One thing that has always bugged me about video game collector's editions is the glut of useless crap that they tack on, and the hype that gets attached to it. Most of the bonus goodies are poorly made, fall apart easily, and we're told that "limited" quantities were made to attempt to bolster the inherent value. Thankfully, not every publisher falls into this trap, and I'd like to see the industry learn from their example.
#1: The "Collectible" figurine
This bugger appears in a lot of Collector's Editions. Usually, these are the main character, a boss, or something along those lines. Sure, they look cool and all, but if you're one of the folks that buys a lot of collector's editions, those little hunks of plastic/resin/pewter start to take up space. You can't just throw it away, either. You paid good money for that collector's edition, dang it! You're not gonna just discard the most important part of your purchase! So then you buy a display case. But these figurines pale in comparison to the more collectible model kits out there. It's kind of pointless. Two examples of this treachery are the Chris Redfield figurine that came with the Resident Evil 5 CE and the bust of the Duke that came with the Duke Nukem Forever Balls of Steel Edition. Chris Redfield's base was nonexistent. The slightest nudge of your table would send him toppling over. Not only that, but the overall quality of the figurine was very poor. It reminded me more of a gachapon or one of those capsule toys that you pay 75 cents for at the grocery store and leaves you wanting much more than you actually get out of it. The Duke is not much better. This bust statue, which you see in the casino during the game, is barely 5" tall, if that. It's made of resin, which is a start, but it's so small, that it barely seems worth shelling out the $20 extra to buy. This is, of course, not factoring the poor quality of the game when determining to buy. DNF just sucked anyways.
The worst offender in this category is the pewter statue of Noble Team from Halo Reach. Really? I'm gonna shell out an extra $70, just so I can get a die cast statue to put next to all my other halo action figures? This just reeks of money grab in all the worst ways.
What I want to see is some legitimate figure makers getting involved in the design and production of the figurines. Get companies like Sentinel, Nendroid, or Kotobukiya to produce a figure in PVC, Resin, or ABS plastic. Even pewter would be fine, if it had a high level of quality. Then, charging $150 would be far more reasonable. When you look at the figures that Kotobukiya makes, $150 is cheap. With a quality figurine, you could get $250+ for a collector's edition, easily. So why don't you do this?
#2: The Soundtrack
*sigh* This one is hard to talk about. I love good video game soundtracks, and there's so many bad examples I don't even know where to start.
Being a music buff, I love getting a soundtrack when I buy my games. Long after I finished playing said game, it's fun to hear one of those songs pop up on my music player and remember where I was in said game. I seem to have a fondness for certain composers, as well. I applaud Grasshopper Manufacture for giving away soundtrack samplers to everyone who pre-ordered Shadows of the Damned, and I love Akira Yamaoka as a musician. But please, don't call it a full soundtrack! You cannot call one CD's worth of music a full soundtrack. Most of these games have enough background music to fill two CDs, minimum. The Final Fantasy games average 3 discs per soundtrack. Resident Evil 4's soundtrack was two CDs long. You're making a sampler.
Fallout 3 had a bit of an ad campaign prior to its release that gave a free EP to anyone who pre-ordered the game. This disc had all of five tracks on it. Sure, it's a sampler. I get that. That's cool. but you're only using about half the disc, if that. Why not put that extra data space to good use? Atlus did this perfectly with Rule of Rose. Five songs on the CD, sure. But when you pop it into your computer, you get wallpapers for your desktop, sheet music for one of the songs on the CD in .pdf format, trailers for the game, and general hype-building materials. It was great. It got its fans stoked for their product, and they had stuff they could show their friends to get them hyped up about said product. If you're paying to press these discs, why would you want to waste space that could be used for marketing? That just seems like obvious business sense to me.
With the rise of the digital age, more and more developers are giving away their soundtracks via digital download. What with piracy being as "rampant" as some pundits would make you believe, some of these soundtracks are distributed with Digital Rights Management, or DRM for short. Prey did this. You could only listen to the soundtrack sampler through Windows Media Player, you couldn't burn the sampler to a CD and take it in your car, you were only allowed to listen to the music from 5 computers, it was a nightmare. Now, I'm all for protecting what's yours. Hell, if I was in the same position, I'd do it too. But you gotta make sure it's as painless for your legitimate customers as possible. If the pirates are releasing a vastly superior product for free, you're gonna make a lot of enemies in short order. I'll be ranting on that later. There will always be pirates, no matter what you do. Just don't treat your customers like criminals for doing the right thing.
