If you know me personally, I’m an avid video game collector. I’ve grown up playing video games, crashing at my friends’ houses who had the Atari 2600, and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Fast forward (way forward) years later and I haven’t grown out of the hobby. As I’ve aged I’ve gone through many system cycles, been through the ups and downs; the failed systems, the bad games, the network crashes and shutdowns, and now I am witness to another event in video games; the death of physical media.
I understand the appeal of possessing a digital library and this editorial isn’t about digital versus physical media. What this editorial is about showcases a video game publisher called Limited Run Games. It got its start in 2015 and it adopted one mantra: Forever Physical. It prides itself to buck the trend of digital-only games and providing a manner to bring those games into the physical form. You name it, Limited Run Games has published on it; Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and even created physical games for the original Game Boy! Unfortunately, their scope and reach is limited (sorry for the pun) as they can’t produce an unlimited amount of copies for the games they work to publish. Usually they release pre-orders for upcoming physical release games, and it then becomes a mad dash to get the chance to own a copy, as they only are able to produce a finite amount. After that, they don’t produce anymore.
A crazy business model I know, but the fact of the matter is Limited Run Games has become hugely successful in this manner, as well as doing its part to fight the all-digital future. They aren’t the only ones, as they are joined by the ranks of other similar publishers like Special Reserve Games, iam8bit, Strictly Limited, and Super Rare Games to name a few. Now, Limited Run Games has just crossed into new territory; by opening up its own game store.
This is where the story begins now, sorry for the long build up.
Enter myself, my friend (and EXPCast partner) Josh, and his two buddies Eric and Gonzalo. We begin our quest to hunt for video games on our way to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit this newly opened store. You can check out what and how we did here on our EXPCast YouTube channel, and get a look what the store looks like! The grand opening was initially set for April 29th, but we would miss that weekend on account of obligations we had at the Midwest Gaming Classic here in Milwaukee. The store is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so even though we started our road trip Sunday morning, we wouldn’t get a chance to get to the store till the weekend. In the meantime, we hit up pawn shops, game stores, and flea markets both on the way there, and around Raleigh to hunt for games!
The store opened at noon, and we started our trek in a line that wrapped around the second floor of an outdoor strip mall. The store is quite small, so to have people run through that store bumping into each other every other second would have been quite an uncomfortable experience! After waiting about a half hour to get in, we got our chance, and boy…
It was like heaven.
Walls of games, free-standing shelves of so many games in stacks and neatly arranged. There was even a section in the back of the store for other retro and used games, so if you were so inclined you can trade in old retro games for store credit! They weren’t limited in their collection, they took Wii, Xbox 360, SNES and NES, and more. Surprisingly, their prices were pretty fair and not marked up unnecessarily.
I had a mission to do, so my first quest here was to find Turok for the Nintendo Switch, alongside West of Loathing, also for the Switch for friend Stephanie. Once I found both titles, and lightly convinced her to get the N64 boxed version of Turok, I was free to browse.
The store, albeit small, was well organized and displayed nicely, with a soft purple hue of lights dancing along the walls. There were teams of people on the floor there to answer questions, alleviate concerns, and keep things tidy. Most of the store’s patrons huddled around the Nintendo Switch shelves, as it seems to be the most popular platform for Limited Run Games to publish physical versions of indie titles on. Some notable titles that had physical copies were Gris, Senran Kagura Peach Ball, Blasphemous, Shantae, The Takeover, Streets of Rage 4, and so many more. Behind those shelves were PS4 titles, many older titles like Salt and Sanctuary, Night Trap, Haven, and Aaero. There were Vita games as well, and the store employees were quick to inform everyone that you were allowed only one Vita game per transaction, no more. Along the walls throughout the store were boxed collector’s editions of games. Everything was displayed nicely, despite the grabby hands picking things up and putting things back. At one point I picked up the collector’s edition of Blasphemous, but felt guilty taking the last one on the shelf. Much to my delight, one of the employees walked up with a stack of four more to restock. I gladly added it back to my stack (yes I had a stack).
