It never fails; a big game is on the way, heavily promoted by the publisher and the media. But wait, instead of dishing out the already steep sixty dollars for the game itself, why not spend a hundred dollars or more to get a few extra useless paraphernalia, or some mediocre in-game exclusives. Take Skyrim's hefty box as a prime example—a hundred and fifty dollars (half the cost of a console, mind you) for a dragon statuette that will stare at you despairingly as it collects dust, an art book you'll flip through once then use as a mouse pad, and a cloth map probably better served as a cleanup towel.
Granted, nobody is obligated to buy into the upsale, but for those diehard fans of the game or series, is it really worth the extra chunk of change? If you're crying out, "Yes!" right now, then let me ask you why you need those extra collector's edition gifts right away. Is it for bragging rights, so you can flaunt your exclusive prizes in front of your friends who've only purchased the base game? Most could care less about your toys—they're still playing the same game—and now you've been demoted to the sucker of the group.
Others consider themselves collectors, or want the items for personal satisfaction, but there's a smarter way to get them. Looking at Skyrim again, that same hundred-and-fifty-dollar bundle can now be found for as low as eighty dollars, only three months after the game's launch. So instead of pouncing at the dragon as soon as it hatched from the egg, you could have just bought the game at launch, waited a couple months, then bought the collector's edition and still have paid less altogether. And now you have an extra copy of the game to either sell cheap to a friend who's still on the fence about the game purchase, or even give the extra copy away, potentially finagling an IOU in the process.
We also can't forget how particular gamers are about their collector's editions. Some of us like those nifty tangible items to stare at when we plop down to play, others like the extra in-game perks, and some like a little of both. So why do the strings have to be tied so tight? What would be absolutely ideal (granted, it'll likely never happen), would be a sort of create-your-own collector's edition. Start with the game itself, and then have an assortment or collectables or in-game items to choose from. Put a price point on the individual extras and let us make our special edition as big or small as we like. It's strategically smart from a business perspective because the biggest fans will likely still dish out more to have everything, but at least everyone would get what they'd want, and we'd all be happy.
Of course, the final group of collector's edition go-getters are looking to make a profit, caring nothing about the personal value of the items, only turning right around and selling the extra pack-ins on eBay. It may prove fruitful, but not for many sellers, since gamers are getting smart to the idea that retail prices of the bundles drop quickly, and they'd do best to wait and have their own freshly wrapped, untouched collectables.
The fact is, collector's editions will always be around, because there will always be an audience of hungry supporters or savvy resellers who purchase the boxed sets for their own inscrutable purposes. But the feedback between developer and consumer is always lacking. If a real forum were opened and popularized to ask what we really want for our extra money before the launch, maybe we'd finally be able to have a legitimate collector's edition that makes everyone happy. In fact, maybe I'll start that forum myself...
Nah, I'll just go play my game now.
Date: February 27, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*