Collector's Editions: A Test of Consumer Loyalty

Collector's Editions: A Test of Consumer Loyalty

Collector's Editions for tried and true franchises make some sense, but committing to that investment for a new, untested IP is a huge leap of faith.

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Interesting article, as always, Mr. Rath.

I remember having purchased an Assassin's Creed Revelations Collector's Edition copy, and I have played it the least out of all of my other Assassin's Creeds. I still don't think its as bad as people say, and the funny thing is, I got it from a website where the difference in price was arbitrary(like, maybe 5-10) and the thing came out with a copy of Assassin's Creed Embers, which shows the truly final days of Ezio.

That, was a good CE, because it had served some purpose to have it: the movie wasn't uploaded until way later, and having the DVD felt like the full experience, however, the fact that the standard edition people had to wait was a dick manoeuvre on Ubisoft's part, but at this point of time, I have lost confidence in them after Assassin's Creed III.

They have only been making more and more questionable decisions(from a consumer/producer point of view) as of late, and I am glad I jumped ship when I did.

It's still nice that they use the money to fund risky new IP though, but the business practices being used on said IP is old-hat, and they should cut it out.

I mean, look at Rayman Origins: a revival of an otherwise unremarkable 2D platformer series, and it didn't nearly have as much nonsense surrounding its purchase as Watch_Dogs did, even though (I imagine) audiences cared about as much of both properties upon the mention of names.

Can't you just, y'know, not buy it?

This is the first thing to occur to me every time someone brings up something like this.

"This company is offering a product that is overpriced and is asking for my money without seeing the product first."
"So... don't fucking buy it. And especially don't pre-order it."

I've never felt some overwhelming urge to buy a collector's edition of a game I might not like. Hell, I've never bought a collector's edition period. It did not cause me to experience some yawning void in my very soul.

I've pre-ordered games before. For the most part they turned out well, since I don't pre-order things I don't think I'm going to like. That would be absurd. However, on those occasions when they did turn out lacklustre I didn't start blaming the wicked developer/publisher for somehow betraying my trust. I bought something while fully aware of the risks and it did not pay off. That's on me.

Robert Rath:
After all, there's inherent risk in buying a Special Edition - after all is said and done, you might not like the game. Feeling unsatisfied with a game you paid $60 for is one thing, but disliking a game you paid $120 for and having a desk statuette reminding you of it? That's another thing entirely.

I'd actually say that in many cases, paying more leads to more satisfaction. Someone paying $120 for a game and a bunch of tat is all the more likely to already have made their mind up about the game and will not look at the game as critically as someone who did not have so much faith in it to pre-order the super-duper ultimate shelf-space-filler edition. As a marketer, once you get someone to that point you've basically already won, regardless of whether the game is any good.

One day they'll figure out that there's potentially more money to be made in selling merchandise separately from the IP its based on, rather than bundling them all together in one "collectors edition" pre-order package. Then again, since the industry is held hostage by the first week sales of their games, doing anything to inflate that number; such as selling more expensive bundles, makes sense. Till that changes, coming up with increasingly convoluted pre-order packages to a) get more people pre-ordering & b) get more of those to pay more for their pre-order, will continue.

Zhukov:
Can't you just, y'know, not buy it?

This is the first thing to occur to me every time someone brings up something like this.

"This company is offering a product that is overpriced and is asking for my money without seeing the product first."
"So... don't fucking buy it. And especially don't pre-order it."

I've never felt some overwhelming urge to buy a collector's edition of a game I might not like. Hell, I've never bought a collector's edition period. It did not cause me to experience some yawning void in my very soul.

I've pre-ordered games before. For the most part they turned out well, since I don't pre-order things I don't think I'm going to like. That would be absurd. However, on those occasions when they did turn out lacklustre I didn't start blaming the wicked developer/publisher for somehow betraying my trust. I bought something while fully aware of the risks and it did not pay off. That's on me.

