Friday, August 16, 2013

Retro Gamer Memories #4 : Funcoland - the original pre-owned video game super store

When you were a gamer kid, face it, you didn't have a lot of money to spend on games. You either had your ten buck a week allowance, or your measly pay from the part time job you worked on during junior high. (I'll get more into my stints as an employee of ELECTRONICS BOUTIQUE in some of my later posts). So what did you do when you didn't have enough money for that brand spanking new game? You go the pre-owned route of course.

Before Gamestop claimed the throne as the pre-owned game king, there was one other company who basically thrived completely on the pre-owned game business. A little company known as....

(just look at those pretty colors)

FUNCOLAND! If you think about it, the emptiness of the parking lot in this picture was pretty much how busy this place was on any given day. I don't know about you, but every FuncoLand I've been too, there were never any customers.

(just look at those happy employees with their sega dreamcast)

Unlike Gamestop, Babbages, Electronics Boutique, Software Etc, etc. (ha, get it..etc. etc.....never mind), FuncoLand focused entirely on its pre-owned game inventory. Now, the games weren't always that much cheaper. Maybe by a few bucks, depending on the age of the game. But then again, there was always the probability of finding some gaming gold. Back then you didn't realize it, but some of the games I purchased at FuncoLand are worth quite a bit now.

The first thing you may remember about FuncoLand, was the prospect of trading in your old, and seemingly worthless games back for some cash. Or in this case, credit towards a new game. For me personally, I am now anti-trade in. I refuse to trade in any game mainly due to the fact that I am collecting them now. But back then, I traded in almost constantly. If you think about it now, trading in games is such a huge loss it's not even funny. $60 games, you're lucky if you get $20 back. Loss of $40...I shudder at the thought.

FuncoLand was the originator (to the best of my knowledge, anyway) of the gaming price guide. Usually posted on the wall right in the store, you could get an idea of what sort of money you'd get for trading in your games. Most times however, you had to bring them in and have an employee price them out for you. Trade in 10 NES games, and you were lucky enough if you could afford a SNES game. A crappy one at that. But you were a kid, and you were desperate for a new game. AND TOYS'R'US JUST HAPPENED TO BE OUT OF THOSE DAMN SLIPS!! Ahem, refer to my old post regarding Toys'R'Us game slips..

Then came their PRICING GUIDE. An incredible newspaper styled booklet of most of the games they had, and what they cost. Looking back at it now, it's hysterical to see how some games, which sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay now due to their rarity, sold for practically pennies. Case in point - look at the below.

(are you seeing what I'm seeing...stadium events.....29 cents?!?!?!?!)

(just look at all those glorious pre-owned games...)

I don't know about you, but I still have stacks of these in my old house somewhere. I would spend hours, just looking at them, highlighting games that I would one day buy. Maybe even go on a shopping spree. You know, with the $3 I had in my wallet at the time.

So when you bought a game from FuncoLand, you were given a standard 90 day warranty. I never bought a game from FuncoLand that didn't work anyway, but it was nice that the warranty was standard. Unlike today, where Gamestop employees push a $2 warranty on you. Give me a break. If you take care of your games, they are NOT going to break.

I had a lot of good memories of FuncoLand. One was the fact that they always let you spend hours upon hours sitting in the store and playing any of their hooked up consoles. Maybe it was just the store by me, but I practically spent my weekends there. Switching out games, testing them out, and deciding which one I may want to buy. Could you tell I'm a nerd?

But the best part about buying a game from Funcoland? Why, it was the COLOR CASES OF COURSE!

Some of my NES games are still snuggly sitting inside a rainbow array of colorful cases. Just look at em! Adorable.

One thing I hated most though, ( and all other video game stores during this time ), were their product pushes. We all remember GAME DOCTOR. Hell, I was one of those annoying sales people that pushed that damn product on you. But FuncoLand was the absolute worst. There wasn't a day I went in there that they tried to sell some add on for me. It was all about UNITS PER TRANSACATION with FuncoLand. The more they milked out of you the better. Whether it was a game, with extra sleeves, a game case, a game cleaner, plus new wires...the list went on.

Seriously, I never needed a cleaning kit. But I did buy one :( I'm a sucker. Still have it too. Wonder if it's worth money lol.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. With the slew of video game stores popping up in malls nationwide and world wide, FuncoLand just didn't stand a chance. But that wasn't the only problem. The other stores knew FuncoLands game, and they knew how to be better at it. You could trade in your game anywhere now, and this drove customers further and further away from FuncoLand. Not to mention, they didn't really offer anything different.

(Well, not too bad of a deal on Pokemon...)

Eventually, Gamestop steamrolled over the competition, buying out or merging with practically every corporate owned video game store, including FuncoLand. The thing is, FuncoLand couldn't survive as a pre-owned store. Even though they sold new games, they weren't known for that. You went to other toy stores or video game stores for your new games. FuncoLand practically signed it's own death certificate the day it opened. Although they definitely had a good run until it finally merged with Gamestop in 2000. Now to my knowledge, there are still FuncoLands floating around out there. If you still have one by you, let me know. I'd love to see how it's still functioning under the Funcoland name. Although I would have to think it's just a Gamestop in disguise.

In the end, FuncoLand was still part of our gamer youth. A place where we can toss our old games, get pennies in return, and shell it right back out for a new one. Regardless of how bizarre of a store it was, it will always hold a very special place in my heart. Thanks for the good times FuncoLand. You and your multi-colored logo. Seriously, who designed that crap. Looks like an amusement park.

Farewell, FuncoLand. Farewell.

And on that note - if you want a good laugh, be sure to watch the video of the FUNCOLAND training video! That's right. It's probably the most amazing thing you will see all week. Trust me. It's gold.



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