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Noddy's Guide to Importing

Article - one of the best ways to stay ahead of the third place

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

With Christmas approaching, those of us who count ourselves amongst the hardcore are forced look to the Far East and States to satisfy our gaming desires. There are many domestic releases for the PlayStation 2 here in Europe, but many of them suffer from borders and other issues. With competing consoles from Nintendo and Microsoft already available in the States and plenty of top quality PS2 titles us Europeons won't be offered until well into next year, this could be our last chance to get hold of something to silence that damned turkey over the festive period.

A Golden Land

In my younger and more vulnerable days, I came across the so-called six-month rule. It goes, thus: you cannot and will not ever wait six months for anything. This is applicable to everything, including the noble art of importing consoles, computer and video games from the USA and Japan. If the GameCube is due out on September 14th in Japan, you will have one without waiting until next May to see it. The problem is, once you've decided to import something, you have to find a place to do it. If your High Street is particularly well stocked with gaming cheer, you may have local Electronics Boutique, Game, HMV, Dixons and Computer Exchange branches, along with all manner of independent stores. You can cross the first three off your list immediately, as they don't sell imports except under special circumstances Computer Exchange is a well-known retailer of just about anything computer or console, and they often get new games in first. Frankly, if you want something sooner rather than a week later and you don't mind paying a premium for the pleasure, a copy of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 for GameCube can be had for £64.99 while other games are available for prices reaching £79.99. Imports are big business for CEX, mostly thanks to impulsive buyers. If you're determined to be a smart importer though, you will look to the web.


Before you head out to sea, you should look a little closer to home. Madeira Games are often as zealously over-priced as Computer Exchange but they offer a broad selection of delectable gaming goodies, with recent additions including the Xbox and GameCube, along with big hitting titles for the American PS2. And although they don't sell games, Divineo has peripherals and toys for a wide variety of systems. Stateside, the leaders are probably National Console Support and TRONIX. TRONIX have a questionable website, but their catalogue is quite delightful, with big name games going for as little as $40. No GameCubes or Xboxes yet though. Meanwhile National Console Support don't seem to recognize the Xbox as a console at all, but they do have a massive stock of American and Japanese games, and will happily send them anywhere. Highlights include re-released PSX RPGs like Chrono Cross for less than $30. If Japanese releases float your boat, Lik-Sang is the place to go. A Hong Kong-based web retailer with all manner of games, consoles and other gadgets, their website showcases some excellent offers, including GameCube bundles for less than £350. Lik-Sang achieved legendary status in the home of this writer when a GameCube was successfully sent and received within a period of three days from its release, including a weekend. If you're not satisfied with those choices though, one recent upstart is Canadian compnay, who have Xboxes for less than £300 and GameCubes for less than £200. Amazing prices, but some question their shipping. They are established, having been around for as long as anybody wanted DVDs, but shipping is a big topic…

Hidden Extras

The problem is, while it may sound like a good buy at the time, you will probably pay a lot beyond the asking price to get a console or game from overseas. You may have to cough up £15 for special shipping options, even before Customs have had their wicked way with your package and probably forced your courier to pay sales taxes, handling charges and other duties, leaving you to foot the bill. To lessen the blow, you could try asking a friend in the States to help you out by buying and mailing the order as a gift. This is a generally recognized technique, although obviously we can't condone it. Despite this some retailers actually offer to do it for you now. Enquire at your peril. Europeans have a more interesting view of it, because while VAT equivalents exist in other countries, they are often lower than our Conservative 17.5%. So if you buy from a UK importer, you might pay a much lower figure. If you choose to buy from a local retailer, you escape this tax problem. This is one reason why it can look like you are paying more in the short term, when in fact you may be coming out even. That said, if you buy a lot of things at once or buy small things, shipping and taxes may not work against you on such a grand scale. After all, a package labelled 'Game CDs' may seem to contain only one or two while actually harbouring as many as six or seven.

The Final Countdown

Our top tip for importing consoles? Let somebody else try it first, and then see how badly he or she gets stung. At the end of the day though, you shouldn't pay a premium to be first; it's a privilege only for as long as it lasts, whether you enjoyed the time or not. It needs to last a good six months.

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