Special Edition • Page 2

Expensive versions of games are growing common, but consumers are growing wary of them.

Thus far, few games have gone quite that far - with a few notable exceptions, even the most elaborate special editions aren't even twice as expensive as the normal game. Although special editions have become normal within the industry, they are still approached somewhat tentatively by many publishers.

Afraid to commit to the idea - perhaps with images of unsold stock of baubles and artbooks piling up in warehouses preying on their minds - publishers tend to opt for the safest option, namely a soundtrack CD, a tin case, and perhaps an artbook, coupled with an extra tenner or two on the price.

If anything, this over-cautious approach is actually holding back the true potential of game special editions. Many games, after all, benefit from a stupendously devoted fan-base - often rivalling those of films or bands in their fervour. There is no doubt that certain games, from established franchises or hugely respected developers with cult followings, could easily sell genuinely limited, high quality editions for hundreds of dollars - a potential revenue stream of millions of dollars which is otherwise being left on the table.

Of course, when your game is grossing hundreds of millions already, as in the case of the industry's top sellers, that's arguably not very important. However, the reality is that it's games on the fringes which can benefit most from the culture of special editions - games whose sales may not be enormous, but whose enormous appeal to a small core of dedicated fans turns them into cult hits.

These games could see a significant upturn in the revenue they generate by releasing expensive, high-quality special editions. In the case of certain niche games, it could even make the difference between breaking even and flopping.

Unfortunately, as appealing as this possibility may be, the present fad for special editions of almost every major game on the market could actually be poisoning the well, at least to some extent. All too many games today are graced with hugely disappointing "special editions" - cheap, poorly made plastic models and flimsy, badly printed artbooks are the order of the day for some publishers, which naturally serves to make consumers wary of further special edition purchases.

A consumer confronted with Bayonetta's dreadful gun model or the spectacularly awful special edition for Batman: Arkham Asylum - both fantastic games with dedicated fan-bases who are perfect targets for good special edition boxes - is a consumer unlikely to pay over the odds for another special edition in future.

Handled correctly and applied to the right games, special editions can make more money for the publisher and developer while simultaneously delighting your most devoted fans - a win-win situation. To achieve this, however, publishers will need to get genuinely creative - involving the development team in the process of designing the special edition, and crafting something that's worthwhile, in keeping with the tone of the game, and which fans will genuinely be proud to own.

One can only hope that publishers will recognise the value of doing this before consumers become completely sick of cheap plastic models and the special edition fad ends entirely - another golden egg laying goose casually led into the slaughterhouse.

For more views on the industry and to keep up to date with news relevant to the games business, read our sister website GamesIndustry.biz, where you can read this weekly editorial column as soon as it is posted.

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About the author

Rob Fahey

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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