Driven by cost-cutting and digital distribution, today’s publishers do their best to emaciate physical copies of games. Most major releases are little more than a disc, a case, and an outer insert, with not even an anemic instruction manual to fill out the package and keep said disc from coming loose and getting scratched when Amazon ships it in a paper sleeve.
Publishers compensate for stripped-down retail games with overstuffed collector’s editions. Any major release now comes in a puny regular version as well as a deluxe collector’s set with a soundtrack, an artbook, a replica chainsaw, a spaceship model, a toy mech, a Master Chief helmet, a Kung Lao bobblehead, a Duke Nukem bust, a dismembered woman's torso in an American-flag bikini (really), or a small figure of Metallia, Nathan Drake, or some other character. That’d be Metallia from The Witch and the Hundred Knight, not Metalia from Thousand Arms. The sheer obscurity would impress me if anyone made a toy of the latter Metalia.
It’s all too much for the folks who just want a little more than half-empty cases with their video games. Sony’s upcoming The Last Guardian presents a good example. It’s a prestigious release, and Sony centered its $120 special edition around a small statue of the game’s boy protagonist and his giant griffin-puppy Trico. You’ll also get an artbook, a soundtrack, and an imitation wooden box to hold it all.
Oddly, that lineup is less impressive than an earlier collector’s edition that Sony briefly exhibited. The promo shot included a metal griffon-feather ring, some extra artwork, a different statue, and the game’s regular packaging for those who hate pulling discs out of those pinching steelbook things. It’s not a case of another region getting more material, either; some European news sites used this initial package, but all outlets and retailers have since shifted to the leaner bundle with the sleepier Trico.
I wouldn’t mind an artbook or soundtrack with my inevitable purchase of The Last Guardian. Fumito Uedo’s games always have wonderful, subdued design work and excellent music. But a statue? A collector’s crate? They’d just take up space, and I already have too many toys and novelty statues sitting in boxes because I lack the room or geek fortitude to display them. Besides, collector’s-edition figures can turn out to be low-quality. Eleven years later, and MOK-KOS is not forgotten.
Now I will be a glaring hypocrite and complain that the one upcoming game for which I WOULD buy a garishly supplied collector’s edition doesn’t have one. Gravity Rush 2: The Legend of Being Doomed Because It Comes Out Three Days After Final Fantasy XV is my most-wanted game this year, and I hoped that Sony would back it heartily. Well, that’s not apparent in the promotional goods. Reserving it gets you a digital soundtrack and extra costume, and there’s no lavish special edition with an artbook or perhaps the Figma-made Kat that came with Gravity Rush Remastered in Japan and still costs way too much.
Even so, I’m not going digital. I still like to have something in my hands on the rare occasions I put down money for a full-price game, even if that something is just a nice illustration and some box copy to mull over during the ride home.
I also like the implicit option of throwing a game on eBay and recouping my losses if it turns out that, for example, Gravity Rush 2 is just a reskinned version of Bratz: Girlz Really Rock for the Nintendo Wii. But I’d probably keep it even then.