Are WATA/VGA Video Game Gradings a Scam?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Wata (VGA) rating of video games is becoming a scam. Due to the fact that the VGA rating is based on the hardware of a game and not the experience of the gameplay, this rating system is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It’s not like you can’t find good games in the VGA range, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper than the average game, to find them.

After the system crash that brought down the original SNES Classic Edition, Nintendo’s replacement model was a bit of a disappointment. Not content to simply offer up the same game collection we had come to love and expect, the machine lacks WiFi support, along with a few other features that we all love about the console. [ . . . ]

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There is a lot of talk right now about a new video game grading system called WATA or WGAs for short. The main focus of this topic is on whether or not WATA/WGAs is a scam or not. In my opinion, there are some good things about it and some things that need to be improved. The main arguments can be seen in the pictures included in this blog.

To save you time, if you define a scam as giving someone money in exchange for a service that they do not provide, then WATA and VGA (Video Game Authority) are not frauds. They’re genuine businesses that will grade your games and return them depending on the services you paid for if you submit them to them. They may not act fast, but they follow through on their promises.

Is video game grading a con in and of itself? A made-up method to raise the cost of vintage video games, which are becoming more rare owing to the fragile materials used to make their boxes? That’s a more complicated question with some unexpected solutions.

Should you also spend money on rated games? That’s a more difficult question. We’ll go through each one in detail below. If you’re interested in collecting vintage games, make sure to check out our primer guide for some helpful hints.

Cardboard is the cause of scarcity.

To begin, prior to the Playstation 1, XBOX, and GameCube, all console games were primarily packaged in cardbox boxes. There were a few outliers, such as the Sega Genesis, but the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and even the Nintendo 64 all utilized cardboard. Even in the mobile realm, Nintendo didn’t utilize plastic casings for its games until the Nintendo DS.

Plastic is much more durable than cardboard. Cardboard is readily squashed, dented, pierced, and even crushed. Because of how easily the cardboard will yield if the box doesn’t have a sturdy enough insert, the cling film surrounding the cardboard may be torn. Not only that, but cardboard degrades with time, and games that have had the shrink wrap removed degrade more quickly, particularly in humid areas.

You should also think about how people saved their games. They either threw away the boxes and retained just the carts (and perhaps the manuals) or they put the game back in the box, putting a lot of wear and tear on the box. From the NES to the Nintendo 64, the quantity of “mint” condition games was significantly decreased.

Grading of video games

So the video game rating firms come in. They offer to take these delicate vintage games and assess the seal, box, cartridge, and PCB board condition. They’ll even snap pictures of the board to verify it’s genuine for you, then seal it in a tamper-proof plastic container with their rating attached to it.

If everything went according to plan, you’d be able to trade in your now-graded game for a normal market price for that rating. However, since the video game collecting market is driven solely by perception and scarcity, most collectors will find that a difficult deal. This implies that when it comes to game ratings, only high-profile titles see any market change.

A short check of sold goods on eBay revealed that the only things consistently moving above $1,000 were Pokemon games, which, to be fair, are selling at extremely high rates for sealed good condition games right now because to the large number of Pokemon video game collectors. Other rated titles were selling for their regular price or about the game’s price plus the cost of rating, with prices ranging from $300 to $800.

This item has been sold and is no longer available for purchase. It’s easy to become confused about how much items are worth by glancing at the stated prices on auction sites and assuming that’s how much anything is worth. It’s far more important to look at the sales price.

As a result, a game’s rating does not immediately increase its worth. It is often a cash drain or, more usually, something on which you may recover your investment.

A Long and Winding Rabbit Hole

There’s a reason if it wasn’t what you were expecting to hear.

Someone showed up on Pawn Stars with a “sticker sealed” copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES. It had a high WATA rating, so he requested for one million dollars for it, but he was turned down and left empty-handed. Many saw this as free exposure for WATA, and a duplicate of the program, or one identical to it with the same rating, was sold for $100,000 in 2019, a 90% discount from the Pawn Stars episode.

Because graded games are such a specialized market, local game shops will often refuse to accept, refuse to consider, or refuse to consider extra money for them. Outside of pre-production games, there isn’t much demand for anomalies in sealed video games, and there isn’t much demand in the market for particular quality of sealed games. In certain situations, such as for extremely popular old games, the WATA / VGA ratings make a lot of sense just to keep the game safe and verify any unusual conditions that the market recognizes, but in many other cases, it’s simply not worth it.

There have been many reports of video game rating firms purchasing whole vintage shops full of “new old stock,” rating it, and then releasing it into the market. This would be suspicious conduct if they weren’t so forthright and honest about it.

Finally, there aren’t many individuals in the sealed video game or graded video game market, which means there aren’t many purchasers for goods being offered.

Weird Business

Are-WATAVGA-Video-Game-Gradings-a-ScamThere have been nine bids thus far, with the latest offer being $100,000. This game was subsequently sold for more than $1 million dollars.

The value of certain games is all over the place. About 12 million copies of SM64 were sold, and that doesn’t include those included in console bundles.

Are-WATAVGA-Video-Game-Gradings-a-ScamApproximately 12 million copies were sold in total, including those included in console bundles.

So, out of 12 million copies, a single SM64 in pristine condition is now fetching $100,000 at auction due to its first-party seal (indicating Nintendo sealed the box) and condition of 9.8. It eventually ended bidding at over $1 million dollars (this story has been in the works for a long). A less pristine condition rating at 9.2 (but essentially the same in my opinion) recently sold for $5,000 on eBay.

