Stopping Taking Fans For Granted
In my latest edition of “You Know What Sucks…” series of articles, I wanted to bitch about the lack of effort put forth regarding “bonus” editions of games. Whether it is a “limited edition,” “collector’s edition,” or even a “launch edition,” many of these unique versions of games are putting forth the minimum effort to make it seem like you, the consumer and fan, is getting something special. In short, I think these special editions need to be better.
After years of publishers trying to entice gamers into giving them their money before they even have to deliver a product, I realized something – I hate artbooks and soundtrack CDs. While I can say that I can appreciate these items, I can’t help but feel they are taking the easy way out. Let’s look at the artbook, for example. The creators put all their art assets into the game and the player will experience them in real time. For these developers to simply repurpose their art into bound paper is not exactly the most exciting to me. If the art in the book was something NOT found in-game, then that might be a little different story, like a side story comic or something. But putting reused assets on paper is essentially selling out. Besides, you’ll probably breeze through the artbook once, and then have it sit in a closet somewhere.
Now let’s think about including the game’s soundtrack as either a CD or a download code. First, no one owns CD players anymore making this pretty much pointless. Secondly, if I find the motivation to type in a 25-character download code, after making some new account in which my inbox will be spammed to high hell, I am mostly confident that I will never listen to the soundtrack for fun while I am in my car or running on the treadmill. I love game music just as much as the next guy but I will listen to the radio when I am in my car and I will listen to the music the developers wanted me to hear while I am playing their game. And like the art books, sound track CDs are just reused assets. Most games that have killer soundtracks have a sound test option in the main menu anyway.
Let’s look at some examples, some recent releases, of games that received a “special” edition of some kind.
Metroid Samus Returns was recently released on the 3DS in both a standard edition for $39.99 and a limited edition for $49.99. This Nintendo published LE was bundled with a soundtrack CD… and that was it, nothing else, just a CD. Physically, the CD looks cool as it is in the shape of the Samus “S” logo but is it worth the $10 extra dollars? If I really wanted it, I could download it from the internet the day the game is released. There is no denying that Samus Returns is a quality game (I hundred percented it myself) but paying an extra $10 just a disc I will never listen to isn’t worth it, cool look and all, especially I could just steal it from the internet if I drummed up enough motivation.
The uPComing Xenoblade Chronicles 2 on Nintendo Switch is another great example of a special edition that is a copout. For $100, $40 more additional dollars over the standard retail game’s price, the buyer will get an artbook, a sound selection CD, and the game inside a metal game case. This bundle proves my point exactly. An artbook? Yawn. A sound “selection” CD that only contains a portion of the game’s soundtrack? Pretty much pointless. A metal case? Sure, again, it looks cool, but is it worth a couple additional Jacksons? I strongly vote no. Let’s take this one step further. Publishers are asking fans to plunk down a 100-spot on a game they have not played and are hoping will contain a high entertainment value. Will Xenoblade 2 be as good or better than the original, or will we get another Xenoblade Chronicles X, I title that has been universally panned as an inferior game? That sure would suck not only spend the extra cash for lame extras let alone a game that isn’t good. This can be referred to as a “double whammy.”
While these are only two examples, there are many more LE versions like this. On the other hand, let’s look at some quality special editions that go the extra mile to please fans, why they are different, and why they are better.
Here is a simple example to start. River City Toyko Rumble is not only a fantastic 3DS title, Natsume gave something extra to fans to show their appreciation for pre-ordering the game – a keychain. It is just a keychain. That you are supposed to put on your keys. To make them easier to find. A dumb, stupid keychain. Will I even put this on my keys like I am supposed to? No. But you know what? I actually very, very much prefer a keychain, especially a quality one like this, over a CD or artbook. The best part, this keychain was included with physical purchases on the game, aka, special launch edition copies. Natsume said to fans “hey, thanks fans for supporting this long lost series we are trying to bring back so we wanted to give you a little something extra,” by bundling a keychain with their game. The cost of the game was still priced like any other retail 3DS game. While I love the art style of these Kunio games and think the music is also of high quality, I would scoffed if there was an artbook or audio disc involved.
