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Another day another special edition. Today, DC fighting fans were hit with the news of NetherRealm’s Injustice: Gods Among Us finally reaching PS Vita, PC, as well as a next-gen PS4 port respectively, along with an “Ultimate Edition” with all the title’s in-game skins, characters, and bonus content. With so many editions of Injustice’s kind floating around the industry, a question still remains: Why buy games at launch anymore?
Half of today’s news can be seen as nothing but positive for Injustice’s players and its developers alike. Accessibility is as important as a game’s quality itself and releasing it across as many platforms as possible can only bring in more fans and more money for the company. For reasons I can only hope to explain, a part of me can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the other half of today’s announcement, particularly Injustice’s “Ultimate Edition.” It’s no surprise when we see games rerelease themselves with all of their previous DLC. A “complete package” of a game is all the more enticing of a flavor to be selling to game completionists that want a game’s fullest experience. (except to Wii U owners, Warner) At the same time, the almost guaranteed expectation of a game’s Ultimate, Special, Game of the Year, Collector’s, or whatever darned edition you can call it seems to be increasingly degrading the value of its original all the time. If people can sniff these things’ arrival onto the scene five to six months away, why buy the game only months away from the better version?
In some ways, Injustice’s Ultimate edition reflects a greater trend across our entertainment culture in general. Our products are constantly being touted with over-hyped gimmicks. Our TV shows and movies have gone from DVD, to Blu-Ray, to HD-DVD with fewer and fewer obvious technological improvements as we eagerly pick up the ones with the shiniest, most profound covers advertising themselves as the “Ultra Super Dooper Smiley Edition” that you tweet to all your friends who, in turn, logically envy you for your awesomeness. That’s not to mention the dying breed of upgrading to Cable TV as more of our favorite viewings hit the growing amount of on-line services or the frequency of cheap children’s trinkets with our fast food. Video-games are mirroring Happy meals even more, with Disney Infinity’s ridiculously pricy amount of McDonald’s like action-figures just to play unlockable in-game content. Yes, I know, I don’t have to buy it and never do. Still, is it a waste of time for these developers, or any companies really, to be making the incessant amount of add-ons when the core product is becoming smaller and smaller?
The biggest offender of them all is undoubtedly the slew of “Game of the Year” editions that line store shelves as fast as games can possibly earn them from somebody on the Internet. With virtually all the game’s previous DLC in one package and the probable price-drop by its release, GOTY games save you money and give you the best version of the game, and only a few months later at times. I’m still pumped for Arkham Origins to an extent, but I know that it’s inevitable GOTY edition bestowed upon it, by whatever nebulous gaming gods assign it such, will be no doubt be out by next spring. Why buy the original copy when I know that they’re just gonna deliberately hold off the better package of Deathstroke and maybe story DLC in one disc in a single college quarter?
Further, it hardly seems to matter any more pondering over whether a triple A blockbuster title will be graced with a timely VGAs GOTY or GI’s annual picks. The mere nature of previews, reviews, and industry hype itself practically serves as gamers’ unofficial crystal ball for annual awards. It was almost unthinkable that The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite or GTA V wouldn’t be as universally acclaimed as they were from the gaming community’s hype alone and if you don’t think that The Last of Us will be half the Internet’s GOTY, then you’re a better of a psychic than the ones at shopping malls.
There’s a greater inquiry to be made about the actual gaming experience that special editions and DLC attempt to add. Things like a new gun or Batman suit are meaningless to making a game better, it just ultimately makes it more expensive. Worse, it only seems to be making casual gamers even more apathetic towards that lost charm called challenge. Remember when all of those skins and items and levels were unlocked through hours of backbreaking trial and tribulation? Would it have been any more satisfying if all of Snake’s camo suits were on X-Box Live or the PSN? Or Link’s Master Sword, or Sonic’s Super form, heck, even Mario’s Tanooki Suit? It’s easy to think that payable add-on content isn’t just ruining our buying decisions, it’s helping to deflate our sense of worth when we can just get our hunting trophies from virtual grocery shopping.
That’s not to say that DLC and the like isn’t welcome when it’s valuable DLC. I’m simply tired of being unsuccessfully lured in by worthless skins or cheap challenge maps that don’t fundamentally progress the game’s story and or gameplay. Arkham City’s Harley Quinn’s Revenge set the stage for Rocksteady’s possible sequel with some potentially interesting foreshadowing of events to come and Mass Effect’s Citadel was one of the most story-driven DLCs in years. And Infamous 2’s Festival of Blood? Well, you can give ‘em credit just for trying something. . . unique. If the developer can think of something engaging and immersive with their product even long after its release, that’s respectable right there. Just don’t offer me a lollipop when I’ve clearly got reservations at the Hilton.
What about you? Post your comments down below and tell us: Do pre-orders, collectors editions, and GOTYs tickle your fancy, or are you fine with the basic package? Please consider this as Tim Gruver’s “Ultimate Blog: Rant Edition,” and thanks as usual for reading.