Game Authentication and Grading: Here to stay or passing fad? An interview with WATA Games Co-founder Kenneth Thrower

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Collecting is something that is inherent in almost everyone. Heck, even back in the stone-age there is evidence that man collected resources. Sure, with today’s modern conveniences we have been allowed to offload our survival instinct to collect resources and collect things that bring us joy, often in the form of nostalgia. I recently connected with Kenneth Thrower, co-founder and chief grader at Wata Games. Wata Games is a growing and industry-leading video game grading and authentication service for collectors.  During my hour-long chat with Kenneth I learned, laughed and could feel the passion he has for the growing hobby of video game collecting. I learned that Wata Games was not just a cash grab by investors looking to make a quick buck, but rather founded by two friends who shared a common interest.

WATA sealed gamesA small company operating out of Denver, Co that was founded by Kenneth Thrower and Deniz Kahn has quickly become synonymous with the growing market of video game collecting. I was informed that on average, WATA grades anywhere from 200-300 games a day.  To start, I inquired about how they came up with the name, WATA Games.  I also got a sense of what lead to the creation of WATA Games, the benefits and need for an authentication service, how they stand out from competitors in the marketplace, the grading process, and many other subjects. To listen to the entirety of the unedited conversation, check out our Youtube channel, here.

I first asked Kenneth how they came up with the name, WATA GAMES. I had previously assumed it was some sort of acronym. I was wrong. Kenneth was quick to inform me it was based on the following Bruce Lee Quote. “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. Now if you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. Put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or creep or drip or crash. Be water, my friend.”Wata Games at convention

So, WATA is actually just a play on Mr. Lee’s accent. I found this indicative of the passion and playfulness that makes up the culture of the company that has ten employees. They simply want to be able to adapt to meet the needs of their customers. Kenneth went on to tell me that he and Deniz first decided to create an authentication and grading company while at an annual camp out that was put on by the now-defunct, (in 2019 Nintendo Age was acquired by GoCollect). They originally called themselves One Up Grading, but quickly realized that name was extremely generic and fraught with trademark and intellectual property rights issues.

After establishing who they were, I wanted to know why they even felt the need to exist; companies such as CGA had existed long before them? Was there a need for another authentication service? In short, according to Kenneth, yes. According to Kenneth who originally got his experience in collecting with coins, a passion he learned from his father; it is needed to legitimize and build trust amongst a collecting community. Major collecting hobbies have had these types of services for ages.

WATA Games feels that game collecting has reached a point to need authentication and grading. Kenneth explained that their service helps level the playing field, reduces the prevalence of fakes or doctored items and builds trust amongst the hobby. They aim to help mitigate risk and foster trust between buyers and sellers especially when it comes to online transactions. Kenneth explained that they are the only authenticator that will grade games in states other than sealed, in-box. They will grade not only open, complete in-box items, but individual carts as well. This is a huge change in this industry. WATA Games estimates that sealed games account for just a measly 1% of all game collecting.

If you would like to learn more about the services provided by WATA Games I would highly recommend you check out their website. It does a phenomenal job walking you through their high tech, paperless process than I could. I surely do not want to omit anything or do a disservice trying to paraphrase their site. Kenneth explained they use some of the most sophisticated and high tech security measures to make sure items are accounted for and tamper-proof. Kenneth jokingly stated their authentication and security methods are more secure than what is currently implemented by the U.S. Treasury. These precautions have gained them the trust of industry-leading auction houses such as Heritage Auctions, who now uses WATA as their exclusive authentication and grading provider for video games.

Collecting video games is not new, but certainly has been gaining attention, especially in light of a sealed Super Mario Bros. selling at auction for $100,150. I asked Kenneth what his thoughts were concerning the idea of WATA Games creating a speculative bubble. His counter-argument to those who say this is they felt the hobby had grown to a point to need this service to help it realize it’s potential. Please be sure to check out the entirety of the interview here, for more in-depth discussion.

I cannot thank WATA Games and Kenneth enough for agreeing to speak with us. I have always been curious to learn more about video game authentication and grading. The Sealed WATA gamespassion Kenneth has for game collecting came through during the entire duration of our chat. The photos used in this article were generously provided by Mr. Thrower himself. I consider WATA Games a friend of Nerd Jock Blog and have no reservations in recommending their service. To emphasize this point, I will be sending in a game in for authentication so I can review the service firsthand. I will be sending in a sealed copy of NBA Jam TE for Sega Genesis. Follow back up in the near future to see our thoughts! Also, if you’d like to learn more about WATA Games or the hobby in general check out their blog, here. Their most recent post features an in-depth look black box NES titles.

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