Nickel And Dimed: Frustration With Deluxe Editions
Buying a video game is starting to feel like buying a car. Do I want the Gold Edition with the tinted windows and season pass? Maybe the Digital Deluxe Edition is more my speed, with seat warmers and a character skins pack. Or if I really want to splurge, I can buy the Collector’s Edition, which comes with a statue, a DVD player for the kids, all of the DLC, shiny rims, and more.
Believe it or not, a game used to be sold as just a game. Nowadays, the game is just one of many items included in the box. Getting more stuff is always a good thing, right? Not exactly. The act of shopping used to be fun, but I now find myself getting stressed out as I peruse new releases. A fair bit of research is required to truly understand what each version offers, and publishers are using guilt as a driving force. As I read product listings I can almost hear them say, "If you don't preorder the game, you'll miss out on the day-one DLC, and won't get a discount of all of the forthcoming digital content we don't want to tell you about yet."
If you are in the market for Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft’s store lists options for a Standard Edition, Deluxe Edition, Gold Edition, Collector Standard Edition, Collector Deluxe Edition, Collector Gold Edition, and depending on what region of the world you live in, you may see listings for a San Francisco Edition, Wrench Jr. Robot Collector’s Edition, and The Return of Dedsec Collector’s Case Edition. No, I’m not making this up, and it isn’t a satirical joke from an episode of South Park; consumers really have that many versions to choose from.
A Wikipedia listing for Watch Dogs 1 editions that was eventually removed (click to enlarge)
Final Fantasy XV is an equally complicated mess. There’s a Day-One Edition, Standard Edition, Preorder Bonus Pack Edition, Deluxe Edition, Ultimate Collector’s Edition (for $269.99), a GameStop preorder edition that comes with a bonus game called A King’s Tale, and an Amazon edition that comes with various in-game items. What these editions really need is a window to jump through.
Many of these versions can be dismissed if you don’t want a statue, an art book, or various trinkets inspired by the game, but the grey territory is the in-game content. Final Fantasy XV’s preorder Bonus Pack offers an item called the Angler Set, with the description: “Take this handy tackle box to the fishing holes around Eos, snag yourself a whopper, and claim the title of Ace Angler.” I’m a huge fan of fishing minigames. Does this mean I can’t fish unless I have the Angler Set? I doubt this is the case, but the description certainly sells it as something people may need for this activity.
Halo Wars 2’s Deluxe Edition comes with something called Welcome to the Ark. A deeper dive for information provides this: “Experience the exciting first battles between the UNSC and The Banished. Unlocks the story missions and multiplayer leaders from the original Halo Wars 2 campaign.” Original Halo Wars 2 campaign? Is that a typo? What does that mean exactly? Should it be Halo Wars 1? Regardless of what it may or may not be, the listing is short and confusing. A good majority of bonus features for various games are distilled into one short sentence. South Park: The Fractured But Whole's Gold Edition includes a season pass that offers "additional content for the game as it becomes available," and "one additional item." Publishers, if you want consumers to feel confident in what they are buying (let alone know what it is), detail it thoroughly.
Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so, but I also have a hunch some publishers want the information to be deceptive and open to interpretation.
I complained about the lack of clarity in season passes in a previous editorial, and hoped publishers would provide more information before players invested in them, but I now see we are going the other way. Just the sheer act of buying a game seems like it’s getting more confusing as time goes on.
At least we have the standard edition to fall back onto, right? I hope that doesn’t change, but blood is in the water, and publishers are drinking it up. The latest experimentation is the “play the game five days earlier than everyone else” option, which was used for Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, and several other titles. Throwing down $100 for a week of early access and other bonus content is a steep entry fee, but if you are a huge fan of the series, it’s a tantalizing offer.
Where do we go from here? I can only assume we’ll venture deeper into ludicrous territory. How much would you pay to play the game 10 days before release? As a consumer, I’m not seeing a lot of good faith in the game listings, just a murky smokescreen of messaging and higher prices.
Get your houses in order, publishers. Take the time to detail your content. There’s nothing wrong with different editions, but the consumer needs to know what they are getting. I shouldn’t have to Google your game for more information if I’m standing in a store or looking at a product page. Here’s an example to build on: When the back of a box for a Sega Genesis game offers just as much or more information, you’re doing it wrong.