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Retro video games still a draw for LIers 30 years after release

Tristan Whitworth, 31, is the owner of Game

Tristan Whitworth, 31, is the owner of Game On, a retro video game store on Route 25A in Miller Place that buys and sells classic video games from the '80s, '90s and '00s. Photo Credit: Michael Cusanelli

The NES Classic Edition, a replica version of Nintendo’s beloved first video console, is one of the most sought-after toys of the holiday season, a trend that cheers Long Island retailers who specialize in selling retro video games.

For Tristan Whitworth, owner of Game On, in Miller Place, the NES Classic craze drove new customers to his store — some of whom bought instead the vintage games he sells.

“When people realize that they can get the original hardware fully refurbished from us, they always end up loving that way more than the mini NES,” he said.

Whitworth, 31, opened his shop on Route 25A in 2015. What has surprised him about his store, which sells vintage games obtained through customer trades, is how popular it is with younger clientele.

“I had no idea how many kids would come into the store,” Whitworth said. “When I first opened I thought this would be a collector’s store.”

Unlike big-box electronics stores and national retailers like GameStop, Whitworth only stocks his store with retro titles that he acquires through customer trades or private collections. Whitworth said Game On has so far appealed not only to gamers who remember the classics from their youth but also to children who want to play vintage games for the very first time.

“I expected guys my age who grew up with this stuff to be my main customers, but it ended up that families and kids loved my shop so much,” said Whitworth. “I had no idea how the community was going to react to this tiny little video game store that only sold games that, to some, were completely outdated.”

While Whitworth has mainly had success buying and selling vintage titles, Mike Auricchio, the owner of The Revolution on North Country Road in Stony Brook, says there simply weren’t enough old-school games available on the market for him to profit when he opened his shop in 2012. In addition to selling both retro and modern titles, Auricchio turned The Revolution into a hybrid store that included an arcade for customers who want not only to purchase games, but also to play them in a social setting. The shop currently holds weekly pay-to-enter tournaments and events for popular games, with participants having the chance to win prizes and bragging rights.

“It’s just been a constant evolution of The Revolution,” said Auricchio. “It’s always growing and changing.”

And although the retro game market can be profitable, some Long Island businesses haven’t had as much success selling older titles. Play N Trade, a global chain of video game stores that specialize in both retro and modern titles, only has one remaining location in Bay Shore on Long Island, down from 15 locations previously in Nassau and Suffolk. The company, which was founded in 2000, once had as many as 116 locations globally, but now currently operates just 26 stores in North America, according to the company’s website.

Of the Long Island stores, only Play N Trade Bay Shore has managed to remain open. In addition to holding in-store video game tournaments and selling games, the store also caters to trading-card enthusiasts, most notably for popular series like Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering.

“It’s not a get-rich business,” said Richard Berezein, 40, the owner and manager of Play N Trade Bay Shore. “You get into this business because you love this business. You don’t do it to get rich. As long as it pays enough to pay your bills and you have a little bit left over, that’s all you need.”

And despite the fact that retro-game emulators like the NES Classic are becoming more common, Tristan Whitworth of Game On said he doesn’t worry about losing business as other companies capitalize on the retro craze.

“I’m excited about the remake of the NES, mainly because it made people aware that we still carry the original NES,” said Whitworth. “I think my customers enjoy the bonding that is created through retro video games. I think it’s only going to get more popular.” 

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