Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Cheapest and Most Expensive Digivices Money Can Buy

In light of the rapidly escalating prices of Digivice and virtual pet toys worldwide, a lot of fans are concerned with how they can experience Digimon in its original form without having to rob a bank. There are two general ways to judge if a price is reasonable; in absolute terms, is it a price someone is willing to pay for a mid-to-high-end children's toy? In relative terms, how closely does its current price on the secondary market match its original price? This guide will direct you to what kinds of prices you should expect in the Digimon market, and what prices you definitely shouldn't agree to. Below is a listing  of the least expensive toys, as well as links to the lowest prices I could dig up for them.

Digimon toys are generally broken down into virtual pets (Digital Monster, Pendulum) and quest-based toys (D3 Digivice, D-Scanner). The Digivices as a whole are what most international readers will remember--you shake or walk with the toy to reduce a step counter until you encounter a battle, during which your Digimon evolves, then reverts back to its Child stage afterwards. The virtual pets are highly developed Tamagotchis, which permanently evolve to new stages, battle in colosseums, and eventually go into a death and rebirth cycle.

This article uses affiliate links. Affiliate links are hyperlinks to product listings on e-commerce websites which redirect the reader to that site; if a reader accesses one of these listings through one of the links below, and/or purchases the item listed, the editor is provided a referral fee and/or commission fee. Affiliate links are labeled when present, and the service being linked to is identified.

Virtual Pets
Xros Wars Mini ~$20
Japanese Greymon Xros Wars Mini at left, compared with Asian Fusion Mini packaging at right.
The cheapest virtual pets you'll find are the Xros Wars Mini and Digivice iC (eBay affiliate links). The XW Mini originally retailed for 1550 JPY in 2010, about $14 at the time, and is currently available for $21~25 with shipping included. Some scalpers are attempting to mark them up to $30, but the truth is that the market is both flooded with Xros Minis, in part because they were reprinted in 2012 for Asia, as the Fusion Mini. (There's no difference between the Japanese and Asian Xros Minis; they all connect the same, and even say "Xros" in the Asian Minis.) Some of these can still be found for $20 or less.

For the Xros Wars Mini, there are three colors;
  • Shoutmon Red ($16.88 eBay affiliate) features Digimon primarily from Team Xros Heart, and is recommended for fans of Digimon Xros Wars. Its starter Digimon is Shoutmon, and its final evolution is Shoutmon X5. (Alternative $18.99 affiliate if the previous one sells out.)
  • Greymon Blue ($18.99 eBay affiliate) focuses on dragon Digimon, with several being sampled from Team Blue Flare. It also includes a lot of nostalgic Digimon seen in past seasons like Tyranomon, Imperaldramon Fighter Mode, and War Greymon, so the Blue model is recommended for fans of older Digimon seasons. Its starter is Greymon, and its final evolution is the 2010 redesign of Metal Greymon.
  • Dark Knightmon Black ($18.99 Amazon affiliate) features the Digimon of Team Twilight, as well as Digimon from the Nightmare Soldiers and Metal Empire fields of Digimon's lore. Metal Etemon, Belphemon, and Lucemon Satan Mode are all found here. Its starter is Skull Knightmon, and its final evolution is Dark Knightmon. (Alternative $21.55 Amazon link if the previous one sells out.)
One should be aware that the Xros Wars Minis are virtual pets only at the most basic level. They require care every two or so hours, needing to be fed Diginoir, have their droppings cleaned, and have the lights turned on and off when they wake up and go to sleep. But there is no traditional system of evolution, care mistakes, or even death. You only care for your Digimon because if you don't, you're unable to play the game. (Having poop on the screen, getting sick, or becoming hungry prevents your Digimon from battling until those needs are addressed.) Progression is effectively linear in the Xros Wars Mini, with only one strongest Digimon on each. You progress your Digimon by defeating the corresponding other Digimon necessary to DigiXros it into a higher stage, until eventually you reach the pinnacle.

