The Anatomy of a counterfeit Gameboy Advance Cartridge

Fake News!

My second childhood is ruined. Thanks, ebay and bradlebon-5.

Missing the days of my youth and hours wasted playing Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance, I decided to buy a Gameboy Advance SP. I foolishly sold my original GBA back in 2005. I also foolishly thought a new GBA SP would be $20 or something, right? Nope. You’re lucky to get a beat up specimen for $60. I paid $61 for this one:

And it comes with The Incredibles!

And I thought games would be $5 to $10 a pop without boxes and manuals, right? I was wrong again. But I didn’t find that out until after I had bought Metroid Fusion (eBay), for $9.99 plus shipping. That’s your first sign, for those keeping track of tips on how to spot a fake Gameboy game:

If it’s too good to be true, it’s fake

Search eBay for “Buy it now” listings and compare prices. If everyone wants $55 for The Legend of Zelda: The Minnish Cap except one guy is selling it for $10… then the $10 one is fake. See the screenshot below and play “Spot the asshole selling a counterfeit game”:

Wow, the Brand New one at the top is even cheaper than the pre-owned versions below it. What a deal!

Next step: What condition is it in?

If you’re simply looking for a game to play and not trying to collect cartridges in mint condition, then a little bit a wear on the cart is a good sign that it’s real. Take a look at this one that was for sale for $41 versus my $10 version:

See how the bottom one is worn and faded but the top one looks immaculate? It’s because the top label was printed in 2020 and the bottom was printed in 2002 and spent some time in a cargo pant pocket, most likely.

Check out the inside

Another dead giveaway is what the inside of the cartridge looks like, specifically the PCB (printed circuit board). Most current fake cartridges will have a big black spot that looks like dried tar. This is not there on authentic cartridges.

Notice that the counterfeit cartridge above also has “© 2002 Nintendo AGB-E05-01”. This was previously thought to indicate an authentic cartridge, but no more. Now many of the fakes have this printed on them.

Now I’m all for reproduction games that the seller clearly tells you is not an original, authentic copy. This would help many of us get games to play in situations where we can’t afford the real version. However, it needs to be printed on the label and disclosed in the listing for games sold online. Something like “Reproduction Warning: This is not an original copy of this game”. But, the seller that duped me with Metroid Fusion did not say this. Now that I re-read the description, he seemed pretty guilty by saying “Game plays just fine!!!”. And the “Cartridge comes in factory plastic case…” is misleading. Yeah, it’s “factory” but not Nintendo’s factory!

Description:

With this purchase you will receive “Metroid Fusion” game cartridge for use in a Nintendo Game Boy Advance System. **U.S. VERSION** Cartridge comes in factory plastic case, but no other packaging  included.   Will ship in padded envelope and I ship only within the US… using First Class USPS only.  Will ship within 2 business days. Game plays just fine!!!  You may message me with any questions you may have before purchase is complete.  Great way to stay busy while confined to the house. Takes you back to your younger days!!!

So good luck out there finding authentic Gameboy cartridges. The counterfeiters are getting more sophisticated every day. Let me know in the comments if you have any other good methods for determining if a game is a fake.

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