A Bad Video Game for an Ancient Gaming System Features an Outsized Price Tag

Here it is: the rarest video game from the Nintendo Entertainment System era. Note that $7.99 price tag. We’ll get to that in a minute

The world of collectible video games and video gaming equipment is a peculiar thing. Vast swaths of software and consoles are quite literally worthless, unusable or far too common to be of any value. Then there are particular issues like the availability of classic and out-of-print titles as digital downloads, PC software that can emulate the hardware of yesteryear, and the sheer fact that many older games are no longer desirable in light of remakes or updates.

Yet there are still always a few high-profile instances where some unsuspecting thriftier or closet excavator unearths an extremely rare big-ticket item.

I love reporting on such stories because it’s an opportunity to highlight the cultural history and significance of video games over the past 40 years—and because it validates the area in terms of collectability, sometimes against the odds. But there is one video game collectible that never fails to make the headlines when it shows up and makes somebody a small fortune.

BanDai Entertainment’s Stadium Events was a game published in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Originally released in Japan as Running Stadium, the game was one of very few that made use of the Family Fun Fitness Mat—a vinyl pad that players would run on to control the game. It was sort of a precursor to the popular WiiFit Balance Board, but it wasn’t nearly the smash success of that peripheral. The catch is that the Family Fun Fitness Mat was rebranded by Nintendo almost immediately after its release, dubbing it the Nintendo Power Pad, thus sparking a recall of the initial release. In 1988, the game was re-released as World Track Meet. But that’s not the rare one, nor are PAL versions of Stadium Events. You want the NTSC, North American release of the game with the Family Fun Fitness language on the box.

It’s a simple track and field game with a couple of events, and by all accounts it’s not a particularly good game. However, it is not only about as rare as it gets in the video games collecting world outside of one-of-a-kind artifacts or promotional items with limited availability, it is also stupendously, obnoxiously valuable. It is believed that only 200 copies of the game (out of 2,000 manufactured) actually made it to shelves before it was discontinued and it is estimated that there only 20 copies of the game in circulation today. It is believed that the copies of the game that made it to retail were only available in Woolworth stores in the Northeastern states.

Now, keep this screen shot in mind when we get into talking about the value of this game below. This is what the game looks like.

A complete, sealed copy of the game closed on eBay at a staggering $41,000 in 2010. Later that year, a mother unsuspectingly posted a small auction lot containing a complete NES console and a couple of common games and, oh yeah, an in-the-box copy of Stadium Events and the auction closed at $15,000. Roughly a bazillion times what the lot would have been worth without the Holy Grail game. In 2011 another copy surfaced and sold for $22,800. Video game collecting price guides and anecdotal estimates from collectors slate the game’s sealed value at $38,000.

And Stadium Events has appeared once again. In early April a Gastonia, N.C., woman walked into a Goodwill store and spied a copy—not sealed, but in the box with the manual—selling off the shelve for the pauperly sum of $7.99. Interestingly, that’s a pretty high price tag for a thrift NES game, so perhaps whoever priced it had a sense that it was more valuable than others. The only NES games I’ve ever seen at a Goodwill tend to be the extremely common titles like the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt pack-in cartridge that came with every NES system from 1987 onward. It’s probably worth about a penny, but Goodwill usually stickers it at two or three dollars.

The Goodwill employee that haplessly priced the game might have missed their shot at the jackpot, but the buyer knew right away what it was that she had gotten her hands on. As of this writing, the game is two days away from ending an auction at Game Gavel (a popular site for auctioning rare and valuable video game collectibles). The no-reserve auction is sitting at $12,500 with nowhere to go but up. It’s a little more worn than some of the more valuable ones that have surfaced, but hey, I’d gladly take twelve grand for a bad game for an old system that requires a pretty much unavailable peripheral to play.

No further caption is necessary.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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