Collector Editions… They are desirable, huge boxes containing so many goodies that the discs themselves get lost in it. Collector editions are aimed for the wealthy players or fans that are willing to go to the point of selling a kidney to get them. In this 2014 ultra-competitive market for video games, collector editions have multiplied in count. So is it becoming a scam or a real exclusivity?
In Japan, the business practices of the limited edition is a veritable institution. Whether through manga, anime, CDs, video games, stuffed animals, figurines from the animated series or animated films, everything is a pretext for acute collectors, toward an excessive accumulation. The otaku will constantly go race to special editions, numbered and the other more or less rare objects that will fill its collection shelves. Naturally, video games have long been the subject of this trend as well.
In the west, the phenomenon came largely later and quietly. Gamers had to wait for the 128-bit era for limited editions begin to get out of the import shops. It’s not until the PlayStation 2 era that we naturally think back on the duo of ICO/Shadow of the Colossus, and the Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3 pair. Other series got their own limited editions, such as Silent Hill as well. More recently, to celebrate 10 years of the Tomb Raider franchise, Eidos Interactive proposed a PlayStation 2 collector’s edition of Tomb Raider Anniversary containing three discs: the game, the original soundtrack, and a bonus disc compiling the best designs, trailers and other digital goods.
But unlike the Japanese limited editions, which generally offer a box worthy of the name, and an original collectible, the western editions are geared more toward DVD collector’s edition set that appeared in the early 2000s. This often resulted in a glorified cardboard package, a making of, and some commentary from the development team. It was a good way for the western gaming industry to expand, but nevertheless was light years away of Japanese’ trends.
The reluctance to export limited editions complete is hardly surprising. Most Japanese publishers have recently realized the strategic importance of the European market in terms of sales and opportunities. This late realization has not facilitated the arrival of attractive offers, despite a real demand from the European players. However, the Japanese market cannot be the prerogative of the global supply software, and fortunately, the U.S. publishers have taken the initiative to globalize their limited editions.
It mainly started with the Xbox team, and we all remember the very fine metallic limited edition of Halo 2, including a making-of and a wide range of bonuses – but also some efforts made for Jade Empire or Doom 3. The first Forza Motorsport, which was at the time the hoped destroyer of the Gran Turismo series, was also the subject of special edition with a making-of documentary and different exclusive in-game vehicles.
Nintendo’s limited editions have never really been brought to the region, and the Japanese giant preferred to deliver fans exclusive and limited items through its various websites. This way, there was no increase in price, but goodies and accessories needed constant renewal, and are redeemable with free points earned by registering your purchased – and eligible – games and consoles via the Nintendo Club.
Back in 2003, Nintendo even made the effort to release a limited edition of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker on GameCube, which contained a second disc, including the deified Ocarina of Time, and a slightly revised version of the same game which was the Master Quest. On the console front, the company was also in the process of catching up with DS, DSi, 3DS and 2DS models with subtle variations to its outside design, with an advertising strategy inspired by Apple’s iPhones.
It is ultimately only recently that publishers have stepped up its initiatives to provide European and western consumers with special editions. These are usually for the Christmas period as the pace of big releases accelerates abruptly starting from October.
Why? Because Collector’s Edition are an additional way to create a competitive advantage. But not only. Diversity of offerings and packaging is an effective mechanism to boost prices under the pretext of additional bonuses for a faster return on investment. With the generation of first HD consoles (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), the production of video games became larger projects, commonly compared to Hollywood blockbusters. A reality that required publishers to divert their costs on the core price of games, and to take further steps to sell well.
The Collector’s Edition also represent a significant segmentation tool, which allows to reach several targets at once. Some consumers, less fussy about the rates of regular player started needing additional requirements when looking for their game. This was done from a change of the aesthetics of the packaging, or the rarity of the object. The game itself became almost secondary to the act of purchase, and the limited edition trend, a way to differentiate it from its neighbor.
