Having recently watched popular YouTube game critic Jim Sterling’s latest video discussing ‘confusopoly’, talking about how publishers such as Ubisoft and EA pile dozens upon dozens of ‘Collector’s Editions’ onto consumers, I got to looking at my own collection of items, and thought “Am I really happy with this?”
With Kingdom Hearts 3 having just released, as many of my fellow coworkers in Respawning would know, I splashed out over £200 for the Bring Arts edition of the game, which came with a 30-something page artbook, pin, some stickers and three small figures of Sora, Donald and Goofy in their toy forms – What I got, however, was by no means worth the £200 I paid. These figures were badly molded, badly painted and were so loose in terms of articulation that I nearly lost Donald’s foot just by moving him from the coffee table to the display cabinet. Yikes.
So after this disappointing excuse of a collector’s edition, I decided to do some digging – Other collector’s editions that I owned fared similarly; poorly molded figures, statues and memorabilia layered all over my shelves, from Ni No Kuni 2’s disappointing music box (The full package now having gone down from around £120 to a measly £50 on eBay), Sonic Mania’s cool, but cheap Sonic statue (Again, down from around £80-90 to £40), and even Destiny 2’s Collector’s Edition having been reduced from around £190 to a meager £70 – Many of these have a lot in common; they either offer small artbooks or little gimmicks, such as vinyl soundtrack selections, cheap figures or statues, or paltry offerings for the price point advertised – That, or they’re over marketed to the point where they just become downright confusing to know what it is you’re actually buying.
Don’t believe the general consensus? Let’s take a look back at one of Ubisoft’s most egregious bastardisations of the pre-order system: Watch Dogs.
Ouch. The above table, courtesy of Wikipedia and sourced by Kotaku, shows you the story. 9 pre-order editions, with 22 – read it; 22 – unique benefits and bonuses with no tier that has absolutely everything. So, what did your hard-earned money invest in at the highest tier? Well, you got a plastic figure… And 4 pieces of DLC… And some AR cards, a map, a Steelbook, and some badges… All for the low, low price of $119.99 (£92.63) – Now retailing on eBay for as little as a tenner, and on GAME for £25. Show these trends to a stock investor and their poor heart would leap out of their chest in horror!
As it stands, it’s easy to blame Watch Dogs for originating this farce; back before these times we had a simple sort of hierarchy when it came to pre-orders – You had your base editions, your ‘limited’ editions with a Season Pass or steelbook, and a ‘collectors’ edition such as Halo Reach’s Noble Team statue, or Modern Warfare 2’s Night Vision Goggles – These were high quality, and, in cases like the MW2 Night Vision Goggles and BO1 RC-XD, usable as well; they were pieces of pride created by the publisher to truly celebrate the franchises they belonged to, but, in an expected twist, the concept is all but bastardised now in an effort to squeeze more money out of your wallet.
Exclusive retailer rewards, exclusive bundle rewards, geographical rewards, microtransaction rewards, early play access, EXP boosters, and shoddily cobbled together tat instead of cool things you could show off and go ‘Yeah, I got that’. Don’t even get me started on food promotions – We’ve gone from the days of buying Halo 3’s collector’s edition, which featured a fully molded and comfortable Master Chief helmet, fit with a display stand, steelbook and artbook to mostly purely cosmetic items and flimsy crap – Reaching back to the start of this piece, I do regret my purchase of the Kingdom Hearts 3 Bring Arts edition, purely because those figures included are so bad. I don’t actually think there’s been a limited edition I’ve purchased over the last year or even more that’s truly ‘wowed’ me, and it’s a damn shame, not only as a casual collector, but also as someone who just likes cool shit. I can’t justify buying these crappy excuses of ‘loving tributes for the fans’ any more simply because they aren’t tributes. They’re cash grabs! I can’t even justify getting them as a sort of material investment as these editions are so volatile in their prices that, by the month’s end, they’ll likely crash to just above market value for the base editions. These editions no longer add any value to my collection, and simply take space on a lonely old shelf where they rot. Much unlike that jar of mayo you forgot to clear out at the back of your cupboards. Utter trash.
Publishers. Please. Stop being like Anthem and provide us with worthwhile collector’s editions and simple pre-order bonuses. By confusing your consumers you’re simply driving them further away – Yes, they may cave in and just go for the priciest edition, but I bet you – I fucking bet you – that you’ll be pushing away far more people and making them default to the cheapest version as a result.