1627862170_553_Are-WATAVGA-Video-Game-Gradings-a-ScamSM64 was sold for $5,100 USD.

That’s simply an odd pricing difference for something that’s functionally same. It’s also something you should be very cautious about entering since if you spend $100,000 or more on a video game, there may not be a big pool of people ready to pay the same if you ever want to sell it.

What anything is worth is determined by how much someone is prepared to pay for it.

It’s also worth noting that even when the SM64 was auctioned on eBay, just a few individuals competed for it. Only two or three individuals are likely to bid on the ones up for sale. As a result, the market is very tiny, and moving goods may be difficult with so few people buying and selling.

That is why game shops refuse to recognize or respect the grading system, simply because there are much more collectors searching for only the carts, boxes, or CIBs than there are for sealed and graded games.

What Should You Have Given a Grade For?

What should be rated is a topic I see a lot on vintage game sites and forums. It’s both expensive and time-consuming, and it prevents you from playing the game itself if you’re a collector who enjoys doing so. So, in general, the solution is:

  • CHEETAHMAN or the Olympics cartridge are high-value, very rare games.
  • Retro games in immaculate condition that have never been opened (anything in cardboard).
  • Anything unusual, such as Rule of Rose, makes sense.
  • Anything you care about and wish to keep.
  • You may do anything you want. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t send in anything they allow. Some big box games, such as Mario Paint, are not accepted by WATA (verify on their site).

If you want to make a profit from the grading, just bring in games that you anticipate to get a 9.0 or better. The expense of grading will very certainly not be recouped on anything below a 9.0 and mainly only sealed copies. For pricing on graded copies of your games, always check the sold listings on sites like eBay. Listed prices are usually wishful thinking, but sold prices are what people will pay in the market.

Submitting Graded Games: Some Pointers

If your game isn’t sealed, be sure to pay for the PCB pictures (board shots) if you send it out to be rated. It’ll help show the cart isn’t a replica on resale (which is a big problem in retro collecting right now), and it’s a nice purchase for $10.

Take note of the duration of the service you’ve purchased. Some of the slower services may take up to six months to complete.

The stated value ought to be somewhat precise. If the game is worth more for the insurance, they will charge more, so be sure to estimate the price or you may be surprised with a bill.

Before submitting your game, take pictures of it and, if it’s worth more than $50, pay for shipping insurance to send it to the video game grader.

To determine whether the rated version of what you have is worth more than the unrated one, compare the prices of the rated and unrated versions.

If it’s a really rare or valuable game, paying for quicker service can help you relax.

Buying WATA / VGA Games: Some Pointers

Search eBay for “sold” goods to determine the true worth of a game. Don’t simply look for listings. This may wreak havoc on your value. Some people may offer their game twice, first at an absurdly high price and then at a reduced price, in order to make their lower-priced copy seem to be a deal when it is still way overpriced. The “sold goods” may be found in the filter. On sites like Mercari, the same principle applies.

Make a decision on which titles in your library should be rated. Remember that, although the plastic cases are attractive with their labels, they are large and heavy, detracting from the clean appearance of game alongside game on bookcases.

Consider only cardboard-based games that need a plastic casing, as well as games that are quite uncommon, as stated many times in this page. Madden 2011 is probably not a game that requires grading.

Buying with buyer protection is always a good idea. It may seem absurd, but counterfeiters can now counterfeit a wide range of items, even the cases graders use (though you won’t know until you get it).

Only games with a grade should be considered. Sealed graded games have a larger market.

Game Grading Alternatives

There are a variety of plastic game covers available if you wish to preserve a game without having it graded. Something to think about if you want to keep the older games safe. Rose Colored Gaming is well-known for their cases, although you can get many on eBay and elsewhere.

Get Out, PC Gamers!

There isn’t much, if any, video game grading in the PC gaming sector simply because there isn’t a market for it. While there are PC game collectors and certain titles may fetch a high price, PC players can opt out of this discussion.


To conclude, WATA and VGA are genuine businesses that provide precisely what they advertise on their websites.

Graded games don’t always result in a significant boost in the game’s worth, but they may assist with resale value in certain cases, particularly with highly popular titles with a high number of sales (like SMB3 with a left “bros.”).

Because there isn’t a large market for rated games, don’t expect to purchase or sell one fast.

Not everyone considers video game grades to be worth what they claim to be worth. The value of an item is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it.

Getting a very rare vintage game like CHEETAHMAN rated would be a no-brainer.

Collect games in any way you choose and like. Grading may be a long-term trend in game collecting, or people’s trust in graders could erode over time, making their evaluations less meaningful. It’s all about market perception, but if you’re purchasing goods based on the market rather than what you want, it’s all about economics.

I was thinking about this article because I have noticed a lot of kids posting on YouTube about how they have found a “better console”, and then you see the link to where they purchased it and it’s one of these WATA or VGA graders. For example, I saw the post of a kid on YouTube who had a DS Lite, and then I saw a link to a website where he purchased it. I was thinking these sites are doing all this advertising for money, and I actually emailed the guy who owns the site, and he agreed.. Read more about vga grading reddit and let us know what you think.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • wata grading review
  • video game grading reddit
  • video game grading cost
  • wata grading scale
  • graded video game values
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