Definitive guide to spotting fake Gameboy Advance games

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As a gamer myself and as a game collector I have bought GBA games online that have turned out to be bootleg copies. What's wrong with this? Though cheaper, many (in fact the majority) fail to save properly which makes most games unplayable, on top of this these cheaply manufactured rip-offs are usually of incredibly bad quality - I've seen copies of Final Fantasy I & II with hilariously amateur translations, Pokémon games that are 'fan-made' and copies of games that don't even turn on, these illegitimate copies aren't worth your time or money, regardless of how cheap they are!

How to determine whether the item is counterfeit

When trying to determine whether a game is fake item location is usually a good place to start. In Asia copyright laws are different to over here in the UK and games over there have huge piracy problems, in particular though GBA games come off worst as these are easy to sell around the world, not only are they are cheap to reproduce but also handheld consoles are region free (meaning US or Japanese releases can be played on UK consoles and vice versa). If a GBA game you are considering bidding on or buying is from Thailand, China or Taiwan it may be a good idea to contact the seller to ask about the item first.

The box:

The one on the left is an original copy, the one on the right is a fake. Many fakes use a US cover, the best way to tell though is the quality that they are printed, the original copy has a thicker box but the fake on the right is a thin, laminated looking card.

The first picture shows the original product, usually Nintendo games come with that black health and safety manual and possibly a Nintendo VIP points card (this does not always apply though). The original copy also has the European multi-language back cover with good quality images. The second image is the fake, this one has a screenshot for the back cover and the blurb is full of typos and manages to incorrectly spell the characters names. The games logo at the top is also pixelated as it's just an image they downloaded, also the screenshots have logos in the corners indicating they were downloaded from a gaming website that uses that logo. The inner box is also much cheaper, though some very few GBA games may use these the majority use the inner box you can see in the first image.

The manuals:

Here it is easy to tell the fakes. Nintendo manuals are always of a high quality print, the original is the one on the left, the fake is the one on the right. The fake is of a very low quality, it is literally 4 pages compared to the originals 122.

The fakes is just 2 pieces of paper stapled together and features the same quality screenshots as on the back of the box that were obviouslly downloaded from a gaming website.

The cartridges:

Here are the cartridges, as before the original is on the left and the fake is on the right. There is a code in the bottom right of every cartridge, fakes will most likely have one that ends in USA whereas games from Europe should end with EUR. Also the stickers on fake cartridges usually have that laminated-reflective look that the fake boxes have as they are just cheap stickers.

Cartridge indents:

Here is how to really tell if a cart is fake straight away, in the above picture I am holing a genuine cartridge to the light, this shows two of two figures indentations (I have crudely circled them with red circles in Photoshop), usually it's just one two figure indentation though, for example "02" will be indented. If your cartridge has one or two sets of two figure indentations it is a genuine release.
Fake games never have these indentations, so hold your cartridge angled to the light and look closely to see if there are any indentations.

Looking inside the cart (without opening it up):

Also, look down the area that your cartridge plugs into the console, where I have drawn a red line in Photoshop on this image if you look when it is well lit you should see a line of text, in genuine games hidden here there is a Nintendo logo and a series of numbers and letters, fake games will not have the Nintendo logo here, there may be some numbers or a logo like a K in a circle but definitely no Nintendo logo, use a torch and look closely for that Nintendo logo.

General tips to avoid fakes
  • Compare what the product looks like to ones other sellers are selling, this makes it easier to spot the low quality fakes
  • Try to buy games that state they are UK releases, many sellers that sell fakes say they are USA imports as 99.9% of fakes have USA covers and a USA code on the bottom right corner of the cartridge
  • Look at the box and see if it looks to be of a cheaper material
  • Look at the manual, then try to find a genuine copy of the game from another seller and see if it is the same size and has the same cover
  • Ask the seller if the cartridge has a two figure indent on the picture when it is held to the light
  • If there's only a stock photo ask the seller if they can upload an actual photo
  • Check the seller feedback, though many buyers may not notice if one person has and has noted so in his/her feedback then it is more than likely the seller has more fakes in stock
What to do if you have received a fake

If you have received a bootleg game then you can open up a claim through eBay or PayPal (if you paid through PayPal that is). If the seller says they will refund you if you return the item to them then really you should not, by law you shouldn't be returning counterfeit goods to the seller - in fact you should be handing them over to the relevant authorities to have them destroyed and you should report the seller (reporting a seller through eBay is a quick and simple process). Even though when anyone here asks other users always seem to say "You should return the item" you should not. If you return bootleg good to a seller it is more than likely they will just sell them again to someone else.

Tell the seller you want your payment refunded, if they ask you to return the item tell them you will not send them the counterfeit goods as it is a violation of British law and if they are knowingly selling counterfeit goods they will be dealt with by eBay as per the Terms of Service agreement all sellers must agree to. If you have any further problems contact eBay or if you're using PayPal's Resolution Center you can have one of their staff look at your claim, remember to keep the documentation of the transaction and evidence of the item you received until the situation is resolved.

I hope this guide has been useful, thanks for reading!
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