reply I could get from their automated system was that my account is definitively banned, and that they logged my IP so I cannot create another one in the future. So designing this game actually limited my potential to complete my video game collection."
Polygon sent eBay a request for information on this ban. A spokesperson said the company is looking into the issue.
Dr. Ludos says he thinks the operation was worth the trouble though, with decent numbers of players trying Vintage Game Shop. "It was enjoyed by about 40.000 people during its first weekend.That may sound small to professional game developers, but it's an outstanding number for a hobbyist solo game developer like me."
Vintage Game Shop is available for free from Armor Games or on Android devices.