Earlier this year, the web became abuzz with the news of a record-setting retro videogame collection being auctioned off by a Buffalo-area game lover and proprietor Michael Thomasson. The bidding was furious and the winning price came in at a cool $750,250 on GameGavel. Many wondered, why after certifying it with the Guinness Book of World Records, would he dream of selling such a collection? From my point of view: I’d like to think the Guinness Record was an appraisal of sorts, paired with a surging popularity in retro gaming, plus a burgeoning retro-games bubble, the time seemed right for Michael to sell the collection and help out his family as was his original goal when it went up for bid.
As you’ll read below, the collection is still in his hands and he’s considering re-listing somewhere like Christie’s Auction House or even a direct sale to a game fanatic. He mentioned, “I am not looking for anywhere near the number that the auction closed at originally.”
(Hint: If that’s you, please reach out to Michael directly here)
Rawrcade: First thing’s first, congratulations on such a monumental auction! As we’ve noticed, you haven’t re-listed, did peeps_10091970 end up coming through with the big check?
Michael Thomasson: As a result of the auction, I’ve had to get legal counsel for the first time in my life. I’ve been instructed to give minimal statements until certain actions are complete. I can say that we have been in communication with the winner.
R: A Guinness-sized collection probably warranted a Guinness-sized sale, will you be getting another certificate?
MT: The new Gamer’s Edition of the Guinness Book was just released. Currently, much to my surprise, the record is still holding. I’d have to go through the grueling process of certification to be awarded the title again, which I have no plans to pursue. I’m not keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak.
R: $750k is quite a nice chunk of change and no doubt you were able to do lots of good for your family. Was any of that re-invested into Good Deal Games?
MT: No money has changed hands. As a result of the delay, we are having to remove my mother from her family home and downsize her into a dramatically smaller apartment. It is a very difficult position that I had hoped to avoid.
“Well, I love all gaming, but have a deep respect for retro. The homebrew scene really excites me as I enjoy playing new games on my classic consoles. That is one reason why I launched ‘Homebrew Heaven.'” – Michael Thomasson
Screencap courtesy of Bill Lundin of Buffalo VR
R: We at Rawrcade were excited when Reddit pointed out that it was very likely that the Oculus Rift founder was a bidder on the collection. Were you aware of this as well?
MT: I was and was very excited at the time. I’m a BIG fan of 3D and one of the few other items I have collected in the past are anaglyphic images. You know, the old red/blue glasses. I even taught a class for Savannah College of Art and Design while in graduate school back in the early 90s on the subject. I’m one of the few people in the world that has worn both the unreleased Atari Jaguar VR headset and the unreleased Genesis Sega VR virtual reality headset. I’ve been waiting a long time for true evolution of 3D gaming and have been very excited about the Oculus Rift. I was quite sad when Palmer Luckey failed to bid towards the end of the auction.
R: Are you excited about what VR and the Rift itself can bring to gaming? Will you be an early adopter and why?
MT: I am. I recently used an Oculus Rift running a Nintendo Virtual Boy emulator. There was a Nintendo 64 controller for input to boot! As much as I’d like to purchase a Rift at launch, I’m having to use any funding I acquire to support my family.
R: What in the video gaming world today gets you excited? Any game series that you are a particular fan of?
MT: Well, I love all gaming, but have a deep respect for retro. The homebrew scene really excites me as I enjoy playing new games on my classic consoles. That is one reason why I launched “Homebrew Heaven.” When my father passed away, I closed the store and sold the majority of the inventory to pay bills so I could temporarily move to Florida for about four months to care for my mum. Once she was starting to get back on her feet and we had found good help to care for her, I returned to New York to be with my wife, which I missed dearly. Upon returning, I missed the old store and restarted fresh with only homebrew titles which was more manageable, especially with lil’ Anna on the way.
R: A good deal of independent games have gotten huge swaths of funds from the community: most notably Star Citizen which shattered crowdfunding records with $60 million and counting. Is this where you see the industry is going?
MT: Well, the industry seems to be going mobile and abandoning the traditional console dynamic which makes me very sad. I think that crowd-funding is a great way for smaller indy developers to succeed and it is exciting to see famous game designers such as Chris Roberts raise astronomical numbers after the big publishers all turned him down. It’s a win-win for everybody!
R: Here at Rawrcade we love retro-games and they hold a special place in our hearts. Any specific games you find yourself revisiting over the years?
MT: Well, the Colecovision was my first love and the best gift my parents ever gave me other than their love. I fire it up regularly along with dozens of other vintage consoles. I have a MAME cabinet and play two-player cooperative games from the 80s and 90s with my six-year-old daughter all the time. We play a lot of Joust, Sunset Riders, Pig-Out, Demolition Derby, Mario Bros., Wizard of Wor and dozens more.
R: What’s next for Good Deal Games? What’s next for you?
MT: Well, Good Deal Games has evolved into Homebrew Heaven. It has always been a hobbyist run operation and a labor of love. I’m always planting seeds, some of which come to fruition and some that die on the vine. Many projects in the works, but not at liberty to spill all the beans just yet. I can tell you that I’ll be working on more gaming college textbooks and the usual gaming magazines that I contribute towards. Be returning to video and other media. We’ll continue to publish new original games and gaming items to those that still appreciate their aging consoles. I’ll still tour museums and clubs showcasing Ralph Baer’s Brown Box replica and continue to sponsor and attend trade shows across the US and Canada. I’ve been teaching more gaming courses at the college, as well.
R: Anything you’d like to add?
MT: I’d like to thank those that have supported me over the years professionally as well as those that have placed orders with Good Deal Games over the past two decades. It is always a pleasure to meet and shake hands from behind a show booth and to those that wished my family well during our struggles please know that it means the world to us.
Images via Photographer Brianna Blank, Michael Thomasson, and Bill Lundin