The Graph That Proves Video Games Have Crossed The Line

The Graph That Proves Video Games Have Crossed The Line

This is gaming today. This is what we have to deal with. Watch Dogs comes out at the end of this month and the above image shows just how insane the whole ‘collector’s edition’ market has become. This is a table in the Watch Dogs Wikipedia entry designed to explain the multiple types of editions currently available. It is insane. I’ve done a quick calculation: if you wanted to own every single piece of exclusive launch DLC, and all of the collectable junk, you’ll need to buy Watch Dogs three times.

Three times.

I might be an old bastard. I might be naive and completely ignorant of the economics of the situation, but when you have a matrix of collectables so extensive that a massive, well crafted table is required in order to explain multiple iterations of the same game, I think it’s safe to say you’ve crossed some sort of invisible line of reason.

And the crazy thing is: Watch Dogs is not the exception. If anything, Watch Dogs is pretty damn well close to the norm when it comes to the release of big budget AAA titles.

Let’s break this down. In the multiple different versions of Watch Dogs there are…

— Ten different types of launch DLC that don’t automatically come with the game
— A Watch Dogs map
— Exclusive packaging
— A baseball cap
— A vigilante mask
— A Steelbook
— A figurine
— An artbook
— 4 different augmented reality cards
— 3 ‘exclusive’ badges

Oh, and there’s also a video game in there believe it or not.

I’m sure there are gamers out there who treasure this kind of paraphernalia; maybe even some who will shell out in order to collect every single item but, for me personally, this practice is getting out of hand. Look at the size of the above image. Look at it. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that this is what a video game launch now looks like. We are buying a game. A video game. I for one would like that consumer experience to be a little more cohesive instead of a scattershot blast of random DLC across multiple different special editions.

I’m not sure where this pressure comes from. Why do publishers feel the need to do this? Is it pressure from retail? An internal thing? Is this what it takes to sell a video game to a broad mass market? Whatever the reasoning, it’s starting to drive me crazy. I like to buy and play video games. I’d like that version of the game to be definitive. At the moment buying a AAA video game feels like dipping your toes into fragmented swamp full of cheap tat and meaningless DLC.

I’m not buying health insurance here. I am buying a video game. Jesus.

Thanks to Raygun Brown for picking up on this.


  • to be fair, the inevitable GOTY ed. will probably have all the DLC (pre & post launch) in it.
    & if you’re really, really keen on a shitty baseball cap, I’m sure ebay will have them in a few weeks.

    to hell with pre-orders.

    • I bought the Thief game on pre-order last year off steam very early after it was offered – it cost me ~$80. The game later released for around ~$40. I got no refund, nor special content to justify me paying DOUBLE for the game.

      I am NEVER going to pre-order another (non-Blizzard) game again… What an absolute joke.

      • with Blizzard’s fetish for online-only setups & the launch day problems that tends to produce, I’m not gonna bother picking up any Blizzard games day one, let alone pre-ordering them, ever again.
        i’ll give it a week after launch to get em in the future.

      • Haha, that sounds familiar.
        After a few AWFUL DECISIONS (CEs of Duke Nuke Forever and AVP2010, anyone?) I made the same call. “No more collector’s editions ever again! But… I have already got the Starcraft 2 CE, so it would be a shame to not complete the set, the same thing with Diablo 3… but after that, no more CEs!”

      • Yup, what’s worse is that the half price discount happened ONE MONTH after it came out. Game was released 28th Feb in EU, 50% off PSN sale was 28th March. Yet another painful lesson about preordering.

    • They didn’t list the version that comes with all the DLC without uPlay.

      I just have to remember to stop by Uncle Torrence’s house to pick it up after work.

  • I blame EB with their horrible “exclusive preorder” crap that’s purely designed so that you cant price match other stores, you just have to pay their insane prices.

      • Pretty hard to refuse a major retailer though. If they ‘demand’ an exclusive, they’ll probably get it.

