The retro PC game collector scene was rocked by an unexpected scandal last week when a prominent member of the community, who was also the moderator of a major Facebook group, was accused of selling people fake copies of classic games.
Enrico Ricciardi, who has been an active member of the community for years as a buyer, seller, and advisor, was booted from the Big Box PC Game Collectors group after several members came up with evidence they believe proves many of the boxes, disks, and artwork that he sold people are not what they seem.
The members of the group have collected all their evidence and allegations a public documentand said after a member received a suspicious game – an alleged copy of Akalabeth: World of Doom from 1979developed by Richard Garriott before he started Ultimate series and is one of the first RPGs ever made – they started looking through other titles that Ricciardi had been selling and found that many of them were a bit off as well.
Comparing Ricciardi’s games to originals owned by other members, the group quickly found a number of discrepancies with the former, such as hand-cut rather than machined game labels, markings on supposedly decades-old stickers that could only have been produced with modern printers, and minor differences in them Things like fonts and logo placement. You can see these examples for yourself here and here.
The most damning evidence, however, was that the disks sold by Ricciardi were in many cases blank, something many buyers only now discovered after being asked to verify. If you’re thinking, “Why didn’t they check this out sooner?” then we’re talking discs and tapes, some of which are over 40 years old, which, as members of Big Box PC Game Collectors explain, means this isn’t always the best idea:
These hard drives are 40 years old and the software is widely available online via emulators at this point. The goal 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). When “testing” a 40 year old hard drive, there is a risk of damaging the hard drive. Also, some collectors don’t have access to the computers that originally ran these games.
Now that several members have compared the games they received from Ricciardi with other, legitimate copies, it has become clear that he has been selling these complicated fakes for years (since at least 2015, by their reckoning) and everything from the old Sierra and Origin covers games on “multiple copies of Ultimate: Escape from Mt Drash, acalabeth and Mysterious House.”
Insanely, it is even believed that while most of Ricciardi’s fakes were sold directly to buyers, the group says, “There is at least one black box ultimate 1 which we believe to be a fake that has been assessed by WATA.”
It is estimated that Ricciardi was involved in transactions involving suspected counterfeit game items worth at least €100,000, which at the time of publication is approximately $107,300. That’s… a lot of money, as you’d expect for games this old and this important, although the group explains in a FAQ that accompanies their postIt is unclear whether a legal proceeding is ongoing or ever will take place, as they say “data subjects are choosing the legal avenue that is best for them and do not wish to discuss this publicly.”
If you’re a collector and this has startled you a little, or you’re just an outside observer curious about how this all works, The Big Box PC Game Collectors Group has an “Anti-Cheaters Guide” that makes interesting reading.