NOT FOR RESALE: The mystery of this weird message.

A few days ago, I had snagged this wonderful gem:

I sometimes wonder how used games get all dinged up like this.

Streets of Rage 2, a Sega Genesis classic, for $5. Initially I passed on this, but then I realized it’s Streets of Rage 2, a freakin’ Genesis classic. That Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack! Who could pass that up? The dummy writing this. Thankfully, I was able to correct my mistake and grab it as a wonderful addition to my Genesis collection, along with a Sonic cartridge compilation called Sonic Classics.

Granted, it’s just a cartridge copy and it isn’t in the best of shape, but it’s nice to have. There’s something special about this cartridge: The giant “NOT FOR RESALE” label on it. Anyone who’s into collecting Sega Genesis stuff may have also seen the big “NOT FOR RESALE” stickers on copies of Sonic the Hedgehog. My Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came with my Sega Genesis long ago also with a “Not for Resale” sticker on it. Many pack-in games on the Genesis also came with the “not for resale” sticker on them. It made me wonder: Why is this ugly text on there, and what was its purpose?

At first, I thought this meant so that these couldn’t be resold at second-hand shops, but that wouldn’t make any sense, even when this was new. After doing a bit of research and asking a friend, it turns out it’s a much more sinister story.

Apparently, some retailers would take the pack-in games out of the console bundles so they could put them out on the floor for regular retail price. So instead of getting a deal and buying a system with a free game, they wanted you to buy the game separately and get shafted in the process.

So as a response, Sega put that large “NOT FOR RESALE” on copies of Sonic the Hedgehog to tell store clerks “Hey, this system’s supposed to come with a game, don’t gut it and sell it separately, jerks.” It also prevented people returning just the game for extra money, you had to bring the whole thing back if it was a pack-in game.

Knowing that this was done as a measure to prevent stores from selling them separately makes it a more surprising story than just deterring resellers like I thought. This only started showing up during the Genesis era, likely as a response to people selling off their pack-in cartridges during the NES and Master System era.

Sadly it’s not as bold as the big “NOT FOR RESALE” message was on Sonic the Hedgehog or Streets of Rage 2, but it’s still there, almost 20 years later!

Surprisingly, the “NOT FOR RESALE” legacy still lives on. Even 360/PS3 era games still have the disclaimer, but with slightly different wording. My Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures/Kung Fu Panda combo disc that came with my Xbox 360 changed the wording to “Not packaged for individual sale” and has no bar code on it to be scanned. Even compilation packs end up eschewing the bar code with similar disclaimers. It’s an improvement for something I didn’t even know was a problem for a long while.

I still love the concept of the pack-in game, especially since a lot of different games end up being pack-ins. I remember seeing a combo pack for Vita Pinata and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which I never imagined being packed in with a 360. Then again, I didn’t know Streets of Rage 2 was packed in with Genesis consoles until very recently, so there’s that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go play some Streets of Rage 2. I was a Nintendo kid for a long time and missed out on a lot of the Genesis greats. I gotta change that.

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B.J. Brown

B.J. Brown is the creator and sole writer on You Found a Secret Area. Casually writing since 2010, Fascinated by dumb things like game shows, music, and of course, video games. Also on Twitter. You can support their work on Ko-Fi or Patreon.

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3 Responses

  1. April 7, 2020

    […] documented my game finds on the blog? Seems like it was just last year when I wrote about find a “NOT FOR RESALE” copy of Streets of Rage 2, and a 20 minute video that about 3 of you watched. Let’s resurrect this old series, because […]

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