Gaming's Junk Bonds Beat the Street

On this Monday, precisely one year since the first domino was dramatically felled in the great game of The Current Global Economic Slowdown (or to use another metaphor from table games, “flipped the man into the pan of indigence”) I have a glimmer of hope to share with would-be investors. This entry-level commodity has seen real gains with no leverage needed. But first, a brief journey back to the halcyon days of Q4, 2008.

It was northern California in the cool, early fall and we had been at war in Iraq for years. The bright protest marches – which had begun in self congratulation at City Hall and ended in heirloom produce and unpasteurized chèvre at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market – had faded from memory, and a great many people who might in another era have cared about illegal foreign wars or grave threats to civil liberties had been outraged into apathy by the unrelenting malevolent ineptitude of their government and had again become preoccupied with their live-work loft spaces and the vesting schedules of options and how best to “monetize eyeballs.” Then suddenly a new Opportunity Crisis presented itself: Lehman was dead. Stocks plummeted. The game had changed. But ever so curiously, one commodity stood not tall nor proud, but unscathed nonetheless.

Wan Chai Connection. If Moody’s rated games, this Sega Saturn launch title would be “junk.” The Japanese secondary market has bestowed it with an analogous de facto-official rating of gomi; trash. For ten years I have tracked its resale value in Akiba secondhand shops and online auctions. The results are curious to say the least. But first, let’s have a look at the stock value of Lehman Brothers (LEH)

Now Wan Chai Connection.

Prices, averaged to the nearest one hundred yen, show a distinct upward trend. In a period which Wall Street has lost 5% of its value, Wan Chai has gained 16%. I don’t foresee Berkshire Hathaway looking to get in on this action; bargain bin Japanese gaming miscellany is not an area of sound Buffetological investment principal. That said, these data offer a compelling window into the dynamic future of the games industry as a whole, in which – luckily – I am fully invested.

Note: in the interest of full disclosure I am required to state that the above pictured copies of Wan Chai Connection are my own personal holdings.