After a year of delays, South Park The Fractured But Whole finally hit store shelves this October. A game that takes this long to develop should have some kind of special limited edition and luckily Ubisoft hit some right notes here. There were actually a few different offerings of special editions, some split between physical and digital releases. The most expensive being the $130 Collector’s Gold Edition that included a physical copy of the game, the season pass, a bonus starting perk, physical lithographic post cards, a six-inch replica figure of “The Coon,” and other in-game bonus content. For $130, you do get a lot. At the same time, pre-orderers were rewarded handsomely by receiving a download code for the original game, The Stick of Truth, as well as some of the in-game bonus Towelie stuff. Receiving a game for buying another game is one of the nicest perks I think gamers can receive. Worst case scenario, you already own the digital version of the Stick of Truth. Fine, then try to sell it on eBay for a few bucks or give it to your friend. Either way, I still much prefer a free game when buying a game especially for no added cost. Well done.
As another quick example, early buyers of Bayonetta 2 were treated to a physical disc, a port of Bayonetta 1, on Wii U. Another example of a game for a game. Komani also released an absolute killer pre-order bonus when buyers bought Castlevania Portrait of Ruin on the original DS back in the mid-2000s. This Castlevania pre-order, in my opinion, has to be one of the best pre-order bonuses of all time. Unfortunately, these are exceptions as opposed to the norm.
Another good example of special editions is pretty much anything by Atlus. Atlus understands they have die-hard fans and release some kind of special edition for most games they release nowadays. In fact, it is more rare for Atlus to not publish a special edition of a new game. For example, Odin Sphere came bundled with a t-shirt. Persona 5 had a logoed school bag. Persona Q included tarot cards. P4A featured a Teddie bop bag. Stella Glow came with a cloth poster and a special charm. SMTIV Apocalypse had a metal emblem set. The Caligula Effect also included a Vita theme, avatars, and unique DLC. Limited copies of Knights in the Nightmare included a download code for Yggdra Union on PSP. The list goes on and on with Atlus as they consistently do it right. Their games are also usually good and retain their value, if not increase in price over time. If you want some cool bonuses, Atlus always gets the gold star.
Nifty limit editions can be traced back decades but Working Designs, R.I.P., made a name for themselves by releasing some quality titles back in the late 90s. One of the most well-known releases was Lunar Silver Star Story Complete on the PS1. In addition to two game discs, the limited collector’s edition was also bundled with a hardcover instruction manual, a soundtrack CD (back when CDs were actually a thing people cared about), a “making of” disc, and a cloth map of the Lunar world, all priced at $60. Lunar’s sequel, Eternal Blue, also received the royal treatment by including mini standees of the character roster. These bonuses go the extra mile and for little to no price increase.
Sometimes extras are even bigger than the game themselves. For example, look at Zone of the Enders on PS2. It was bundled with a demo disc of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Back in these days, there were no downloadable demos, so the only way to play this preview was to buy ZOE. Although ZOE is actually not a bad game, gamers bought this unknown title just to play the demo. The Halo 3 beta was also only available to Crackdown buyers, causing sales of this game to increase. It is a shame that more developers and publisher don’t create more strong, long lasting opportunities like this.
There are easily a dozen more examples I could mention here but hopefully you see my point; less CDs and artbooks, more unique physical or even digitally included items. I want something to reward my fandom and loyalty and reusing art assets just don’t do that. Hopefully publishers will take the one extra step to take a look at their games, see an opportunity to please fans, and take it. Now if you’ll excuse me, there is probably a season pass or a micro-transaction I need to go buy…
Let me know your thoughts in the comment below. Do you hate artbooks and soundtrack discs as much as I do? What are some of your favorite limited edition version of games? What about pre-order bonuses?