The Xros Mini also has the disadvantage of being a technological island; despite using the original Mini's mold and having a three-pronged connector, it can only connect with other Xros Wars Minis. It's not compatible with the original Minis, iC, Accel, or Pendulum X pets. Its primary battle mode is a single player mode, with multiplayer as an afterthought. The XMini is also tiny, smaller than a roll of scotch tape, and needs to have a screen protector on it at all times.

On the bright side, the Xros Mini's battle system is lifted directly from the original. Like many of the post-Pendulum virtual pets, there's a pre-battle "count" where the game measures your ability to reach a particular number that will power up your Digimon. Instead of shaking the toy, you rapidly press the B button for several seconds, and the game estimates your rate-per-minute based on the number of times you input the command, ranging from 0 to 31. This introduces an element of skill to the Xros Mini, even though it's not as kinetically pleasing as rapidly shaking a toy back and forth. Digimon in the XMini system have six hit points each, and take turns firing five shots in four sizes that deal 1, 2, 3, and 6 damage respectively. The size of the shots depends on the count; at 31 all five will deal 6 damage, though this doesn't guarantee a win, since the opponent can evade the attack as well. If after five rounds neither Digimon has been KO'd, this results in a tie. (If both Digimon have been KO'd this also results in a tie. Both of them get to attack before the round ends, and the game checks to see who's fallen between rounds.)

Digivice iC ~$30
The iC using its three-pronged connector to battle an original Digimon Mini.
The next option up in price is the Digivice iC (eBay affiliate), which has the advantage of being able to connect to a huge variety of Digimon virtual pets and Digivices; it can battle the Pendulum X, Accel, original Mini, and iC Burst. The iC has both a pronged connector and an infrared connector, the latter being used for battling other iCs and Bursts. It originally retailed for 3200 JPY in 2006, at the time about $27, and currently is selling for around $30 depending on which version you're looking at. The Digivice iC implements the Vaccine/Virus/Data attribute triangle first introduced by the Pendulum pets, and has at least one evolution line for each.
  • The 101 Orange ($67+ Amazon affiliate) and 102 Blue ($29.74 eBay affiliate) models all have the three primary lines from Digimon Savers, ending in Shine Greymon (Vaccine), Mirage Gaogamon (Data), and Rosemon (Data), along with a Numemon/Demon Virus line and miscellaneous alternate evolution for each level. There are also several hidden evolutions accessed by using special evolution items. The 101 model is easily the most expensive of the iCs because of its mascot value--it's used by Daimon Masaru in Savers, and the orange color is associated with Agumon. In general, the 101 and 102 are intended for fans of Savers' core trio, Masaru, Tohma, and Yoshino.
  • The 102 Black/Blue ($28.95 eBay affiliate) and 202 Black/Red (Currently unavailable) are based on Ikuto's and Satsuma's Digivices from Savers, and have their Digimon lines, Ravemon (Vaccine) and Sleipmon (Vaccine). It also has the Jumbo Gamemon (Data) line, based on Yushima's partner Kamemon, and the Demon Lord Barbamon as its Virus line.
The iC has much more diversity compared to the XW Mini due to incorporating the attribute triangle, and more connectivity options as well. It's more of a true virtual pet, though it is extremely easy to care for. It also has a built-in option to show you the silhouette of whatever Digimon your partner is currently set to evolve to, so you can see what you're on track for and change your methods of raising the Digimon if it's about to evolve into a Digimon you don't want.

On the iC, Digimon met their evolution requirements by being fed different types of Digisoul, obtained by doing a "Digisoul charge" by touching the connectors on top of the device to your hand. (You're supposed to need different types of plates to press down different parts of the connectors, but it's fairly easy to get different kinds of Digisoul by pressing down different connectors with your fingers.) You're in total control of your evolutions.

Like the Xros Wars Mini, the iC uses a button input "count" system to measure player skill, but this one is much more variable and runs from 0 to 90. Instead of needing to hit 31, the iC has a different value it looks for for each Digimon; i.e. you may need to hit 85 RPM for Jumbo Gamemon to score five terahits in a row, but to do the same with Chapmon need to hit 51 RPM, or 70 RPM for Shawujinmon. Some Digimon require rhythm to command, others require speed. The iC also has a built-in item system that allows you to further power up your Digimon prior to a battle by giving it an item. For single player gameplay, there's a sequence of three colosseums plus one hidden arena that all cost a certain amount of in-game points to enter, and which give out prizes after each round. The points that you win can then be spent on items in the shop.