#3: The Art Book
You know, I love playing a game and then checking out the concept art, seeing how the game changed during its development cycles, and all that awesome stuff. It's kind of like reading the developer's records of what happened. A good art book lets you see the vision of the director and producer, and make your own judgment about whether or not they accomplished the goals they set out to do. Good art books are the sorts of things you'd want to have on the bookshelf or coffee table, something that fascinates and gets a conversation started. They don't necessarily need to be hard cover, but they better not look cheap. The Conduit, developed by High Voltage Software, was a fascinating foray into developing an FPS for the Wii, using the motion controls. I thought it was an interesting game, and I didn't mind shelling out the $50 to buy it day 1. The "art book" that came with the game was a little thicker than the instruction manual, and printed on the same type of glossy magazine paper. The artwork inside was nifty, but there's something lacking about expecting an art book and finding a pamphlet. That's got to be the easiest way to disappoint your fans.
Now, I'm not saying that these art books need to be leather bound or hard cover, either. Luminous Arc 2, on the Nintendo DS, for example, was a decently sized paperback book. The cover was heavy card stock, and the pages had texture and really showcased the artwork inside. Not only that, but they called it "Luminous Art," playing off the title of the game. It was really cool, and I liked what they did with it.
#4: The Other Stuff
This section is going to be broken down into two parts: the other goodies, and the lack of rarity in "limited editions." If you're going to throw other stuff into a Collector's Edition, make it stuff that we can use or will actually care about! This ties in to #1 a bit. That figure that you include in your box looks like it came out of a Chinese sweat shop and you know it. Don't try to tell us it's a "high quality" piece of workmanship. Perhaps if you were to seek the direction and expertise of one of the myriad modeling companies out there to design, or better yet, actually make the product for you, you could get away with charging $40 or even $50 more for it, easily! That's why I knew I had to get the Mortal Kombat Kollector's Edition. Sure, it cost $40 more, but they threw in an art book, extra character skin, and bookends! I am not even kidding with this one. They give you friggin' bookends! They look awesome, and they actually do something for you! Check out my review of Mortal Kombat to see what I mean. This is the sort of stuff that I'm referring to when I say stuff we can actually use. When DICE released Mirror's Edge, they gave everyone who pre-ordered it a messenger bag that looks exactly like the one used in the game by the runners. This thing holds a good deal of stuff in it, and I still use mine. It grew a hole in the bottom, so now I use it as a frisbee golf disc bag. And it fits that bill perfectly. Even if the bonus is something the customer won't necessarily use a lot, if it's a cool item, you can get away with charging a premium. When Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 came out, the Prestige Edition, as they called it, gave you a pair of night vision goggles. How much would a gamer pay to buy such an extravagant item? A paltry sum of $150. Sure, they only register about 20 feet or so ahead of you, but most night vision headsets of similar style start at around $600. And those can detect things at around 100 feet. So what is being offered with MW2 is actually a pretty good deal. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together included a set of tarot cards with the pre-orders. The cards included artwork based around the characters and were quite the sight to see. Even if you don't use tarot cards or don't like them, you can still appreciate the detail and the tie-in to how the game plays.
#5: Rarity of Collector's Editions (Or lack thereof)
You know, there's a bit of a stereotype with the gamer/geek crowd. Show us something, say it's a limited edition, and we'll snap it up like nothing else. If you're going to tout something is limited edition, tell us how limited. We want to be able to brag about something that our friends don't have. Make 'em a little green with envy, you know? I like when Bethesda released the Fallout 3 Game of the Year edition. They had a standard strategy guide, and a limited edition that was genuinely limited. They only made 15,000 copies. That's it. Each one was numbered, so you could see where in the print run yours was made. Not only that, but it was hard cover, and included additional concept art developer notes from the DLC packs. I have one of those strategy guides, and it feels more unique than a lot of the limited edition stuff out there. It has this pop to it, saying that there's an extremely limited print run, and actually know how limited it is. Think about how many art museums can boast an original Monet or Van Gogh in their galleries. There's not a whole lot of those out there. Now think about how many art museums have an original Andy Warhol. Pretty much every museum and their mother. There's that rarity aspect that gets lost. Sure, Andy Warhol shared art with the masses, but he diluted what made it special. That's what bugs me.
Okay, I think I've ranted enough now. What do you think? Are Collector's Editions cheap attempts to squeeze every penny out of the fans? Do you have other examples of good tie-ins? Let your comments be heard below!