Opinion: Special Editions Are Stupid

by Joe Juba on Jul 31, 2013 at 12:44 PM

These days, no would-be blockbuster video game can release without a special edition. Hell, some titles even have different tiers of varying specialness to accommodate all kinds of budgets and collectors. These bonuses may enrich the experience for some gamers, but I’m not one of them. I usually stick to the plain old regular editions – and when I don’t, I regret it.

First of all, I’m not here to judge how you spend your money. If you want an art book, soundtrack, or statue of Ezio or Alduin, go for it. Display them proudly. I’m glad you’re happy with your purchase.  For my part, when I buy a game, I’m buying an interactive experience. However, most of the stuff that is packed into special editions does nothing to enhance the game itself; Figurines, art books, and soundtracks are thrown in to give added value, but what are you really getting?

It isn’t that I dislike collectibles; I own a lot of them. It’s a question of quality. Take a look at the five different special editions we highlighted yesterday on our site. An airplane? A dub step gun? These things are neat in concept, and certainly look cool in photos, but I’ve seen enough special editions in my time at Game Informer to know that what you see isn’t always what you get. Like pictures of fast food in advertising versus reality (side note: those pictures are fascinating), the objects you actually receive can be underwhelming.

For instance, I bought the collector’s edition of the original Assassin’s Creed, and got a comically tiny 3” Altair figure with a terribly painted face. The Big Daddy that came with my BioShock special edition arrived broken. Alduin, the mighty dragon from Skyrim, is perched atop a chintzy-feeling hollow wall. 

I’ve been tempted by these in the past (and probably will be again in the future), thinking that it’s going to change…but it probably won’t. This kind of corner-cutting is pervasive; no one would make any money on special editions if they actual included quality items. If I want a radio-controlled plane, I will buy one instead of paying an extra $110 for a version of Splinter Cell Blacklist that comes with one. If I want a particular figure, I just wait until NECA or Kotobukiya release a good sculpt that’s actually worth displaying. 

Now, I get that these are for collectors, and collectors like to collect all kinds of stuff – and not necessarily the best stuff. I have another issue with special editions beyond the simple goods included in the package. In the promotion and marketing of these editions, there’s an implication if you’re a true fan, you should be willing to support your favorite series with a few extra dollars. If you don’t, you aren’t getting the whole package – you’re somehow being left out of the loop. It preys on a desire that I don’t understand – a desire to demonstrate and prove that you are a devoted follower of a game. Not that I don’t get obsessive about certain titles, but I show my devotion by buying them, not by adding to my pile of video game memorabilia. 

Despite my complaints, I’m not actually against all special editions. Here’s when they aren’t stupid: When they include in-game bonuses. Extra weapons, characters, maps, missions, strategy guides – those are all things that feed into and enhance the experience. I buy a game because I want to play it, and I’m more than willing to pay a little extra to make that better. However, I’m not willing to pay extra for a bunch of junk I don’t want – and that doesn’t make me any less of a fan.