Collector’s Editions or Cash-ins?

It’s not exactly a new trend in gaming to offer the consumer an extra incentive when purchasing software — Nintendo’s ’Club Nintendo’ service offering redeemable points for every title they publish is a good example. However, a more recent emergence comes in the form of limited (or collector’s) editions. Many games now offer a more prestigious edition, featuring an art book, a collectible model, a shiny box, or any other such oddities. What is it about these extras that make gamers willing to part with more of their hard-earned cash? Of course, the most obvious answer would be the fact that they are indeed collectibles. Another view could be that the fans of a series wish to show their devotion to it by investing more in extras relevant to their interests. If this is the case, then surely it would seem odd that some would purchase a collector’s edition for a new IP? It’s not actually that strange if you consider it, however.

It’s easy to feel ’short changed’ when buying a standard edition of a game, even if the extras are all exclusively real-world. This is doubly so when a collector’s edition box for an online game is released – the rewards offered to those willing to invest a little more are often in-game. While these extras are usually solely cosmetic, for some players they can be utterly essential. When Guild Wars: Factions was released, it offered a collector’s edition for players willing to spend a little extra. Featured within this enhanced edition was, among other things, a code for an in-game miniature model of the dragon Kuunavang. As time has passed, the worth of this item has only risen. As more players sign-up and join in, the ratio of these miniatures goes down and so, for the collector among us, these items can be worth a lot.

Assassin’s Creed featured a collector’s edition, too. Two of the extras included were a figure of the game’s protagonist, Altair, and a bonus DVD featuring (among other things) trailers, interviews and artwork. It’s hard to gauge what was more valuable in the eyes of the consumer between a limited edition figure or a DVD with making-of bonus material. A cynic would of course point out that the value of the Altair figure may soon outstrip the worth of the box itself, but some would also argue that many would enjoy the insight into the development of the game they so eagerly purchased. It may be the case, however, that the gamer buying the collector’s edition simply wanted to get the ’full package’.

What is perhaps most interesting, however, is the possibilities offered to developers and publishers alike by the emergence of these limited editions. The most obvious advantage would be more profit and a cynic would be quick to point this out. It also offers the chance to give something back to your fans, bolstering their support and giving them a sense of appreciation. These days, with the more prolific nature of games development and the importance of the Internet and the possibilities for communities that it opens, a strong link between consumers and developers is more essential than ever and offering extras to the players willing to go the extra mile is a good way to do establish this link. It is, of course, a double-edged sword in some cases: some players may end up feeling short-changed, unhappy that people who were prepared (or indeed, able) to spend more of their money received additional materials and this can create tension between developer and fanbase.

The offering of a collector’s edition alongside a cheaper, standard edition begs the question, "Are videogames finally becoming mainstream enough that consumers are willing to invest more?" DVDs and Blu-Ray movies have been offering special editions long before it became commonplace in gaming to do the same, so maybe this is yet another indication that games are still bridging the ever-narrowing gap between interactive entertainment and film. If this is the case, then perhaps collector’s editions are more significant than most originally gave them credit for.

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