Wednesday, 9 December 2015

My Retro Game Box: Worth The Wait?

The box itself is not quite as retro.
Important Note (10/03/16): I recently checked up on the MyRetroGameBox website to see how things were going, and sadly, as of the beginning of the year, the company has closed down. The front page now contains a very heart-felt and emotional message from the owner, who sounds close to broken with regret and disappointment due to their misfortune. I would just like to say now, before you continue reading this review, that although I provide plenty of criticism of the service, My Retro Game Box has stayed in the back of my head since I subscribed to it. It was one of the purest and best subscription services out there, forgoing all of the useless crap that fills most of these other things for a little bundle of lovingly picked joy, and I'll always be thankful that I got to support that in some way or another. Ok, carry on.

Over the past few years I've been diving more and more into the dangerously addictive (and costly) world of retro video game collecting. My collection is still small and limited only to early Nintendo and PlayStation efforts but it is ever so gradually growing into a respectable little pile of gaming history, and I hope for that trend to continue in earnest. Eventually, by the time I retire, I'll have accumulated enough gaming goodness to last me until death.

And beyond...
As my unquenchable desire for aged digital comestibles continued to swallow my bank account, I stumbled across a curious site called The cut of it's jib? To provide a monthly subscription service akin to the likes of Loot Crate, but giving you a hand-tailored selection of old video games for you to keep rather than a box full of mass-produced tat that'll inevitably end up at the bottom of a drawer. I was sold; I love the idea of a subscription service that a) gives you things that you genuinely want rather than an endless stream of keyrings and shitty nerd fusion t-shirts, and b) curates every box to suit the personal desires of the particular subscriber. Don't want N64 games or anything R-rated? Done. You won't get them. It's a brilliant idea and one that works surprisingly well too.

Before I start, I will point out that this is not a promoted post. My Retro Game Box have not approached me to do this, nor the other way round; in fact, they're such a small company that they balk at the idea of extra publicity. I simply found this service, used it, and am now relaying my experience back to you lovely folk seeing as there was a distinct lack of information for me when I was researching it. I'm not trying to sell this to you but merely letting you know what the deal is and what you could expect for yourself. So, that said, let's start with the important bit.

The Box

Game boxes cost either £10, £20, or £50 (plus postage) with 1-2, 3-5 and ~10 games sent in each box respectively. I went for the mid range twenty quid box and got three games in each of my two boxes. Before we get to what was in them, let's look at the presentation of the package:

I learned not to put my address online after that last incident with a 6 ton crate full of fly swatters.
I'll be honest, that's underwhelming. No, I wasn't expecting fancy custom boxes and such, but both packages were wrapped differently with what looked like spare boxes. Kudos on recycling old packaging, but it does tarnish the first impression a smidgen. Like, a nanosmidge. Really, books and covers and whatnot, it's not that big a deal in the long run. My games were safe and dry and that's what matters.

Speaking of games, the first box contained Way of the Samurai, Bust-a-Move 2 and MicroMachines, and the second arrived with Croc, Jersey Devil, and that weird Mario and Yoshi GameBoy game. I'm happy to say that on a whole I'm thoroughly chuffed with my haul; some absolute classics plus an obscure gem. Also fucking Mario and Yoshi, but watcha gonna do, eh?

Pretty games...
From a cursory Google, the games probably hit just over the £40 line if you bought them all separately, so I can happily say that this does look to be value for money. However, seeing as you're receiving a personalised service sending you games curated to your particular needs, I'd say any extra you're paying if the games were cheaper is going to a good place.

How about quality then? Again, the site states quite clearly that this is not a service for collectors, there's no "Only games mint in the original box" button to click; you get what you're given and you'll like it because omg guys, you're being sent old computer games in the mail, what more could you want? I am, however, extremely impressed with the condition of my games. Lookie:

I haven't had cases this clean when I've bought games new.
The manuals for Croc and Jersey Devil were a particular delight, with nary a frayed edge on them. These are in better condition than some of my PS3 games. Then there was the adorable damage to MicroMachines.

"Heh. It says Nintendo on it. That's not a real word."
Someone has written "Dad's" down the side of it. I don't know why but I find that infinitely adorable; I have an image of this late 90's dad who comes in from work, sticks on this game and plays it with his 3 kids. This is one of those things that's great about buying second hand: there's a little story to everything you have that you'll never learn about. It's lovely.

Ok, so far, so good. The games were good, the box affordable and good value. Here comes the less so good bit.


I paid for my first box on the 17th of September. The website suggest delivery will happen within 2-3 weeks. Cool beans. 3 weeks come and go, still nothing. So I drop them a message to see what's going on and I receive and automated email reply telling me that they're still working on earlier boxes. Hmmm... I'll be honest, I did not feel like my customerness was serviced particularly well at this point. I wait another week. The payment goes out for my second box on the 10th October (there was a disparity in the days because their system was updated and I had to resubscribe), and yet I still have no news of my first order.

Me, waiting.
Finally, on the 15th of October, I am told that my package has been dispatched. Not by an email confirmation, mind you, but through the very odd My Retro Game Box website; we shall get to that in a moment. That's 28 days from order to dispatch; Cillian Murphy can accidentally survive the apocalypse in that time! The delivery is so delayed that you're essentially paying one month ahead for your boxes, with last month's arriving as you pay for the next. 

The second box was dispatched on 10th November, exactly a month after payment, so this doesn't appear to be a one-off thing. I think the issue is very simply the size of the company compared to the scale of their customer base. There are a lot of people who would like this service, but simply not enough on their end to fulfil that demand; it's really sad, because it essentially boils down to what should be an amazing, unique service being marred by the fact that it's too amazing and unique. They can't cope with the giant can of geek-flavoured worms that they've opened.

The Website

The main stuff has been covered, but I thought I'd give special attention to the My Retro Game Box website. It is mental. Please, hire a web designer as soon as you can.

Kindly ignore my tabs and the open game of FTL...
That's the Member's Page. Scroll down and you'd see text boxes where you put in all of the games/consoles you own (even the types of games you'd prefer/dislike; it's quite a genius idea), as well as personal details and the like. Sadly, as you can see, it's ugly as fuck. I'd say only sign up if you're comfortable with navigating numerous error pages and unnecessary forms.

This guy turns up with alarming regularity.
I mentioned earlier something about delivery notifications. For some unknown reason, you don't receive an email when your box has been dispatched, instead you have to log in, scroll to the bottom on the Member's Page, and check to see if the latest dispatch date has changed. It's an unnecessary faff on top of a number of other minor annoyances.

All in all, is fab. You get exactly what you expect for a brilliant price. Why pay for 30 quid's worth of tat when you can get some great condition retro games to add to your collection instead? It's a splendid service only hindered by it's size and some qualities which really remind you that this is a small business, notably site design, delivery times and customer service. As such, I'd recommend that you only opt to subscribe to My Retro Game Box if you really think it's for you; let's not drown these folks in any more work than they already have.

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