To me, the problem with that argument is stuff like the Dedsec DLC; should I as a customer be willing to buy a special edition that has release day DLC, or try the game without it first? To use the example of Fallout: New Vegas, I bought the edition that had all the DLC because I heard good things about Old World Blues and the other storylines. I didn't care about getting the weapons in the Gunrunners pack, but I enjoyed having them in the game. With Watchdogs, they are slicing up the game into different portions, and it's hard to know what I should buy if I want to enjoy the game: I don't want a statue, but I like the physical maps that games used to have, and I definitely want all the DLC. Either I spend my time pouring over that stupid chart, hoping to find the right combo, or I buy a vanilla copy and hope that I can get all the DLC online (and that none is preorder or edition-specific).

It's maddening that I have to jump through these hoops to get to a product I want to buy for entertainment. I could not buy it, as you say, but then a) I don't get to play it, and b) as Rath pointed out, I'm out of the loop with my friends and here on the Escapist. I've spent enough time not having the money to buy new games, and listening to people talk about something that I can't be involved with until it ends up in the bargain bin.

It's the equivalent of buying a $30 ticket for X-Men: Days of Future Past and getting a Wolverine statue when you walk into the theater.

Is that a something you made up for the sake of this article? Because I don't see why it couldn't be real. Perhaps bundle the figure with an exclusive pre-premiere screening of the movie and you might be able to charge $50 for the package.

As for the Watch Dogs line-up, I have a feeling that the size and complexity may well be in paradox of choice http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paradox_of_Choice range. They risk that people who come to site to pre-order don't get down to actually pre-ordering because they wonder what version they should pre-order.

eBusiness:

It's the equivalent of buying a $30 ticket for X-Men: Days of Future Past and getting a Wolverine statue when you walk into the theater.

Is that a something you made up for the sake of this article? Because I don't see why it couldn't be real. Perhaps bundle the figure with an exclusive pre-premiere screening of the movie and you might be able to charge $50 for the package.

Don't give them any ideas, guys.

On topic: this ties in with what Yahtzee said about Titanfall: "They decide ahead of time that the game they are creating is going to be so amazing" "And if the universe does not seem to agree with this position, they will use their power and wealth to put a facade around it so that it looks like it does."

Watch Dogs has won like, 90 awards already, and it hasn't even been released. No one has played it yet, and it's winning awards. And that's just silly.

Thank you for the article, Mr. Rath. I especially liked that small bit about why people were mad at the ending of Mass Effect 3, a point a rarely see come up. You didn't say you agreed with it or disagreed (to my knowledge), but it's nice to know that at least someone else gets it.

But yea, I can totally see your arguments, and I agree with them. Especially about the point of people wanting to be involved with the conversation, which is what led me to get Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls, and has almost led me to get other games that I wouldn't play otherwise. Not too happy going back, personally, considering that even with all the new content and better gameplay, none of that matters if I keep getting LOGGED OUT (trying at several wifi locations, I've determined the issue isn't on my end, most of the time). But that's another story.

It really does feel that more than ever before, the video game industry keeps putting things out there in order for customers to prove their loyalty to them. And it really should be the other way around. At least in my case when I come to that conclusion my interest in any game or franchise is killed off. For instance, the moment I found out I couldn't play Mass Effect offline because I couldn't get my DLC certified (long after I bought it, installed it, and beat the game twice with it), I lost all interest in the series. And in Bioware. An extreme example, yes, but I'm sure I'm not the only one like this.

Maybe the good thing about this is in the huge surge of independent developers, who have been able to make very enjoyable games without all the bells and whistles of Special Edition... In any case, hope people are happy with their purchases. The companies keep offering because the customers keep buying.

It is rather amusing that Aidan Pearce's cap is already being referred to as "iconic" before it's even appeared in a single game. That would be like they had started talking about Altair's "iconic" hidden blades before Assassins Creed had even been released. I tend to skip Collectors Editions these days - I rarely have the money to burn anyway and when I do, it would only be for a franchise I was really invested in, probably by the 3rd game or so in the series.

A well written article Mr Rath, and I agree completely. I will buy collectors editions of games, if I'm already a fan of the series (e.g. I picked up the special edition of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix for the art book). Buying one for an untested, unproven IP though? That I may not even like? Why on earth would I do such a thing? It boggles my mind that people are so confident that they'll like the game that they're willing to shell out the extra cash for statues and merchandise when they haven't even played the series yet.