One disadvantage to the iC is that there's much more Japanese in the menus. The XMini only has a single Japanese word in it (コノママ "This is enough," used to decline DigiXros, officially translated as "Maintain the status quo") with the rest of the menus being in English or using visual icons, but the iC has Japanese in its Digisoul, status, item, weapon, money, food, minigame, shop, battle, and colosseum menus. It's fairly easy to memorize where the icons are, but I would recommend at least learning to read the 46 katakana characters; there's a lot of English words on the iC that are written in phonetic Japanese, like "Digisoul," (デジソウル Dejisouru) or "Battle" (バトル Batoru). This device is also less portable than the XMini, being about the length of an adult's index finger, but some prefer the larger size because it's easier to press the buttons for the count system.

Quest-based Digivices
Digimon Neo $25~30
The Digimon Neo (eBay affiliate) is a Bandai Asia product based partially on the software of the original Digivice, though the battle system and several Digimon are new. It was first launched in 2006, and the price has stayed generally around $20 because of production continuing until at least 2009. Like the iC, the price of the Neo has been steadily climbing for some time now.

To progress through the single player mode, you shake the device up and down to reduce the step counter, gradually moving through seven areas with different random encounters in each. As you pick up Digivolve items, your Digimon gradually evolves to higher stages, which are time-limited and will eventually expire. Digimon have Life and Attack stats, which determine how many hits they can take, how much damage their shots do. There's also a Speed stat, but how it functions has not been documented. Each Digimon has five stages, beginning with Child, and unlike on most devices all of them have a seventh level evolution, which is either a Super Ultimate or Burst Mode for that Digimon. Each Digimon's semifinal and final stages are given in parentheses below.

Version 1 features classic Digimon from Adventure, including Agumon (War Greymon & Omegamon), Gabumon (Metal Garurumon & Omegamon), Patamon (Valkyrimon & Seraphimon), Tentomon (Heracle Kabuterimon & Raidenmon), and Gomamon (Vikemon & Plesiomon). The cover features Savers Agumon & Geo Greymon, though they aren't actually found in this version. The Neo Version 1 is geared towards tamers that prefer Digimon Adventure, and comes in blue + blue, ($23.31 eBay affiliate) blue + black, ($23.31 eBay affiliate) orange + black, ($25.30 eBay affiliate) and black + red. ($31.29 eBay affiliate)

Version 2 features Digimon from Savers, the 2006 Agumon (Shine Greymon & Burst Mode), Gaomon (Mirage Gaogamon & Burst Mode), Lalamon (Rosemon & Burst Mode), Kudamon (Sleipmon & Burst Mode), and Falcomon (Ravemon & Burst Mode). (Interestingly, this is the only product that actually features a Burst Mode for Sleipmon.) The Version 2 is instead directed at fans of Savers, and features somewhat reduced difficulty, requiring less steps to reach each boss. Version 2 comes in orange + red ($19.99 eBay affiliate, $20.98 eBay alternative if it sells out, next lowest on eBay are $23.99, and $29.40), dark blue + white ($33.88 eBay affiliate, $37.90 alternative), and gray + black ($33.88 eBay affiliate, next lowest on eBay are $35.99, or $37.90). There is also a red + black model that is not currently available anywhere.



The battle system on the Neo is mostly skill based; a bar rapidly fills up during your Digimon's turn, and you press the A button to stop it. The closer the bar is to the end when it stops, the larger the shot size you turn out, but if you press it too late the bar will have rolled over back to the beginning, weakening your shot. Neither Digimon can hit until the other one fails to make an equal to or stronger shot. The Neo uses a two-pronged connector, but which devices it's compatible with is poorly documented; Bandai Asia products are not guaranteed to connect with Japanese or American toys, but it is known that the Neo can connect to the D-Cyber and D-Spirit devices. If it has the Digital Monster ruleset programmed in, it should be compatible with all original Digital Monster pets, as well as Japanese and American Digivices, and the Pendulum series.

