Businesses Offer A Link To The Past For Lovers Of Old Video Games : All Tech Considered Many people of a certain age fondly remember spending hours in arcades or playing on the popular systems of the '80s and '90s. Now, these retro video games are fast becoming a growing business.

Businesses Offer A Link To The Past For Lovers Of Old Video Games

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For people of a certain age, this brings back happy memories.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "SUPER MARIO BROTHERS")

CORNISH: That's the sound of video game hero Mario gaining power, eating a mushroom in the original Nintendo game, "Super Mario Brothers." A whole generation of kids played that and other games in the 1980s and '90s. And now those games are making a comeback, as Ben Bradford reports from member station WFAE in Charlotte.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME SOUND EFFECTS)

BEN BRADFORD, BYLINE: Inside Save Point Video Games in Charlotte, it's like being back in the 1990s. Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis cartridges line the store shelves. Synthesized rock blares from an arcade game against one wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME SOUND EFFECTS)

BRADFORD: It's here 35-year-old Cameo Stevens is rediscovering an old love.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME SOUND EFFECTS)

CAMEO STEVENS: (Laughter). Still the same... I remember... Yeah. (Laughter).

BRADFORD: He's playing Mike Tyson's "Punch-Out!" for Nintendo. He mashes the joystick. His character on screen dodges and counters the jab of an opponent.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "PUNCH-OUT")

STEVENS: (Laughter).

BRADFORD: Stevens has seen the store many times and, curious, walked in today and reconnected with his youth.

STEVENS: This is like one of the games I used to play on, like, Nintendo, like, all the time when I was kid. This is like one of my favorite games.

BRADFORD: That joy in Steven's voice as he plays "Punch-Out!" is what's helping drive a surge in interest for old Atari, Nintendo, Sega Genesis and other '80s and '90s video games. Many people use the same word, nostalgia. For Wilder Hamm, who opened Save Point in 2012, it's not a surprise.

WILDER HAMM: We have so many customers that come into the store. And they say - they all say the same thing. Their parents either gave away all their consuls once they got new ones, or they traded them, or they sold them to a friend. And they all regret it - all of them. And they come in here, and they see all this stuff. And they're like, oh, my God, this is incredible. This is all the stuff I want. And then, they buy it.

BRADFORD: Games can range from a few dollars to a few hundred depending on popularity and scarcity. It's an attractive demographic, says Scott Rigby. He consults for video game developers about why customers buy and play games.

SCOTT RIGBY: They're at the height of their careers. And they're in 30s and 40s. And so they can kind of make these purchases.

BRADFORD: Economists have no idea what this market is worth.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME SOUND EFFECTS)

BRADFORD: But it's clear the industry has taken notice. Nintendo has combined old games like "Zelda," "Dr. Mario" and "Donkey Kong" into a new one for its latest consul. Other businesses are getting in on the action too. Some bars are pairing beer with video games. Barcade in New York, Headquarters Beercade in Chicago and the owners of Soda Popinski's in San Francisco all opened new locations in the last year, just to name a few.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME SOUND EFFECTS)

BRADFORD: In the Charlotte area, at least nine stores sell old games. For several, its their primary business. Most opened in the past three years. In his store, Video Game World, Nick Chambers repairs an old Nintendo. He unscrews the plastic case, replaces a broken part and screws it back together - one down, about 40 to go. Chambers says his customers in this family suburb are slightly different. Parents shop for their kids.

NICK CHAMBERS: I've come to find that most parents are coming to do this because the newer games are more violent. So they're coming in to get some of the older stuff they grew up with because they know what it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME SOUND EFFECTS)

BRADFORD: There's one more demographic. At Save Point, some of the most ardent customers missed Nintendo's heyday completely.

SHAY MARCEAU: I've probably been in here like three times this week. And it's only Thursday.

BRADFORD: 19-year-old Shay Marceau is an avid gamer. She plays the new stuff. And she seeks out the old stuff that preceded it, like a music lover listening to formative bands. As the modern video game industry grows, more players like Marceau are getting nostalgic and exploring the past. And that means even more customers for new businesses selling old games.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME SOUND EFFECTS)

BRADFORD: For NPR News, I'm Ben Bradford in Charlotte.

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