August 19, 2009

Video Game $pecial Editions: Why They Suck (Your Wallet Dry)

Shawn Lebert Says Today is a very good day, because a game you have waited months for has just hit store shelves. As the anticipation grows, you already had decided to dish over the extra dollars for the limited, ultra, mega-rare, six-disc collector’s set that’s only available at a specific store. You can’t wait to unwrap its mighty exterior as your fingers feverishly grip at the cardboard ends. Boy, this thing sure feels heavy. Not only did you reserve the $80 game, but it came with a ninja action figure of the main character – which does karate chop action, and the hero says five different lines from the video game! You decide to place him on an empty portion of your wooden shelf. The game’s disc is hastily fed into the tray as you prepare for the game’s main credits.

Whoa, whoa .. you just spent $80 on a video game, and for $20 extra, you spent it on an exclusive, silly action figure that apparently are “limited” in production? “Oh c’mon, it came with some sweet art booklet too!” Yeah, and you’re going to look at that, maybe, once? I suppose if you were one to have purchased such a legendary package, you care for the strong sentiments of a product, too, after the completion of the game. That’s understandable, if you knew the game was a masterpiece before purchasing it, and sadly, no one knows that.

Whatever your reason for purchasing such a thing, The Goozex Report is going to break down why special editions for video games exist and why they suck…your wallet dry.

The birth of special editions for video games sort of just started coming out of nowhere, most notably this generation. The most memorable ones being Halo 3 and Bioshock in its early stages. Who didn’t want to get their sweaty palms on a legendary edition of Halo 3? Came with a Spartan helmet nearly big enough for your own head. The design was wonderful and it was nearly lifelike. It was at least big enough for a cat’s head and we all know the turmoil that ensued on the Internet with countless cats from all over being abused and forced to wear the famous green helmet. The entire legendary package sold for a whopping, gargantuan of a price at $130. That’s 70 more dollars. More than the actual game is worth and people purchased them. They were selling like hotcakes, like massive Spartan helmet hotcakes.

Considering how much alone the Halo franchise has made over the years, making a humungous limited edition for it was inevitable and quite genius. Not only were millions of people purchasing the game alone, but also probably more than half of those were even picking up some sort of extra content for it, which adds more bucks to the power for Bungie in the long run, sending one big, proud hike upwards on that business chart. It was a goldmine to even suggest creating special editions for products.

Let’s not forget another legendary ultra limited edition pack that rivals with Halo 3’s price: Dead Space. Remember? There were only 1000 made at the price of $150. That comes with the game (don’t forget the game is only $60), special packaging, bonus content, the “Downfall” animated film, lithograph artwork, an art book, graphic novel, aaaand an Ishimura crew patch. Yikes. But not many were committed into putting down that much for a game that fell under the radar, unfortunately. Dead Space was great, but didn’t receive as much praise as it should have received initially. However, it’s come around and it’s made millions. The only unfortunate thing is that this ultra limited edition of Dead Space, I’m sure people would have, without a blink, spent on it, knowing it would be so good. Dead Space did have hype, but a lot of companies don’t invest in developing special editions until they know their franchise sells well. It’s a business and the game was a new invention, so putting a limited edition was somewhat of a risk. However, since there were only 1000 made, it didn’t create much of a crater in sales one way or another.

A lot of the creativity that took place into making special editions was quite unique for this generation, but the ideas for developing them did come from a different distributive area. Much of the moneymaking has to do with the notable distribution of movies on DVD. While special editions for hot games surfaced mostly this generation, special editions for movies have been around for years. Loosely inspired from the birth of such DVD special editions, came the same evolution into gaming. Countless number of DVD distributing companies hit the milk spot with limited editions, director cuts, etc. If you have a favorite movie that you keep investing dollars in, don’t be surprised when the next version comes out next year. The process is forever. And even recently with the arrival of Blu-Ray on the market, films are transferred to high definition the minute you read this. That won’t be the end of it either, as codenamed “ultra high definition” will be arriving in years. I’m pretty sure we’ve hit the double digits for Star Wars being milked.
The difference in gaming is that you won’t be receiving new special editions for year old games (there are a few exceptions for those Game of the Year Editions). By the time you open the package, you’ve made the company more than double the amount for each buyer, making a behemoth of sales. We’re not just talking about double either. If paying attention to the accurate sale prices up above that were stated, you’re doing nearly 225% for them.

Modern Warfare 2 has quite possibly the craziest special edition “Prestige” package, and it’ll be hitting the $150 mark, as well. The game comes in its hardened edition, which is in its steel casing and the bonus content, but get this, it comes with night-vision goggles. Real actual night-vision; we’re talking about quality here that you’d probably see out in the battlefield. Consider yourself part of the military now, friend. Has the special edition packaging gone too far? Apparently not, as the prestige edition is actually selling out.

So what makes going too far, going too far? Well, it’s up to the consumer. We create a bar, and if we exceed that bar, the price goes up on special editions. If we do not, perhaps that’s telling the business, “Hey, we’re in an economic struggle here!” But according to sales, that quote isn’t a reality.

According to some, developers are insisting that special editions are developed solely for the purpose of experimentation. Sure, they love the extra dough in sales, and I don’t doubt that, but it’s also a means to find how the consumer ticks and to see just how far someone is willing to buy something. When you think about it: Modern Warfare 2’s prestige edition doesn’t seem to odd considering all the other special game editions out there. One game’s ultimate edition is nearly the entire cost of one set of Rock Band game and instruments. Rock Band has the ability to play with an entire band, and up to four people, but some of these games still to this day do not utilize cooperative play and yet we still cough up a few hundred for a single player campaign.

Don’t disregard Rock Band and Guitar Hero sales, as those are huge sellers. What was once a simple music rhythm game has caused a gaming and musical revolution. This franchise of madness will forever remain as one of the most successful wonders in the biz, sprouting sequels left and right, creating an alternate universe for people who have hidden that inner rocker, and those who have been inspired so much, that they started a real musical instrument.

Special Editions are really just guilty pleasures. We don’t mind blowing an incredible amount of money on editions here and there, given that we have the conscious understanding that it’ll be valuable down the line. Maybe not in monetary value, but the personal value we feel after completion. At heart, we end up spending extra on the special editions simply because we’re geeks who need something physical in order to be reminded of the memories we gather through such an inspirational moment in our lives. Sure, we really don’t need them, but we want them. Who doesn’t want to have a souvenir for their purchase? Perhaps it is silly from time to time, but anyone who doesn’t focus too much on the dollar usually focuses a lot more on the value of collectibles, and how one grows attached to one thing and it inspires.

We love these special things and such special editions are here to stay for good. They could be outrageous in idea – Punch-Out!! comes with a boxing glove!? – to the memorable idea – Master Chief’s head on a mantle, sweet – but no matter what, these editions are around so that gamers like us can have something to remember by.