At the beginning of the Xbox 360 era, the console quickly became the platform of choice for collectors. It started with The Elders Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a collector’s edition containing an extra DVD filled with bonus waterlogged artworks and screenshots, making of upscale done by the company Thinkfilm , a replica of the title’s coins currency, Septim, a full 112-page book on the history of Tamriel and obviously a packaging fit for collectors.
At the same time, the first big blockbuster of the Xbox 360, which demonstrated the technical potential of the console, brilliantly moreover, could not land on the shelves without a collector’s edition. Gears of War was well rewarded for collectors, with a metallic box (or Steelbook as named promptly by the production company Scanavo), an art book, and a bonus DVD with a documentary called “Gears of War: The Race to E3 “. All these examples pushed publishers to quickly enter the race as with even limited edition of Viva Pinata, unmistakable with its neon packaging, and containing an episode of the Viva Pinata animated show, and a suite of Xbox Arcade demos.
Other productions have even received a trio of collectible edition, as if to emphasize their status imposing a big production. The most iconic one was probably the heavily mediatized launch of 2007’s Halo 3. The game was available in standard edition, a limited edition, and the “Legendary” edition. The limited edition with its steelbook, gave a range of bonuses, such as behind the scenes footage of the game, documentaries in high definition, as well as an audio-visual calibration tool.
As for the aptly Legendary edition, Microsoft went all out, with the game accompanied by an impressive replica of a Spartan helmet with a stand, two bonus DVD, allowing you to discover the history of the Halo’s lore. This ultra-limited and numbered edition is obviously not addressed to your typical gamers, as fans wishing to acquire the ultimate package had to cough up $130.
To get closer to the expectations of players, some companies have even conducted surveys, in the hope of providing content actually desired by consumers. This is the case of Irrational Games, who on the occasion of Bioshock’s release, has asked the players to choose which object they would prefer being offered with the game. What made in the box in the end was a Big Daddy figurine and other physical and digital collectibles. Another game to feature an imposing figure was the original Assassin’s Creed. Like Halo 3, the biggest production Ubisoft has made at that time, was released in three editions. The highest edition contained an imposing figure of Altair (about 7.5 cm high), a comic book penned by Penny Arcade, a strategic mini- guide and a making of documentary.
Later on, as we reached 2008 and the explosion of the so-called DLC controversy, some online retailers like Gamestop and EBGames have developed their own versions of games, including limited editions Steelbooks, or exclusive bonuses to download only if a preorder was done. The problem behind that was an additional cost that the customer would bear, without obtaining anything that is worthy of a collector, as they are produced and sold in thousands of copies.
Additional downloadable content has also created another type of abuse: limited editions that people paid a high price for upon the release of the game were quickly rendered obsolete when the “Game of the Year” version of the game was released. The Game of the Year edition was one of the concepts that were introduced alongside DLC and Bonuses to reboost the sales after yearly launch. It is rather easy to imagine the discomfort of the Batman: Arkham Asylum Limited Edition buyers back in 2009, when a year later, the GOTY version included the game remade in 3D, with two pairs of 3D glasses, and all released DLCs.
Finally, if the Japanese editions are generally better than those provided in Europe for the same price, it is already much more difficult to understand why different European countries do not have all the rights to the same packages. For example, the limited edition of Resident Evil 5 in France included the game, a steel case, a bonus DVD with the making of, and the trailer for the Resident Evil Afterlife movie. For the same price, British were entitled to the same content, plus a bag, a figurine, a patch and a necklace.
It would be unnecessary to mention all the limited editions that came out to date, but it should be noted how this phenomenon has grown in our latitudes in recent years. Strategically and financially, for prestige or for actual benefit, Collector’s Edition have now found a prominent place in a mass market that tries to seduce an ever wider clientele. If their overall impact on sales is not yet established, the most obvious purpose is that they meet a real demand, which should logically increase further this year 2014.