A lot of the physical items in the collectors editions just seems to be junk, I watched the videos in Ashens "video game tat" series and the quality of the stuff is appaling in some cases.

I like knick knacks and ornaments and my house is full of models of star ships (eighteen ships from Star Trek for example), Newtons cradle style physics toys, swords and all kinds of other things and I even have a replica lightsaber (red) but a lot of the stuff that comes with these collectors edition I would never find house room for. At least not at the prices they want, they are badly moulded and painted and far too expensive for what it is. Although even in those videos there are a few reasonably decent pieces.

With Watchdogs I simply bought the PC Uplay Digital Deluxe Edition because I wanted the extra content as I like a good expansive open world game but didnt want the junk, the baseball cap with one of the physical editions looked nice but no matter how much I like the game I wouldn't really want a statue of the protagonist even if I think its the best game I have ever or will ever play.

This article is spot on though, publishers are taking more and more liberties and packing in cheap plastic tat so they can inflate the price is just one more tactic they added to their arsenal of bullshit. There is one thing though, I can agree with the principle of buying as much game as you want or can afford. If someone only has or only wants to spend 30 they can buy "shooter 2014" but if they have or want to spend 50 they could buy "shooter 2014: Enhanced edition" that has a bunch of extra levels, I think that could be a good thing and its the same for a lot of products and services. The problem is both the publishers and the consumers would make sure it wouldn't work, publishers would try to fleece their customers by pulling bullshit like making the standard edition really rubbish or the enhanced edition would be really bad value. Like we see in the overpriced day one DLC or skin packs.

Even if the publishers didn't do that and the standard edition was good in its own right and the extra content was good value and they behaved perfectly the gamers wouldn't let it work, they would demand the extra content because they felt entitled to it. "I gave you some money so I want everything!" without giving any consideration at all to the fact that extra content means extra work and resources went into the making of it which would mean the consumer would have to put up extra cash if they wanted it and screaming "you chopped it out of my game".

People don't behave like that with other products, can you imagine someone throwing a fit in a car dealership because the cheaper model of the car they bought didn't have the heated seats? {angry pointing} "Look, look! You can see where the switch for the heated seats is supposed to be, how dare you chop items out my car!", that would be preposterous yet its often par for the course with a lot of gamers.

Most of the time I buy games digital on Steam. After a time I get the expansions/season passes when they are on sale. And I only buy Season passes when I have read the reviews about them and know they are good enough to spend money on. I don't want to get a 20$ season pass for two turd costumes and a 30 minute long mission where you can earn the Golden Toiletbrush.

Most special editions don't really interest me that much anymore. Like that Skyrim CE from a few years back. It may be cool to have a giant dragon statue of Anduin in your living room, but it just isn't practical. Especially when I have to dust it off every month.
Artbooks and soundtracks are also cool extras, but to be honest most of them stay in the plastic or will be browsed once or twice before being put back in the box.

In most cases Limited Premium Pack Collector's Editions aren't really that limited. They really are not, if you can buy them at every gameshop or website that sells games.

As gamers, we put so much of ourselves into the games we play that we can disappear into them, make them part of our identity.

There. That's part of the reason I can't just shrug it off when "my" franchises do something like this, or go free-to-pay, or force social interactions into single player games.

Of course gaming needs to evolve, and of course the companies have a right to do want they decide to do. There are so just many trends in gaming that make me feel I'm not part of the demographic anymore, and since gaming has been a big part of my life for more than 30 years, this feeling is kind of painful.

LTK_70:

Robert Rath:
After all, there's inherent risk in buying a Special Edition - after all is said and done, you might not like the game. Feeling unsatisfied with a game you paid $60 for is one thing, but disliking a game you paid $120 for and having a desk statuette reminding you of it? That's another thing entirely.

I'd actually say that in many cases, paying more leads to more satisfaction. Someone paying $120 for a game and a bunch of tat is all the more likely to already have made their mind up about the game and will not look at the game as critically as someone who did not have so much faith in it to pre-order the super-duper ultimate shelf-space-filler edition. As a marketer, once you get someone to that point you've basically already won, regardless of whether the game is any good.