Fusion Loader ~$25
Your second cheapest option for a quest-based toy is the Asian Fusion Loader (eBay affiliate). This is not the Fusion Loader released in the United States, which is just a soundboard; this is its own product. This Fusion Loader has a pedometer function like the Neo, progressing through a series of areas and defeating bosses, but has the player build a virtual "deck" of Digimon recorded from accompanying cards and sounds, with each Digimon having its own summoning costs. The sprites are grayscale shaded versions of past Digivice sprites, rather than the color sprites used on the Japanese Xros Loader. However, because the Fusion Loader uses infrared to communicate, it is not compatible with any other devices.

For buying options, the red Fusion Loader (eBay affiliate) is available at $25.95, the blue Fusion Loader (eBay affiliate) at $25.95 (alternatively $26.24 eBay listing if the previous one sells out), and you can buy both of them together at $45.50 (or $46.49), slightly less than you'd pay to get them separately.

Why Do Digivices Cost so Much? 
Since 2009, the secondary market for Digimon toys has been struggling with price inflation and unstable markups. In 2008, original Digital Monster pets ran for $35; by 2011 these toys had escalated to $60. Initially these out of control prices ran both directions--a new Pendulum Progress 2.0 ran for $100 new-in-box around '08, under $40 in '11, and now $120 in 2015. Meanwhile Pendulums that ran for $50 in '08 began selling for $130+ in 2011, and in 2015 run for $100. As a result of the inflation and fluctuation of prices, at one time several veteran collectors on the With the Will trading forums expressed that they simply didn't know what anything should be priced at anymore. Currently the most noticeable development in the market is that Digivice Ver. 15ths, originally sold for just under $100 through the Premium Bandai web shop, jumped from $150 on web shops in March 2015 to $200/$250/$320 (eBay affiliates) by December. Why and how?

The root of the problem as it pertains to the entire franchise lies in Asia. Logistically, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and to a lesser degree Singapore are all able to effectively dictate these prices to outside consumers. Since 1996, these countries have been in extremely close proximity to Bandai's toy production factories in China, enabling them to easily access wholesale electronics from the company at very low prices compared to Japanese or western stores. In the long term this made the domestic acquisition of stock for web listings low effort and low cost, and by cooperatively saturating online shopping sites like eBay and Amazon with overpriced electronics, these sellers have been able to collectively persuade consumers around the world that these are the actual values of the items being sold. (This has had its own aftereffects in Japan, where prices on Yahoo Auctions have steadily ascended into the 7,000 yen range for loose Pendulums, and 10,000 for mint-in-box.) Moreover, almost none of these toys are actually rare. The Pendulum series had a mass reprint as the Pendulum Returns series in 2002, yet the virtual pets are priced indiscriminately regardless of whether they're part of the original 1999-2000 Pendulum run, or the '02 reprint. Sellers in Hong Kong aren't acquiring these products for hundreds of dollars, they're paying close to the original prices, buying up old stock at less than or equal to its original price range.

These drastic markups all derive from a single seller in 2009 listing original Deep Savers, Wind Guardians, Metal Empire, and Virus Busters Pendulums at between $90 and $200. Prior to this, most mint-in-box Digital Monster or Pendulum pets commonly sold for $30 to $50, and the number of sellers pricing these products at those points meant that no one could break the market for several years. In 2007 a Pendulum X 1.5 cost just $15.99, and until '09 these prices were on the decline, with PenXs going for $9.99. The markup trend that was set in '09 lead the Pendulum X series to rise to $150 by June 2011. As Japanese collectibles dealers have gotten into the Digivice market and observed the prices coming out of other Asian countries, they've jumped onto the same values, resulting in universal price inflation even in Japan, where PenXs now sell for as much as 65,000 yen (about $530 presently). $150 used to be a doomsday price, but tamers today laugh at that idea; the Pendulum X series presently ranks as one of the most expensive virtual pets ever internationally, listed by a handful of sellers at $280~$380 (eBay affiliates), second only to the likes of Magical Witches and some more limited Tamagotchi variants. The globalization of the secondary market means there is no easy fix for this.