        • I think it would be in anyone’s best interest to do it. It confirms at least a minimum amount of pre orders, which in the end, is money in the pocket. I would do the same thing

          • I’d be interested to see proven wrong, but I think the number of fully-paid-preorders is a drop in the bucket compared to the first 3 days of walk-in sales. 3 days is short enough for people to get reviews out saying “don’t buy, shit game”. IMO pre-orders don’t help get ‘money in the pocket’.

          • Speaking from prior experience; preorders are a huge deal, particularly for specialist retailers. Not only is every preorder basically a guaranteed sale, but a lot of specialist retailers use their preorder numbers as a measuring stick for the amount of demand for a game and the amount of stock they might need. There are certainly games that do tend to have a lot of walk-in sales early on (I remember Gran Turismo 4 having massive sales from walk-ins, despite a very large amount of preorders), but traditionally preorder sales will outweigh walk-ins in the first few days, if not the first week or two (although I get the feeling this may be starting to change as gaming continues to become more mainstream). It’s why retailers can justify the cost of midnight launches for more popular games, and why specialist retailers procure exclusive preorder DLC or bonuses to entice people to preorder with them.

  • Thankfully all the extra DLC content in cases like this is usually trivial bullshit.

    • True. I got the 3 extra levels for Black Flag much later for a couple bucks on Steam. Absolutely miniscule extra content, was barely worth the couple bucks, let alone $20 or however much the starting premium is.

  • I just take pleasure in the thought that all the people buying this useless collectible crapola will feel really silly when they grow up in a few years and realise in the process of moving out of their parent’s house that there’s all sorts of crap they’ve accumulated that is really just better off being thrown away.

    “Ooooh, my vinyl record from the collector’s edition of Bioshock 2! That’ll be valuable one day!”

    • Hey, that vinyl is cool.
      and nobody buys that collectible crap with the intent to sell them in the future.

    • Sometimes those collectables if they’re actually limited *are* valuable. Especially if you keep all the extras from a collector’s edition together in one place and doubly so if they’re left unopened.

      The hardcover book from Ni no Kuni for example fetches prices of $100+.

  • DLC & pre-order bonuses seems to have ruined/ changed AAA gaming for the worse, i mean back before DLC was just another part of gaming, character clothing and secret weapons/missions were handed out as rewards for completing side tasks and finding secrets, not just grinding collectibles for say achievements or actually having to pay for what should just be included in a game. Its almost as if they develop and then say alright what can we cut and sell separate and still give the consumer a product that in the end just feels like a hollowed out shell….

    • Yeah but COD. Just look at that, realise that the vast stupiditymajority of the world will pay for a yearly release of new maps/guns. Weep.

      • I don’t play Call of Duty anymore, but you’ve got to remember that people who do play it a lot. It’s not like say BioShock Infinite where you play it for a week, and a few hours for each DLC, then you’re done. The value for money on a game like Battlefield ends up being pretty good. $80 for the game, $40 for Premium which is usually four DLC map packs and some perks. Before internet/XBOX Live/etc that’s $120 but for a lot of fans that’s at least a years worth of entertainment versus $80 for Watch_Dogs which will last a few weeks at best.

        A lot of games are really well suited to yearly releases and four pre-scheduled DLC packs a year. It seems like greedy companies milking stupid cash cows but things like PvP centric competitive shooters, sports games, fighters, they don’t work on the same value system as games you and I would consider great.
        To you and I buying FIFA every year just to get updated shirts on the teams is crazy, but to FIFA fans the fact I brought Shadow of the Colossus twice probably sounds even more crazy. It’s only got a handful of enemies and like two weapons. 90% of the game is riding the horse between fights. If you’ve never experienced it it sounds like you’d be crazy to spend more than $10 on it. =P

  • Oh, and there’s also a video game in there believe it or not.

    That’s more than we can say for Wolfenstein… which doesn’t even come with a video game!

    As someone who used to be a collector, I think this is nuts even by my collecting standards.

  • Probably wait until there’s a GOTY edition available for cheap in a steam or humble bundle sale.

