Deluxe Editions Must Be Earned, Game Publishers
Growing up, I wore out my Jurassic Park VHS tape. When the Jurassic Park trilogy came was released on Blu-ray, I bypassed the normal trilogy boxset in favor of the Ultimate Trilogy Gift Set, which included the trilogy of films and a silly statue of the T-Rex bursting through the iconic oversized wooden park gates, just like the T-Rex never does in the movie. I didn’t need that version, but my love and passion for the first film (and my moderate liking and almost complete indifference of the two sequels, respectively) compelled me to buy the one with the big, silly toy that I still haven’t found a place for in my home.
By purchasing the big, dumb box set, I was commemorating my long love for Jurassic Park and all of my cherished memories surrounding the franchise. I remember getting into an argument with my elementary school friend Darius over whether the dinosaurs in the film were real, flesh and blood animals resurrected specifically for the movie. At the time, I was the proud owner of not one but two books that chronicled the making of Jurassic Park. I knew my stuff. I knew they were brought to life through a mixture of animatronics and CGI. So I schooled Darius, making him look like a fool, especially after I brought the books to class one day (as I did most days) and rubbed cold, hard fact all up in his face.
In short, I am such a huge fan of Jurassic Park that I’m willing to buy every dumb re-issue of the films the studio releases, and this goes double for every shameless cash grab deluxe edition box set that includes the same movie I already have, plus some physical trinkets. Fandom knows no monetary bounds.
The current video game console generation has seen a similar trend of commemorative collector’s edition sets. You can pay the standard $60 for just the game in box, or you can fork over a sizable portion of your life savings for the game in a box, plus a statue, an art book, some, like, stickers or patches or some useless crap like that, and then maybe a redeemable code for future DLC or whatever other way publishers have devised to ensure their games come packed with revenue streams. As with movie box sets, these pricy sets serve a purpose: they cater to a series’ ultra-fans. They aren’t for the person whose going to breeze through the game and then shelve it for eternity. This is for the person who will stop and take in every vista, read the spine of every fake book on a bookshelf, collect every item, and leave no digital stone unturned because they never want to leave this world.
Typically, you see collector’s editions for sequels. The first game was such a success that it not only warranted a part two, but it created a fan base so rabid that some among them would be pissed if there weren’t a $120 version of the game that came with stuff to put on a shelf. Recently, though, there’s been a strange and troubling trend in the video game industry of non-sequel games getting the fancy collector’s edition treatment on the day they’re released. Without even a review being written about these games, the publishers are releasing box sets to commemorate how great the game is.
Watch Dogs, a much hyped game out later this year, is not the next in a series of games. It is the first in what one could only assume will be a new franchise. Yet, here’s the collector’s edition.
The Last of Us, a promising post-apocalyptic survival game from the creators of the Uncharted series, got a big, silly set of expensive thingies from day one, as well.
All are original, non-sequel games, and all publishers behind them had the arrogance to think their game was so good out of the gate, or will be so good, that they were going to treat their game as if it were a classic that has been bringing joy to millions of people for years.
This is like a rookie basketball player getting picked first overall in the NBA draft and, as he’s shaking commissioner David Stern’s hand for a photo op while accepting his new team’s jersey, he boldly and in all seriousness requests that he be placed in the Basketball Hall of Fame at that moment. It’s an act that takes a sizable amount of balls and an ocean of stupidity to perform.
That’s not to say that releasing an expensive collector’s edition is a game’s coronation, but it’s in the same family. What these publishers are trying to profit on so early in the game’s life cycle – before it’s even born – is hype. They aren’t trying to sell you on the legacy of a game but rather the potential legacy that the publishers assume their creation will have based solely on the excitement of commenters across various gaming blogs and positive words by gaming journalists who have seen tiny snippets of the game in action and don’t have too many negatives to report (yet).
It can be argued that this can apply to any game, including a sequel. But, for them most part, you know what you’re getting in a sequel to a massive critical and financial hit. Bioshock Infinite released a deluxe collector’s edition on launch day, but the Bioshock brand is well-known and well-trusted. There’s a greater chance of a game released by Irrational Games with the words Bioshock plastered on it being a success then a new, untested original IP from some other well-known studio or publisher. Plus, there’s already a Bioshock fan base. At that point it becomes more about the game’s (and to a lesser degree, the publisher’s) brand loyalty. Unlike movies, where you watch it in a theater before you ever have the chance to own it, with video games, the closest thing there is to getting hooked and then being willing to pay for a collector’s edition is with a sequel. Rarely do people buy a game, and then buy a more expensive version of it later.
A new franchise has to prove itself before we start handing out the video game equivalent of a gold medal. Before we start giving gamers the option to buy a big, ridiculous collector’s edition we should all come to a majority-rules agreement that the game is actually worth it.
This trend of a first in a franchise game getting a collector’s edition on day one is fairly new, but publishers should put an end to it before pissed-off gamers plunking down tons of cash for a fancy statue and an art book revolt when the much hyped game they believed would be a game-changer ends up a dud.