If this is true — and it should be said that even the person reporting this isn’t exactly sure what is going on — someone last month bought a brand-new copy, at retail, of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Game Gear. Repeat: this is not aftermarket, gray market, eBay or a used game. Twenty-six-year-old packaged goods, for a video game platform discontinued during the Clinton administration, was sold by a retailer last month just like it was 1992.
That fascinating oddity came this afternoon from Mat Piscatella, who is an analyst for the NPD Group covering video game sales in the United States. So, this is not some weirdo wearing Zubaz pants, drinking Crystal Pepsi and referring to GameStop as “Babbage’s”; he’s a games industry professional with access to highly detailed information about when and how video games are sold.
We pause now for a brief musical interlude:
Anyone who works retail knows that there are all kinds of weird situations that can involve old inventory. Piscatella, with 15 years in the business, is aware of that, too:
Like, was it just buried in some back room the last twenty years? Did it get lost underneath some retail fixture? Was it a twenty something year old pre-order? What was the reaction when that person who bought it saw it? So many questions I have.— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) April 28, 2018
But he’s sure this is a retailer reporting the sale of new goods it acquired — even if it acquired them decades ago.
Dont get POS from those. This is a legit retailer purchase transmitted via EDI. This was scanned at a register.— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) April 28, 2018
(POS means point-of-sale, EDI means electronic data interchange.)
Others have since suggested that this was part of Toys R Us’ sell-off; of the simplest explanations, that one seems the best. Toys R Us started liquidation sales on March 23. We don’t know for sure but that is the most likely explanation here, because “everything must go” literally means that. A store in liquidation will sell the display shelves.
Piscatella, for his part, remains committed to discovering the exact circumstances.
I'm going to ask the folks on my side if they can tell me a retailer and perhaps a location. This should help the search. I... I don't think I can let this go.— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) April 28, 2018
We’ve asked Piscatella to notify us if he discovers anything more — including the possibility that time travel is real.