This article has only one key message: do not buy a single game that is enclosed in a WATA-sealed Plexiglas case.
First of all, and I only want to touch on that very briefly here, games are not completely unsuitable as an investment, but they are even more volatile than Bitcoin. That doesn’t change when a company that obviously knows little about what they do wraps them in plastic and invents any logos they like. The game becomes a pseudo-investment facility like an NFT: If there’s a fool paying moon prices, fine. If not, then the game is worth what it is worth. Both the more serious VGA – Video Game Authority – and the newer and much more disreputable WATA have this in common.
Here is the questionable Castlevania. $4000 and it’s yours. Or you just leave it. I don’t just mean this one. Just let WATA be general.
The latter, however, is apparently not even able to search for a scan of an original in Google and compare it with what they have on their desk. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood is one of the more expensive PC engine games and is currently between 200 and 300 euros, depending on how it is on the day. As an original from 1993, of course. Even at its best, the 4000 euros that a current Ebay auction is asking for is illusory, even with a WATA 9.2 logo. Mainly because what’s sealed in there isn’t an original.
You don’t have to be a pro, a certain talent in ‘spot the difference’ is enough. Left the bootleg up for auction, WATA rated. On the right, the original from 1993. Note the space between the screenshot and the text below. Not quite identical. Color and print quality also seem to differ drastically, the bootleg is really much more saturated and lost detail, but you’d have to hold the two games to be sure. The Ebay picture isn’t enough to say the final word, but it’s not necessary in this case anyway.
WATA is well known when it comes to scandals, after all they have been under very direct suspicion for the last year of working with Heritage Auctions to artificially inflate prices for graded and sealed games. A business where both earn well. WATA takes 1% of a far from assured market value of the game they have on the table. Heritage collects a whopping 20% of the auction price. A new 85-point Mario 64 sealed by VGA is currently available for a fantastic 25,000 euros. But that’s nothing compared to the 1.5 million that a WATA-sealed example at Heritage reportedly fetched. Whether that happened or not is relatively irrelevant to WATA, they can now call this price “market value”.
The WATA grading game on Ebay on the left, the original on the right. Now, forgetting the TM was not the bootlegger’s feat, and not seeing it an even weaker feat of the WATA ‘expert’.
Despite the scandal, WATA cannot keep up with the grade, because many collectors wanted to put their treasures in boxes and presumably gild them. Which brings us back to Castlevania. If you’re a little more observant, like this one Reddit-User, then with a halfway trained eye you can see relatively quickly that something is not right. Anyone who is even a little familiar with the bootleg scene does not have to search more than five minutes to discover where exactly a version like the one in the WATA box can be found and admired. You can google it right away if you have just a little idea. I assumed that self-proclaimed experts were much better at this than I was. I needed three minutes. How the hell did this bootleg game get into WATA packaging and is now enjoying a 9.2 with a 1993 date? No, they didn’t consciously judge the bootleg as such, although they could probably be trusted to do so by now and I’m not sure which would be worse.
Three minutes of ‘research’ and lo and behold, this bootleg is easy to find, you don’t have to go to the dark web for it. A ‘grading expert’ should have been suspicious anyway, because the bootlegs are welded differently than the PCE games back then. But in this case you don’t have to think that far.
WATA and to a lesser extent VGA are crooks who produce goods for other crooks. At the latest, all this has nothing to do with serious collecting or real values. If such an obvious bootleg gets the highest consecration, then the WATA is worthless in its expert function and every game in a WATA package has to be questioned. So the WATA logo means the exact opposite of what they would like to stand for.
(Both the Ebay seller and WATA have been written to with a request for a statement, so far there has been no answer. If that changes, there will be an update.)