It's sunk cost fallacy at work. And eventually people wise up and just stop believing the hype even if a game actually turns out to be good.

My problem with collectors editions is most of what they put in there is tat.

But first we have to address the practice of cut-content DLC sold back to us from multiple retailers. Digital content for collectors editions is withholding game content. Many people aregue that "It's not vital to the game" but if that's the case then why is it worth it buying the collectors edition? Isn't that just as bad. They have either skimmed a meaningful chunk of content out of their game and withheld it from everyone else or they are selling you meaningless, pointless and crappy content at a premium price. Sometimes it's both, they are removing nice little touches we used to get in games and then cynically monetizing them because... they can. This content would have been in core the game 10 years ago. Costumes, hidden extras. Day one DLC has taken the joy out of games and replaced it with cynical cash-grabbing.

But back to the tat. Most of the stuff i see in a collectors edition is just pointless junk you wouldn't really want. If they really wanted to give fans 'choice' they would see it as merch at a store. I buy gaming merch if i want it, i bought a physical Bastion soundtrack not because i felt forced to by it coming in some package deal with a load of tat but because i actually wanted it.

Zhukov:
Can't you just, y'know, not buy it?

This is the first thing to occur to me every time someone brings up something like this.

"This company is offering a product that is overpriced and is asking for my money without seeing the product first."
"So... don't fucking buy it. And especially don't pre-order it."

I've never felt some overwhelming urge to buy a collector's edition of a game I might not like. Hell, I've never bought a collector's edition period. It did not cause me to experience some yawning void in my very soul.

I've pre-ordered games before. For the most part they turned out well, since I don't pre-order things I don't think I'm going to like. That would be absurd. However, on those occasions when they did turn out lacklustre I didn't start blaming the wicked developer/publisher for somehow betraying my trust. I bought something while fully aware of the risks and it did not pay off. That's on me.

Exactly this.

The only collectors editions I've ever bought are for sequels to games I already liked and so knew what to expect, and I've pre-ordered even less. I don't feel much pressure in putting down money up-front out of fear I'll miss something either, because it will probably be bundled in a "Gold edition" or something later.

And yeah, packaging stuff together into such a confusing mess that it will make people pay twice for something they already own is shady as hell, but if people want to stop being ripped off by company's marketing tactics - stop buying from them! This is videogames we're talking about, walking away from a purchase is just that easy.

EDIT: And because this is Watchdogs and Titanfall we're talking about, the decision to walk away is made even easier. You aren't invested in a long-running series, like for Mass Effect, these are brand new IPs that should mean NOTHING to consumers!

This was a pretty good article, and I just can't help but question how a game which has so much hype behind it is one with so little we actually know about it and with such a bad behind the scenes controversy. It almost feels like people want it to succeed not because it's good or will be good, but because they want a new IP to not fail, and we all know Destiny is not going to be it.

I actually have no problem with the Limited Edition in theory. Hell, just 3 weeks ago I bought a new Assassin's Creed Black Flag Limited Edition at my local EBGames for 55$ (they where on liquidation since they wanted to make room for, you guessed it, Watch Dogs). I never was a big fan of that series, I'd bought the first two for 20$ years ago and enjoyed them, but was never hyped enough to go out of my way to get more. For 130$, extras like the statue or not I would have been pissed at Black Flag, but for 55$ I felt like I got my money's worth, even if it wasn't the best deal I've come across.

Zhukov:

UberPubert:

In an ideal world yes, we can simply not buy these things. But people do buy these things. Companies do this because it works, or at least they think it works. Consumers like us are not the target for this. We've learned to smell this stuff a mile off just like we've learned to sniff out 'freemium' content and avoid at all costs.

Ultimately the answer is for sales of these things to tank but let's break the issue down into it's parts and try and see why "Just don't buy it" isn't the whole picture;

Promotion Preorder culture is rife. If you remember the initial hype around Watch Dogs you know they sold a whole lot of fairy dust. They want to sell as much as possible as fast as possible before the game comes out and people wise up a bit, take advantage of a time when they control the message and the information. If you notice 'special editions' don't stick around long after release week. They are products of hype not reality. You'll see publishers pushing them as hard as possible in this time window. Promotion does work. Like it or not a lot of weight is thrown behind getting people to buy these things, preferably as a pre-order and part of that pressure id withholding content.