The markup on the Ver. 15th is a direct consequence of this, but also of its limited print run, as Bandai only produced exactly as many Ver. 15ths as were preordered, making it a genuinely rare item. The major question facing the market right now is if the Digivice iC's price will inflate. The iC has stayed at around $20 to $25 for the better part of five years; but in 2014-15 only a handful of sellers control the sale of Digivice iCs , with prices climbing by $1 per every three-month period, into the $28-30 range. At the time of this writing there are just 29 of these $30 range iCs available on eBay, and once these stocks dry up, the next lowest available prices are on Amazon for just below $37 (Amazon affiliate, 102), $40 (Amazon affiliate, 201), and $68 (Amazon affiliate, 101). When those stocks are exhausted, a small host of Japanese sellers are waiting in the wings to take over the market with $60, $80, and $145 iCs, all from eBay.

It's something of a miracle that the iC has managed to stay so low for so long. In Japan the average price for an out-of-box iC is currently around 5,600 yen, and has been so for a few years now. The mint-in-box iCs that we've been paying $30 for run for around 10,000 yen on their side, approximately $80. But if the global market catches up to this trend, how far out of control will it spiral?

Note that there is at least one example of a device that is reasonably priced but has always been expensive. The Japanese Xros Loader is both a full color self-contained RPG-quest game and a functional MP3 player, and originally retailed for 7140 yen in 2010-12, about $71 (note that this was prior to the huge devaluing of the yen in 2013). For overseas buyers, after shipping this would be about $85. Stories of $45 Xros Loaders come from the aftershock of Xros Wars tanking in 2012, and the general unpopularity of the toy on web listings. International sellers were losing money on stocking the Xros Loader, and trying to get it out of their warehouses as quickly as possible, even at a potential 50% loss. At this time you can order a Japanese Xros Loader for $89.99 (eBay affiliate), which isn't a massive markup. But even the Xros Loader is seeing some attempts at pushing it further, with $110 threatening to become the new standard.

Auction Bait
So far we've only addressed Digivices that money "can" buy--so what are the ones it can't? You will almost never see the following Digimon toys for sale, and if you do it will be as part of a very expensive auction;

The gold Digimon Pendulum X is a special edition model of PenX that was distributed to the first and second place winners of the Jump Festa 2004 tournament, as well as to the winners of some smaller tournaments at Bandai's headquarters. Between ten and twenty of these exist, and the internal game architecture is identical to the version 1.0. Their value is hard to pin down--especially since a regular 1.0 sells for between $100 and $300.

The black Xros Loader is an either one-of-a-kind or two-of-a-kind special edition Xros Loader, distributed to the winner of the JF2011 D-Slinger tournament. It currently resides with its original owner, Makibishi (pseudonym), the organizer of the DIGIMADO tournament series.


9 comments:

  1. woah.. i should careful take care my mini 1 and 2 and vpet... that price so scary....

    ReplyDelete
  2. i hope the vpet ver.6 price will be next on your article :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Digital Monster Ver. 6, also known as "I give up, this hobby is stupid." http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bandai-Digimon-Vpet-VER-6-English-RARE-/221884445134?hash=item33a957f1ce%3Ag%3Az9AAAOSw37tV9XCd&nma=true&si=cZ7H2sAem2r6%252BJ7sNnbX5wXKWMg%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

      It's not *as* expensive as a PenX, but it sure does try to be.

      Delete
  3. BTW someone in japan who got CSA digivice seems found out tailmon warp shinka into holydramon aka magnadramon...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, she also evolved to Holydramon on the Ver. 15th. We also had confirmation of Vikemon being Gomamon's final stage from the 15th, before it appeared on the Decision/Determination poster.

      Delete
    2. yeah at first i think they will make ophanimon as mega evolve for tailmon (psp version)... they still stick with holydramon i guess...

      Delete
  4. Hi. Can you do more blog on this topic? About the digimon devices and toys etc

    ReplyDelete
  5. Digimon Neo has no original vpet rule built in it unlike other 2-pronged Digivices made by Bandai Asia so it has no connectivity with the original vpet or the Pendulum. But of course it can still battle with other 2-pronged Asian devices.

    ReplyDelete