Good Deals on eBay? ...Think Again
Review by: Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Editorial Posted: May 24, 2003

When you think of eBay, generally you think of online auctions selling almost anything you can think of. And one of these things would be video games. When doing business on eBay: caveat emptor, or in other words "let the buyer beware".

When you go onto eBay's site, and say you want to find a Game Boy Advance game, and search for one. You'll notice that there will be a long list of games available, at excellent prices. Almost any game, you can find for about $10 US each, a far cry from what retail stores charge, which is approximately $30-40 US.

Before you get sucked into the apparent great deal. You might wonder: "How come they can sell so many of these GBA games for so cheap?" Well, at first thought, a person might have bought the game, beat it, got tired of it, and decided to sell the game. Or somehow, they bought a lot of games from wholesalers, and are selling it on eBay to make money.

But honestly, how would so many different sellers have so many copies of the same games? It's getting suspicious, isn't it? The fact is, they are selling pirated copies of GBA games, it's that simple.

I'll briefly describe my experience on eBay buying GBA games. The first game I bought from eBay was Super Mario World, last year. It was a real game with original packaging, for about $20. There were absolutely no problems at all, I got exactly what I was expecting to get. Earlier this year, I decided to look for a copy of Yoshi's Island, and I found several auctions having the game for $14.99. Not realizing what I was going to get, I decided to use the "Buy It Now" auction on eBay, and purchase the item.

A few days later, I get the game in the mail. It came in a box alright, but I was surprised, it was actually a fake GBA game. The box was a lot shinier than real GBA games. The manuals looked like poor photocopies, and the game pak was sub-par in terms of quality; it wouldn't "click" when placed into the GBA. However, the game worked fine, which is probably the most important thing.

Considering the fact that I was pissed off, I e-mailed the seller, and demanded an explanation and refund. I sent the item back to him, and he gave a refund quickly. His explanation was that "he was not aware that the game was fake". A rather lame excuse, and the next few days he continued to list more fake Yoshi's Island games. Go figure.

I thought that this guy was just the odd scammer on eBay. I decided to look for another game on eBay, and this time I wanted to get Game and Watch Gallery 4. Found a nice cheap auction, for about $14, and I won it. Pay the seller through PayPal (online payment service), and I get the game in the next few days. This game was only for the game pak, and well, it was a fake. Actually this time it didn't surprise me as much because some of my friends were getting fake games on eBay too.

Again, I was pissed off by some scammer on eBay. So again, I decided to go complain to the seller. I sent him one e-mail. ALL CAPS with about 5 expletives, and within a couple of hours he gave me a refund of the game. I didn't even need to bother to send it back.

From what I've seen in my two poor experiences on eBay, these fake game sellers are awfully concerned about their reputation. They are so afraid that you will make a big deal to eBay about them, or report them to the authorities, that they will give a prompt refund. Even if they give you a refund, they are getting a pirated game for about $1, and selling it for $10, there isn't much a loss to them for doing that.

Here are some tips to avoid being scammed on eBay:

  • "PayPal only" auctions may be suspicious
  • Auctions that are for the cartridge only (no manual or box) are very likely to be pirated games
  • A pirated game seller will use the a picture of the original box art in their auction
  • They may charge excessive shipping on a small item that can be shipped at a very low price
  • Their "location" might state "Bid on more items to save on shipping"
  • The game you are searching for has numerous matches for the same item, with the exact same item title/description
  • The "fake" game is on the left, and the real game is on the right. While at first glance the cartridges may look the same, there are some noticeable differences.


    Front of Cartridges


    Back of Cartridges

    When you look at the front of the cartridge, the fake one has a similar Game Boy Advance logo on the top, but there is a noticeable difference compared to the real cartridge. It's hard to describe, look at the picture, and you can see for yourself. As well, the labels might not be well done. If you look at the Game and Watch Gallery 4 label, it is misaligned, and it's not even the label of the real game. It seems as though someone tried to make a label from graphics found on the Internet.

    The back of the fake game looks almost exactly the same as the real one. The "Nintendo" logo found on the back is slightly off compared to the real game. There is also the same tri-wing screw that is found in the official games.

    If someone is selling a large number of Game Boy Advance games, and they are all "cartridge only", there is a very large chance that the games are pirated. Generally try to avoid these sellers. Of course you can try e-mailing them asking if the games are real, I've done that, and they just give me an indirect or confusing response.

    Unless you don't care if you get fake games, then you should be careful about buying on eBay. Although eBay has many fraud protection measures, they are no help at all on low priced items. It is really up to the seller to see if they will refund you the money if you get a pirated game. eBay would be a great place to get cheap goods, but unfortunately the problem with fake products, not just GBA games is something that they need to deal with.

    -- Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)