Besides games, they had so much more; art books, strategy guides, soundtracks (both on CD and Vinyl), trading cards, apparel, and even a claw grab game with exclusive items inside. The four of us bounced around the store like kids in a candy store, “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” at everything we saw. One conversation went like this:
Stoy: “You’re getting Shantae too?”
Eric: “Yeah, I’m picking it up for the Switch.”
Stoy: “Did you see they have the Game Boy version too? You brought your Game Boy didn’t you?”
Eric: “…what!? Where is this, I never saw it!? Show me!”
We must have spent about an hour in that store, mulling over what to actually purchase, and then finding more to add to our stacks, making the choices that much more difficult.
We walked out of that store with our purchases, and filled the trunk up with Limited Run bags. Upon arrival back at our Air BNB, I check my receipt and come to realize they double charged me for the Blasphemous collector’s edition. I offered up to go tomorrow morning and rectify the situation, and get my money refunded, but I was met with stiff “we better go take care of this RIGHT NOW!” Without argument from my end, we hopped back into the car and back to the store. The staff was gracious to refund my money once I showed them my bags, but I told them to “hold off, I’m going to look around a bit more.” Which then turned out to me buying more stuff, as with everyone else.
That was where we hit a snag; Josh’s second purchase also caused him to be double charged for a game. In our second trip, one of the employees said that their computer system would often freeze up and not scan properly. Thankfully Josh noticed it before we left, and took care of it right then and there.
One other snag throughout the experience was the lack of prices on many of the games on the shelves. One employee noted that when they initially opened, they put price tags on everything on the shelf, however when it came to restocking they didn’t label the games they brought out, which resulted in many employees needing to check their phones to find out prices for customers. Not ideal for sure, but also not a huge inconvenience.
The staff was friendly and accommodating, and believed in the mission of Forever Physical, which made me wonder if they worked for the company and would just staff themselves in the store on the weekends (I never confirmed this). Limited Run Games is, after all, based out of North Carolina. Despite having to return a second time and experiencing computer snafus, and googling prices on our own, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience, and we asked each other when our next trip down will happen!
What you may notice is that if you go to the Limited Run Games website to try to purchase a physical copy of a game, you’ll most likely find it sold out. However, you perhaps could walk into the store and find a bevy of copies staring right at you. I imagine the amount of physical copies they allocate to print, some of them are going to be reserved for the physical store. Adding to that, there were a few damaged copies that maybe weren’t fit to ship, and reserved for the storefront. Whether you agree with that philosophy or not, it’s the way it is. Unfortunate for those that miss out on pre-ordering, and who don’t live near North Carolina to make a day trip and pick up a few games. The Blasphemous Collector’s Edition goes for $80 both in-store and if you got a chance to preorder it (it’s obviously sold out online at the current moment). However, if you go on eBay now it’s selling for $200+. Limited Run Games can’t control the reseller’s market, but there is a price to pay (literally) when you make your games in such a limited quantity. Thankfully, Limited Run Games price their games for what they deems it to be worth, not what the resellers are up-charging, and that goes with every other title in that store, which is reassuring. We’ve noticed that with quite a few of their titles.
Overall, it’s a great store to add for gamers, and a great ally in the fight against the all-digital world. Whatever side of the fence you are on this fight, thankfully there are publishers out their like Limited Run Games that will still produce games in physical media form. Unfortunately for most, you either have to get fortunate to pre-order games (they give you ample notice when they go live), or make quite the trek to their retail store (sucks for you on the West coast!). There is hope in opening up more stores across the country, as alluded to in a Polygon interview. I’m hoping to be back there some day.
Planning to make a trip yourself to the Limited Run Games retail store, or have you been there already? Let us know in the comments, or head on over to our Discord here, or using the QR code at the bottom of the page, and share your experiences and wishes in the chats!
Stojan “Stoy” Jovic is a writer for the Boss Rush Network, the host of the EXPCast: A Video Game Podcast, and a member of the Cross Roads Podcast. If you know Stoy, he talks about Mass Effect a lot, soccer, and he puts people to sleep anytime he talks about racing simulator games. You can find him on Twitter if you want to share your love of the Mass Effect series as well.