Collector’s editions can be a mixed bag these days offering all sorts of things that can vary wildly in quality. The collector’s edition has become somewhat of a necessity to the modern game publisher due to the rise of used game sales, piracy, and rental stores and services. John Q. Public figured out ages ago that not every game is going to deliver the $60 of value that he’s paying for. The problem with this is that it’s being taken too far with people exclusively using those methods to get games regardless of whether the game is bargain bin filler or the well reviewed magnum opus of a highly funded game studio. Game making is expensive which means publishers have had to find some new ways to entice gamers to buy games new and that is where the collector’s edition comes in.
There are a few different strategies that have been implemented well by certain companies with key features being well priced, not hurting the consumer, and/or having high quality extra content included. A great example is EA’s new “Project Ten Dollar” program; while this is not strictly a collector’s edition strategy it is a strategy for getting people to buy games new. EA has been releasing games new with codes in them for extra content which are normally extra missions, weapons, armor, and sometimes online access. These codes are one use codes that only the person who bought the game can benefit from which entices people to buy the games new so they can see this content rather than get it used and miss out. The beauty of this plan is that the extra content is not essential to the game at all and is available for purchase in a digital download format. This means that the person who buys the game used doesn’t have to worry about missing anything important but still has the opportunity to see that extra stuff if they really want to. This plan encapsulates everything that a good collector’s edition should have and should be seen as the model for how other companies should do it.
The only thing missing from “Project Ten Dollar” is an extra piece of physical content, DLC is fine and dandy but it’s gaudy merchandise that gamers can display that really sells. The problem with physical items is that not only do they raise the price of game but are notorious for being of dubious quality. One of last year’s greatest games is unfortunately guilty of this sin. Batman: Arkham Asylum offered gamers a real life Batarang with the collector’s edition and everybody got geared up for it but was then disappointed. The problem is that it was made of flimsy plastic and was glued to a stand. While it was probably a smart idea to put them on stand (nothing like a lawsuit over someone with Batarang stuck in their face to ruin a good thing), why make them out of plastic? The collector’s edition already cost a bunch extra so they could have used metal which would have made it a great display item instead of tacky and cheap looking.
One game that got the physical item right is God of War 3. The item in question is a replica of Pandora’s Box which is a major item in the series. It’s of decent quality, is very detailed, and even opens in the same way it does in-game making it the perfect piece of swag. In fact I would say the God of War 3 collector’s edition is perfect if it wasn’t for one major flaw which actually drove me to write this whole article and that is the delivery method for some of the extra content.
The God of War collector’s edition is packed to the brim with extra stuff including soundtracks, a feature-length documentary on the mythology upon which the game is based, and extra in-game content however it was all delivered digitally. The movie and in-game content came easy enough via the Playstation store and is all redownloadable through my account if needed however the soundtracks were not so easy.
In order to download the soundtracks you had to go to a special website and then sign in with your PSN id which sounds easy enough, right? Well when you arrive at the site it doesn’t prompt you to sign in and it’s sign in icon doesn’t jump off the page, no big deal though I can live with that. Well once you’ve signed in (which took forever due to Sony being ill-prepared for the server overload of everyone downloading their music on day one) you are prompted to enter your code then after another eternity long wait you are given download links for your soundtracks. Here is where things go from annoyance to aggravation; my downloads were corrupted due to the server overload and I had to redownload the music files, I go through all the steps again and get to where the download links should be and it tells me my code has already been used and I can’t anyway to redownload the files. Now I understand these are one use codes but if you’re going to make me go through the trouble of signing in to my PSN id before downloading the files I should be allowed to redownload them as long as I’m still signed to my PSN id. Instead I was forced to deal with Sony’s notoriously bad customer service department in order to get code renewed so it could be used again a whole three days later.
That is my rant over and done with but I’m left with one lingering question, why weren’t they just on CD’s? I can understand wanting to prevent piracy by not letting anyone redownload the soundtracks (regardless of the shortsightedness of that plan as not everyone backs up every file they ever download) and I can understand there might have been cost restrictions but in this case there is no justification for not having CD’s. The collector’s edition already cost twice the price of the standard edition which means more than enough profit per box to afford a few physical CD’s in there, which despite the fact the consumer will probably put them on their computer anyways at least they can then be a display item. Even if their intent was to be cutting edge by having you download the music then you’d think day one technological preparedness or at least a contingency plan would be there, instead we got a confusing download site that felt thrown together the day before. This should be a lesson to other publishers of exactly how not to do digital content.
We have discussed what makes a collector’s edition worth getting and what makes them a waste. I’m all for supporting game developers by buying new when they offer some good incentive to do so, it helps the industry and feeds the packrat that lives in every gamer. All that said though if you sell me a turd it doesn’t matter who I was supporting I’ll buy used next time.