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Gamers Go Retro at Retro Games Plus

New independent video game store, Retro Games Plus, opens at 1761 Post Road East in Westport.

Video games have become a part of our culture, our history, and sales show no signs of waning as the multibillion-dollar gaming industry continues to grow steadily, despite the weak economy.

While most of the industry’s growth is being fueled by the introduction of new innovations — including games, game consoles, hardware and accessories — a vibrant market for used video games has emerged. This is due in part to the recession — most gamers are fine with buying a used copy of a game for a fraction of its suggested retail price — but it’s also because there are a lot of older gamers out there who love the nostalgia playing on their old consoles, and are continuing to seek out classic games. What’s more there are collectors who are fetching thousands, sometimes even tens of thousands of dollars for rare or out of print titles.

Stamford resident Kris Krohn is hoping to capitalize on this trend with the opening of his new store, Retro Games Plus, at 1761 Post Road East in Westport. The store, which will hold its grand opening on Oct. 22, specializes in the buying, selling and trading of classic video games and game consoles including Atari, ColecoVision, Odyssey, Intellivision, Nintendo Entertainment System, SEGA Genesis and the original Playstation, among others, as well as new Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii games and game consoles.

“I started playing video games when I was around 10 years old, and I’ve been an avid collector and player for more than 20 years,” Krohn said during an interview Tuesday while he was setting up his new 700 square foot storefront.

Krohn, who is originally from the Manchester area, moved from Connecticut to Las Vegas about ten years ago, where he enjoyed a successful career in real estate. One day a few years ago he found a rare copy of Bubble Bobble 2 for SNES at a flea market that he bought for $4.

“I sold it just a few days later for $120,” he said, adding that ever since that day “there’s been no looking back, I knew that this was something that I wanted to do.”

“I started with that one game a grew from there,” he said, adding that within months of making that first sale he had launched a robust online business, selling hundreds of titles a month through eBay and Amazon, followed by the establishment of his website, RetroGamesPlus.com.

“That’s what ultimately led to me opening this brick and mortar store,” he said, “is the fact that my inventory grew to the level where it made sense to do it.”

He added that he moved back to Connecticut, and to Stamford specifically, with the intention of opening a used game store in the Fairfield County area.

Although most used games in his store sell for only a few dollars, including many of the ones for the “classic” game consoles, Krohn carries other collectible titles that cost $80 or more. All used games come with a 30-day guarantee and can be returned for a full refund. What’s more, Krohn says he cleans and tests most of his games prior to selling them.

Krohn said although selling rare games and classic consoles is “where the money is,” because the margins are higher, he’s still not sure if that will be big of piece of the business.

“It’s kind of hard to say, but I think I’m going to do well with those,” he said of the older game consoles, adding that he’s already had several inquiries about Atari.

“And I had a woman call just the other day asking about ColecoVision,” he added, “so there has definitely been some initial demand for the early game consoles.”

Krohn said driving up the value of classic games is the fact that they simply aren’t in print anymore.

“It’s not like John Wayne movies, where they keep reissuing them on DVD,” he said. “Once these are gone, they’re gone.”

It is interesting to note that most gamers in their 30s and 40s probably logged more hours on their older, “first generation” game consoles than they have on the current, “fourth generation” models, simply because they had more time to play games in the teens and 20s, before they embarked on silly things like professional careers and starting families. As such it is not at all unusual for older gamers to buy, sell and trade video games for the older game systems.

“I think my core demographic is going to be older gamers in their 30s and 40s,” Krohn said. “I don’t expect that too many kids will have an appreciation for the classic games — they’ll look at those Atari games on the wall and they won’t know what they are.”

Krohn said once his store is fully stocked, it will feature more than 5,000 games, about 90 percent of which will be used.

“More and more gamers out there are buying used titles,” Krohn said. “They’re doing it to take advantage of the tremendous cost savings. New titles at the big box stores run anywhere from $40 to $60, whereas you can get a used copy that’s only a year old for less than a quarter of that price, and it will work fine and last just as long.”

Krohn said he’s betting that the store will become a destination for people looking for hard to find or collectible used games.

“I think the next nearest store that sells used games is in Bridgeport,” he said. “From Port Chester to Bridgeport, there’s really no other store like this, that I’m aware of.”

Krohn said he’s planning to raffle off a brand new Playstation3 game console on the day of the store’s grand opening. In addition he plans to offer other giveaways.

Krohn has some ideas for how he can expand the business, once it gets off the ground — for example, “we might partner with a third party repair shop and we might start outsourcing repairs,” on older game consoles, he said.

Initially store hours will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, however, Krohn said he might have to adjust the hours slightly depending on business.

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