Special Editions – A Collector’s Lament

May 3, 2013

After the breakneck pace of the news in the last few weeks, the past seven days has seemed a bit like a vacuum in the gaming world, with the obvious exception of those three little GTA V trailers, of course! I suppose you could count a new Call of Duty announcement as news, but then I’d also have to email the BBC and tell them that I expect the sun to rise tomorrow morning, and set in the evening. So, I’ve decided to take a lighter look at one of my particular vices this week instead.

I’ve been into games for as long as I can remember, way back to 3 or 4, sitting on the carpet in our living room and playing Mr Puniverse on our C16. Cut to over 20 years later and I’m sat with an unnerving amount of consoles surrounding my TV, ranging from a Master System to a full quota of current-gen systems. Engulfing even more space than these are the stacks of games that fill the shelves and cupboards. However, take a closer look and you’ll find another, smaller, collection. A collection that contains a cleverly designed box that opens by sliding a logo. A still-in-the-bag T Shirt. And the figurines. My GOD the figurines. I am, of course, talking about an ever-expanding number of collector’s editions.

I don’t know when it started, but I have always been intrigued by the concept of collectors’ editions. Whether it’s some crazy psychological hangover from playing Pokemon Blue for 12+ hours straight on a school trip and being encouraged to “catch ‘em all”, or whether it’s just “because I like having cool stuff”, the lure of a limited/collector’s edition of a game is sometimes a bit too strong for me.

GTA IV CEThe first “true” CE that I remember buying myself was Grand Theft Auto IV. I was in my first full-time job, and when I saw that it would launch with all of this extra stuff, I couldn’t resist. For some reason, all of a sudden I *NEEDED* that safety deposit box engraved with the GTA IV logo. I remember the day it arrived, rushing downstairs to greet the postman and fiddling with the extras whilst the game installed, listening to the soundtrack compulsively for a few weeks, then… Nothing. The duffel bag was my gym bag for a while, but eventually the zip broke off it. As I type, the lock box is being used to hold a number of controllers for my retro consoles, and the soundtrack CD has been put back in the box, while the MP3s have hardly been played.

Next up was the Metal Gear Solid 4 CE. Without a doubt, this is the pride and joy of my collection, mainly because it was signed by Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa a couple of years later. Having been a fan of the Metal Gear saga since the release of “Solid” on the PS1, it really did shape my gaming habits from the moment I sneaked past those guards, hid behind the forklift truck and got the freight elevator into Shadow Moses. The lure of the little figurine of Snake, along with the “Making Of” Blu-Ray and the soundtrack CD was too great, so me and a friend both took the plunge.

Since then, it seems that every game coming out has a limited/collector’s edition attached to it. From the smaller “Oh, you get a slipcase and a downloadable costume or weapons” like Medal of Honor, to the frankly ridiculous “Leather jacket that costs more than a field full of cows” Resident Evil 6 edition. I had to cancel my Modern Warfare 2 “Prestige Edition” (You know, the silly one with the Night Vision Goggles) because I didn’t have a job at the time. Looking back on it after the game’s release, I wasn’t that fussed (And I still picked up the slightly lesser “Hardened Edition” on the PS3 anyway). It came as no surprise to me this week that I found myself looking at the “DedSec” edition of Watch_Dogs, Ubisoft’s impressive looking new IP, and wondering if I could justify plonking down £100 for it. The biggest and boldest package that they’re putting out for the game comes with a plethora of in-game extras, as well as yet another new figurine to sit alongside the others that folks like me seem to go crazy for. Of course, the logical answer is “absolutely not”. The biggest issue when it comes to special editions is that if the game ends up being below par, you’ve spent an awful lot of money on a turkey!

WD DeadSec

The issue of “exclusive content” seems to be the thorny issue for most gamers. For those who want to play everything when the game comes out, they feel compelled to shell out for the version of the game that gives them all of the DLC straight away. “Day 1 DLC” on its own is a concept that splits opinion down the middle. Whilst I appreciate they’re a necessary evil in the industry as it is right now, it is infuriating to play through a game feeling that a chunk of the game is “missing”, only to be filled in for an extra £5 or £10 (Assassin’s Creed 2, Mass Effect 3, I’m looking at you!). More and more often, though, the DLC that’s included “exclusively” in these special editions gets released a few months down the line, and almost always gets bundled in the inevitable “Game Of The Year” re-release of the game.

Do all of the games that get collector’s editions deserve them? Absolutely not. Will people buy them? Of course they will. As mentioned above, I don’t know what it is that compels me (and others) to pick up these editions, but if they’re for a franchise I enjoy, it’s definitely something I’ll consider, even if for a fleeting moment. I’ve picked up the “Codex Edition” of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, the collector’s edition of Revelations (the Animus Edition sold out before I got a chance to order one), and the Freedom edition of the latest in the franchise (as well as constantly scouting eBay for the “Black Edition” of Assassin’s Creed II). The amount of times I’ve come close to picking up a vastly more expensive copy of a game that I’ve been so much as slightly interested in just because of some intricately moulded plastic would give my bank manager an orgasm. During the almost customary midnight launch for Modern Warfare 3, I was pulled back from the brink of buying the Hardened Edition by a friend who convinced me that I wouldn’t still be playing the game in a few months… He was right.

I know full well that, come the release of Assassin’s Creed IV, Edward Kenway’s statue will be stood next to the one of his grandson next to my TV gathering dust. George Washington’s notebook will remain unopened, and the Joel themed Last of Us controller skin will be lying in a drawer somewhere, but… Well… I’m a collector. So I guess these editions are for me.

(Oh, and if anyone does have a Black Edition of Assassin’s Creed II that they’d donate to a good cause, I’d be willing to take it off their hands!)

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