Day one DLC I think this is arguably the worst aspect of these new breeds of special edition. You can not buy into it but some content is still being withheld from you. It's also hard to argue that content on day one hasn't been cut from the game. Developers aren't allowed to admit it but it seems like a pretty common practice to develop DLC alongside the core game. We only know about it when studios collapse and disgruntled employees speak out. Here the special edition does affect the normal user as their game has been made worse to shill it.

Confusion Look at the spreadsheet needed to work out your DLC. The fact you need a spreadsheet is silly enough. Special editions work on the idea that if you don't get them you are missing out. They are deliberately deceptive in the case of watch-dogs, they want to make you buy certain content twice. I think the per-launch information of many games this generation have been flat-out confusing. Watch-Dogs is operating on hype overriding truth. Trying to sell preoders and special editions is the reason for this. Look at battlefield 4 and all the 'premium content' they tired to shift even with just digital items. Their season pass edition thing was also a big joke, they too broke down content into little pieces and tired to sell it back to the consumer for hundreds of dollars all before the (broken as hell) game came out.

If you can spot a con-man, good for you. It doesn't mean they should get a free pass for running a con.

Scrumpmonkey:
In an ideal world yes, we can simply not buy these things. But people do buy these things. Companies do this because it works, or at least they think it works. Consumers like us are not the target for this. We've learned to smell this stuff a mile off just like we've learned to sniff out 'freemium' content and avoid at all costs.

So then teach the other consumers to be more well-informed or scrutinizing people, they'll lose nothing for it and we may see people making smarter decisions with their money, ultimately leading to a more ideal marketplace. I'm not going to hold companies accountable for other people's poor impulse control when the only thing at stake is some video games.

Scrumpmonkey:
Promotion Preorder culture is rife.

What nonsense is this? If you find the flow of information coming from a single source shady then don't buy into it. I don't follow hype trains, I wait for a working product, and I'm fine for it. The company emphasis may be on selling a facade (and indeed, that is exactly what we saw with Aliens: Colonial Marines) while they can get away with it, but as deceptive as they get, it's up to the consumer to wait and hear what the final word is on the full product rather than jumping the gun based on only a few minutes of footage for a game that's hours long. You would be no less foolish for ordering the collector's edition of a movie on blu-ray based on the thirty second advertisement.

Scrumpmonkey:
PromotionDay one DLC I think this is arguably the worst aspect of these new breeds of special edition.

The fact of the matter is unless the DLC is advertised as coming packaged with the game on the box you are not entitled to that content, and so long as the game delivers the core experience without it I'm not sold that it's some great failing either. The logic of the company is that because they're pouring enough resources into the game that they can develop non-essential content for it along the side (as one might develop a separate game instead) they deserve to be compensated for said content. Does every DLC really deserve the money? No, but it is optional. Was I disappointed I didn't get the Prothean party member for Mass Effect 3? Sure, but I could see all of Javed's best bits on youtube anyway and my experience with the game wasn't so terribly diminished without him I felt forced into purchasing his DLC (I still haven't).

Scrumpmonkey:
Confusion Look at the spreadsheet needed to work out your DLC.

Funny how you word that, implying it's somehow "my" dlc. I'm probably not buying watch dogs, I'm certainly not pre-ordering it, and I in no way feel entitled to the DLC. First of all, the spreadsheet isn't that bad. The merchandise that comes with the game and the different regions make up the bulk of it, then there's the "costumes" listed as DLC that I probably wouldn't have included at all and especially don't care about. It'd take me literally seconds to point out the one I want, if I actually had the enthusiasm and money to burn. As Rath points out in the article, games have been doing this for some time, it just isn't til now on a huge international release like Watch Dogs that we see the full extent of it. And I'm totally okay with it. The extra content and merchandise and special collectors editions are not for the tight-fisted gaming connoisseur, if they want to pay more for the content on a game they don't even know if they'll like and without a trustworthy recommendation and they feel they've gotten burned when all is said and done? Too bad, they knew the risks.

