Interview: RetroGameBase (Retro Game Shop in London, UK)

Interview-with-RetroGameBaseIn 2012 it was reported that the last surviving retro game shop in London had closed. Despite this tragic news, another classic gaming specialist has since risen up in their absence to ensure the capital city still has a steady supply of vintage games. After recently launching their own faux-TV channel on YouTube to promote their cause, RetroCollect sat down with RetroGameBase to find out more about the dream job of running a game shop.

Many of you may already be familiar with the name RetroGameBase following their advertising banner present here on RetroCollect. As we're committed to ensuring that our advertisers are as relevant as the content we create, we decided to inject a bit more personality into that static JPG through an interview - illustrating how a part time venture on eBay between two retro gamers eventually turned into a fully fledged video game store offering console modifications.

RetroCollect: Running a game store is one thing, but where exactly do you even start on setting up shop to sell games of yesteryear? Tell us how RetroGameBase came about and how it got to where it is today.

RetroGameBase's Tom: Well it already seems so long ago but a couple of years back Joe called me out of the blue (after finding my Hand Baked Arcade exploits online) to explain a concept he had that he was looking for partners for. We met up in a pub, discussed the plan which involved a cafe/museum and then Joe began to run an eBay store from his flat selling retro video games. This business steadily grew and before I knew it I had quite my day job to help him, we outgrew his flat quickly and then we needed to find a business premises. Originally we were thinking along the lines of a warehouse as we were predominantly an online retailer but decided the extra cost/risk of running a shop was worthwhile to help us build a brand.

RC: To many, selling classic games on a daily basis and maintaining arcade machines on the premises is a dream job. In all honesty how difficult is it to run a game shop in the capital city and what perks come with the position?

RGB: I would be lying if I did not agree it was a dream job in that sense! Unfortunately it is pretty difficult to run a small business like ours in London in a physical shop, there are SO MANY BILLS and with all the over-heads we really have to be at the 'top of our game' to make the figures work.

RC: With plenty more to offer than your run-of-the-mill game shop, what does RetroGameBase provide or bring to retail that no one else comes close with?

RGB: Other than buckets of nostalgia I also feel that we offer a great service across the internet domain and the more traditional high-street store. On top of this we have great knowledge of the technical side of these vintage items so can offer modifications, repairs and advice that I doubt many other stores (online or physical) can.

RC: I guess the only downside to selling pre-owned classics is that you’re never guaranteed new stock. How does the shop go about ensuring it has a plethora of goodies on offer?

RGB: Well that is one bonus of us having a physical store. We do now get a decent amount come through the door but Joe is the main man when it comes to sourcing of new stock online and he is always on the hunt for interesting single items as well as large job lots.

RC: To many the thought of buying a modified or clone console is somewhat daunting. What words of advice do you have to offer these yet-to-be-customers regarding these unofficial offerings, and how can they enhance the games we know and love?

RGB: Well it really depends what you actually want to get from your console. You first of all need to work out what limitation is bugging you the most. Is it the letter-box (50Hz) view? Is it the lag of the processor? Or maybe the quality of the Audio/Video output? There are indeed many different modifications that can be done to many of the retro machines to enhance their capabilities but I would first suggest using Google to see if the modification you are dreaming of is actually possible and then drop us a line and see if we can help :-)

RC: Without a doubt you have quite a lot going on in the world of pixels and polygons. We’re assuming you have several enthusiasts such as yourself helping out, so how many of you happen to head on down to Streatham High Road each day?

RGB: Well each day varies but we currently have the following DUDES that help us out... Simon (Engineer/Techy-wizard), Adam (Postage/Packing mail-order master), Joel (Ebay/DIY guru) and Bradley (Games Tester/Master)

RC: Employees aside, does the store attract an array of regular customers? If so, do you take care of repeat business and tend to their requests?

RGB: Yes we have regular customers and of course we tend to their requests as best we can. We have an on-going wish-list for items customers are wanting so that if it pops in to stock then we can call them up and let them know.

RC: Have any unusual requests flown in that have been incredibly difficult to fulfil? Maybe something incredibly rare or something downright bizarre?

RGB: I am not sure there has been anything completely off-the-hook or un-obtainable, my memory does tend to draw blanks though...

RC: How exactly do you decide what hits the shop floor and what gets taken home? This would no doubt be the hardest part of our day.

RGB: I have certainly changed my ways with regards to collecting as keeping RGB alive means NOT taking it all home to hoard. I still have a decent Mega Drive collection but that is really all nowadays.

RC: And furthermore, what are you hoping gets traded in in the near future for your own collection?

RGB: To be honest, nothing in particular, I can always use the store as my own retro Blockbuster! I like to think I have an ever-evolving large collection, it just happens to be stored in a shop.

RC: Thanks for sharing everything with us today. The only question we have left for you is regarding the future of RetroGameBase. What exactly can the retro gaming community expect from London’s last surviving classic game shop over the coming years?

RGB: Well we have just launched a brand new website. The website is a real-time INSTOCK list so as soon as new stock is tested it goes onto our new site and then straight on the shelves of our shop. I am pretty sure we are the only dedicated retro games store that has this feature. We have plenty more additional website tweaks lined up too which will ensure it is the go-to place for a great range of products and awesome customer service. We are also still very much on track to opening our Arcade-Restaurant/Bar which will be in South London. This will be a licensed premises with a large array of classic original arcade machines! As soon as things are finalised (which fingers crossed will not be too far in the future) we will be shouting from the roof tops so keep an eye on our website and social media…. until then, please check out our newly launched RetroGameBase TV channel on Youtube

Last Updated ( 09 January 2014 )  


Better known as Adam offline, Cauterize is one of RetroCollect's final bosses with an unhealthy addiction to pixels. When he's not out searching the web for the latest retro gaming news or creating content for RetroCollect, he'll will most likely be found working on his Sensible Soccer skills.

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