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Limited Edition Games – Are they worth it?

October 4th, 2008 by


I’d love to sit in on some of these games publishers’ marketing meetings. “We’re gonna put the game in a bigger box, use some artwork that didn’t make the final cut for the standard sleeve, throw a couple of bits of crap in and charge an extra 10 to 25 percent!”. The audience of big-wigs eyes light up with greed as the marketing exec beams like a cheshire cat while inside he/she is laughing at how easy their job is.

I accept that I’m generalising somewhat, but you can guarantee that a variation of the above is happening on a regular basis.

This week saw Lionhead announce that the Collector’s Edition of Fable II would ship with a somewhat smaller selection of goodies than originally planned, along with a reduction in price to cushion the blow.

To add insult to injury days later, pre-order customers of the game were getting the following email from their retailer.

Dear Customer,

We have recently contacted you regarding a marketwide problem with the Fable
II Collectors Edition. We have since been informed by Microsoft that there
has been a further complication.

They have advised us that the developer diary and soundtrack are no longer
going to be available on the bonus DVD.

We are very disappointed and would like to reassure you that your Collectors
Edition will still include:

Bonus DVD with new ‘Making-of’ Feature.
Bonus in-game content (requires Xbox LIVE) including:
. The Hall of the Dead Dungeon
. The Wreckager Legendary Cutlass Weapon
. Spartan armor and energy sword

Also because you have ordered from GAME.co.uk you will have already received
your code to download the Fable II Xbox Live Pub Games. If you have not
received this yet have no fear as they are being emailed out every Friday
afternoon, fear not! They are being emailed out every Friday afternoon.

Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Kind regards,
Customer Services


Consider the following questions.

What purpose do Limited Editions serve?

Some would argue that they offer an enhanced premium package for the ‘hardcore’ fan and that’s all well and good. The problem seems that games publishers don’t always seem to hit the mark when it comes to understanding what makes a ‘Limited Edition’ desirable. Do I really want an unwieldly large box that sits awkwardly on my shelf? Am I ever going to sit in my car and listen to the soundtrack on my journey to work? Will that making of DVD, full of the web diaries that I’ve already seen months before the game was even released, get played once if it’s lucky! Now I have that that ‘Master Chief’ helmet do I have to buy a cat that can wear it? Can I be arsed to dismantle my Xbox 360 to attach that gaudy faceplate? Will I appreciate any of the above more because I shelled out an extra tenner or so? Probably not.

Are retailers and consumers better off with the ‘Pre-order and get a free <insert incentve here>’ marketing model?

For the most part, yes.

Retailers work co-operatively with the publishers and will generally have some influence in what incentive is offered, as the cost of the promotion is distributed across both parties. This generally ensures that the promotional item or content will be far more attractive to the consumer. As the cost is partially or wholly absorbed before it reaches the consumer there will be little or no extra to pay.

Innovative ideas and unique propositions should always be looked upon favourably too.

For example customers who pre-order Saints Row 2 from play.com will be given the opportunity to personalise their box art, have it professionally printed and shipped to them at no extra cost, along with a few bits of exclusive in game vehicles.

I’m far more receptive to this type of exclusivity. It just makes better sense all round.

The next advance I imagine could be to actually ask the consumer what they would like as a pre-order incentive. Websites & forums are usually thrown up early in a game’s development cycle. This would give ample time to collate ideas and requests from fans. The best (and most cost effective) could then be shortlisted and then agreed upon by the decision makers.

There you go publishers, I’ve saved you a load on marketing bods, no charge! Do me one favour though. Bring back cloth maps. I was always a sucker for them!

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