Scrumpmonkey:
If you can spot a con-man, good for you. It doesn't mean they should get a free pass for running a con.

It's not even going as far as me "spotting a con", I don't know more than anyone else what goes on behind closed doors at some of video game companies, and that's part of why I'm so cautious about my purchases in the first place. I wait, I watch, I listen - none of these things are beyond consumer capability, and in the event I'm still fooled or the game ends up disappointing? That's unfortunate, but at least I knew full well what I was getting into when I put money down, not making exorbitant blind purchases and crying afoul when I'm taken advantage of for my gullibility.

UberPubert:

I've never understood this kind of "Post critique" style replies people give. I'm not trying to give some kind of water type rebuttal to your post I'm merely using it as a jumping off point to make a wider point about how things you don't personally buy still have an impact on the wider industry of gaming.

I don't see the point in disagreeing with everything a person says, it seems needlessly argumentative. I'm not addressing you personally in some kind of debate I'm just trying to talk through my points on the subject at hand. So erm... i guess you win some internet argument points for being needlessly contrarian. Well done?

You =/= everyone in the world. These things are aimed at an audience and they are obviously selling them if they keep making them. Yes, there is such a thing as the pushing of pre order culture, these problems in the wider industry are not "Nonsense" and the point of posting in a thread like this isn't to contradict people's sensible points and make some aggressive attempt to pick other users posts apart. I'm not going through your post angrily looking for things to contradict because that doesn't lead anywhere. I'm trying to have a discussion not wave my debating e-peen around.

Scrumpmonkey:
I've never understood this kind of "Post critique" style replies people give. I'm not trying to give some kind of water type rebuttal to your post I'm merely using it as a jumping off point to make a wider point about how things you don't personally buy still have an impact on the wider industry of gaming.

If you're quoting a post that lies in contradiction to the point you're trying to make, why are you unable to understand why the original poster would respond to it? If you're going to hold up my sentiment up as an example, at least allow me to clarify based on the points you have made.

Scrumpmonkey:
I don't see the point in disagreeing with everything a person says, it seems needlessly argumentative.

You've misunderstood: I simply found everything you wrote disagreeable.

Scrumpmonkey:
I'm not addressing you personally in some kind of debate I'm just trying to talk through my points on the subject at hand. So erm... i guess you win some internet argument points for being needlessly contrarian. Well done?

Odd how you're so quick to judge someone else for responding to you on a topic you deigned to post in as "needless" when your own reasons for posting in the first place could be described as equally pointless. What's the point of speaking if you don't like it when someone who disagrees acknowledges you?

Scrumpmonkey:
These things are aimed at an audience and they are obviously selling them if they keep making them. Yes, there is such a thing as the pushing of pre-order culture, these problems in the wider industry are not "Nonsense"

And I take issue with what you've defined as a problem and where the fault lies. Rath already outlined the existing circumstances, you belaboring the point is no less valid than me explaining why I am so dismissive of it.

Scrumpmonkey:
and the point of posting in a thread like this isn't to contradict people's sensible points and make some aggressive attempt to pick other users posts apart.

The purpose of addressing a post on a point by post basis is to make it easier to read and respond to. You made your points, I responded to each separately. I'm not, as you say, "post-critiquing". I'm trying to be as clear and concise as possible, not dissecting your words to poke holes in them.

Scrumpmonkey:
I'm not going through your post angrily looking for things to contradict because that doesn't lead anywhere. I'm trying to have a discussion not wave my debating e-peen around.

Debate is a perfectly valid form of discussion, the tendency of forum-goers to turn it into a shouting match or argument is unfortunate but that wasn't my intention at all. The purpose in addressing you directly is to likewise receive a response.

UberPubert:
I simply found everything you wrote disagreeable.

Some people just enjoy arguing and thinking they are right above all i suppose.

Scrumpmonkey:
Some people just enjoy arguing and thinking they are right above all i suppose.

Right. Because anyone who disagrees with you must think themselves infallible masters of the internet, how else could they object to your infallible points?

Seriously? "The Gatekeeper"? That doesn't even fit.

 

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