The retro PC game collecting scene was rocked by an unexpected scandal last week when a prominent community member, who was also a moderator of a major Facebook group, was accused of selling fake copies of classic games.
Enrico Ricciardi, who for years has been an active member of the community as a buyer, seller and source of advice, has been kicked out of the Big Box PC Game Collectors group after several members presented evidence they claim prove that many of the boxes, floppy disks and artwork he sells to people are not what they appear to be.
The members of the group collected all their evidence and their accusations in a public documentsaying that after a member received a suspicious game, a supposed copy of Akalabeth from 1979: World of Doomwhich was developed by Richard Garriott before he launched the Ultimate series and is one of the first RPGs ever made – they started digging into other titles that had been sold by Ricciardi, and found that many of them were also a bit off.
When comparing Ricciardi’s games to originals owned by other members, the band quickly found a number of discrepancies with the former, such as hand-cut instead of machined game labels, markings on stickers supposedly decades old that could only have been done with modern printers and slight differences in things like fonts and logo placement. You can see these examples yourself here and here.
The most damning evidence presented, however, was that in many cases the records that had been sold by Ricciardi were blank, something many buyers only discovered now that they had been asked to check. If you’re thinking “why didn’t these guys check this out before?”, we’re talking about discs and tapes that are in some cases over 40 years old, which as members of Big Box PC explain Game Collectors, means doing this isn’t always the best idea:
These drives are 40 years old and the software is widely available online through emulators at this point. The point of getting these games isn’t to play them, but to collect them (people who collect baseball trading cards don’t trade them much either). “Testing” a 40-year-old disc can risk damaging the disc. Also, some collectors do not have access to the computers that originally ran these games.
With several members having now compared the games they received from Ricciardi to other legitimate copies, it has become clear that he has been selling these complex counterfeits for years (since at least 2015, according to their calculations), covering everything from the old Sierra and Origin games to “multiple copies of Ultima: Escape from Mount Drash, Akalabeth and Mystery House.”
Wildly, it is even believed that while most of Ricciardi’s counterfeits were sold directly to buyers, the group claims “there is at least one black box Ultimate 1 which we believe to be fakes that have been classified by WATA.
Ricciardi is believed to have been involved in “at least €100,000 in suspected counterfeit gaming item transactions”, which at the time of publication amounts to approximately $107,300. That’s… a lot of money, as you’d expect for such old and important games, though, as the band explains in an FAQ accompanying their messageit’s unclear whether legal action is pending, or ever will be, as they say “those affected are choosing the best course of action for them and do not wish to discuss it publicly.”
If you are a collector and this scares you a little, or if you are just an outside observer curious to know how it all works, the Big Box PC Game Collectors group has an “anti-scammer guide” which is worth reading.