With the sheer number of games that release only in Japan every year, it’s a given that some U.S. gamers feel jilted about the how selective companies are about domesticating titles from overseas. This is where dealers like Carlson Stevens, founder of Mad-Gear Games, comes into play.
Selling imports on eBay since 2000, and showcasing his wares at conventions since 2004, Stevens was on hand at this year’s East Coast Gaming Expo to vend imports ranging all the way from the Famicom system up to current-gen titles for the Playstation 2.
“It originally started as a side business,” he said. “I did it on Ebay for years to make a couple extra bucks and subsidize my collection. I recently started doing it full time.”
Stevens’ table not only featured home console games but also portable games for systems such as the Game Boy Advance and Wonderswan. He said he gets major help importing the games through friends he has in Japan.
“I’ve always liked the more obscure stuff,” Stevens said about getting into the business. “I always enjoyed reading the features in DieHard GameFan (magazine) on games from Japan and the Turbo Grafix 16 was my favorite system. I really like systems where the best games were never released in the U.S.”
While Stevens gets a lot of traffic to his exhibition, he noted the people who come up to his setup always react to what he sells on two different extremes.
“I either get the people who take one look, say ‘I can’t play this,’ and leave or I get people who take a look and say ‘Explicative, explicative, I can’t believe you have this,'” he explained.
While he still gets the people who believe they can’t operate or enjoy playing imports, Stevens noted gamers have a lot more assistance with the Internet than importers had even a handful of years ago.
“There’s just a lot more information out there now,” he said. “It’s like they have the perfect information at their hands. The buyers are now more knowledgeable and they know what they want because they can research. Before people just didn’t know and it took a while to figure out what type of import game was for them. Now they can look up any game and what its about, what it costs, everything.”
Stevens noted the real hot import property right now are games for the Nintendo DS. Among the top-selling leaders of the pack are the games Jump Superstars, which features characters from Japan’s Weekly Shonen Jump manga magazine in Smash Brothers-style melee combat, and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, a rhythm-based game finally being domesticated to the U.S. under the name Elite Beat Agents.
He explained many of the DS games sell well because they are a “throwback to a simpler time.” With no tutorials or long-winded explanations, many of the DS imports have the pick up and play aspect to them, which are perfect for short spurts of gaming on the go.
However, even for the most complicated games, Stevens noted help is just a mouse click away and with the customers becoming more knowledgeable about imports, the business has seen a rise from previous years. In fact, he is considering a brick and mortar location to sell his imports along with domestic games.
“With the Internet, anyone can get into imports,” he said. “You can find translations and walkthroughs to help you out. There’s always someone who can help you and it’s really helped the industry. Having informed gamers can only be more beneficial for the businesses who sell the games.”