  • A friend said that “we always get the government we deserve”, and I could say it’s the same thing for the current state of video-games retail.

    If the current trend of Pre-order packs, dlc, exclusive content and ridiculous bundles is going out of control, then the consumers themselves are the only ones to blame because we’ve been the ones responding to this behaviour by desperately throwing our money at the publishers when they announce this kind of crap.

    I’ve never agreed with it, and clearly neither do you Mark, but it’s a sad fact that we’re the miniority here, and it’s the complatency of the rest of the mass videogaming consumer base has brought us to this point.

    • the only ones to blame because we’ve been the ones responding to this behaviour by desperately throwing our money at the publishers when they announce this kind of crap.

      There’s nothing wrong with wanting anything on that list. It’s all cool stuff. You can argue some of it is over priced junk but that’s personal taste. The store digital stuff seems to be either cosmetic or available to the public (I may be wrong on that). What’s wrong here is that these special editions exist purely for publishers and retail chains, without a single thought for consumers (because if you think about it for even a second of course the fan pre-ordering the special edition for an extra $30 wants the stuff in the rival stores pre-order offer as well).
      I’m sure like myself you remember when buying a PC game meant you’d get a huge box full of cool stuff to go with your game. Maps, reference books, manuals so thick their production devoured entire forests (fun fact for younger gamers – art books were rare in the olden days because manuals were full of art). Buy a cool game, get a cool mouse pad! It was awesome.
      They don’t make games like that anymore because, as evidenced by the ‘take the Kinect out’ XBOX One movement, a significant portion of people feel like they’re being massively ripped off when they don’t use everything in the box even if they’re not paying extra for it, but special/collectors/deluxe editions can let that tradition live on a little.
      Having a version of Mario Kart 8 that comes with a Blue Turtle Shell helmet is a stupid idea, but it’s totally fine if Nintendo want to offer it. It only becomes bad when it’s locking people into some overly complicated pre-order scam where they have to choose between the shell helmet at EB, playable Luigi at JB or getting nothing but the disc and case by supporting the independent store that doesn’t hound them for pre-orders and disc insurance every time they walk within 10m of the store.

      It’s extremely hard to fight this with your wallet. How do I say yes to special editions that have more substance than a cheap art pamphlet and a three track CD without inadvertently supporting the idea that EB and JB sell two different versions of the game? I can buy it, bitch about it on the internet and achieve nothing, or I can not buy the special edition full of things I actually want, with a pre-order that I was going to place anyway, and send the message that there’s no market for cool special editions. It’s lose lose.

  • While initially it was easy to keep track of the two or three different types of editions I’d either opt in or out of getting a limited/collectors edition. These days I just grab the normal game and buy whatever extras off the PSN. Usually the so called exclusive DLC becomes available as for an extra $2-3 shortly after release?

    That said it has reached a point where getting exclusive DLC adds absolutely nothing substantial to the game itself but is more of a means to appease various retail stores. Usually I just go for the edition that has a real life item I’d want.

  • if EB didn’t have any exclusive merchandise or memorabilia every console game i would buy would be from hong kong. Also games at EB can be paid off slowly so in the long term it doesn’t sting as bad. Mind you digital watchdog keys are 30-50 bucks at g2a depending on demand. Ubi/EA pre-release day 1 DLC is kind of gross though, memorabilia is cool but its obvious they should do the right thing and include everything in the full release, DLC should be weeks later not the day you buy it.

  • Pretty sure it crossed the line when developers started releasing games without fully completing the game and instead charging you a separate fee for “DLC” that let you experience the entire story.

  • I think the problem here isn’t about the publishers making a collectors edition, it’s the AMOUNT of collectors editions they’re now coming out with, combined with the quality. Something like the Bioshock CE is great because it’s a cool concept (in case you hadn’t heard, Vinyl is making a comeback, not just with hipsters.) That and the fact it was the only CE they put out. Most companies have been smart enough to offer 1 or 2 versions of collectors editions, for those who might have the money and wish to get something cool. (There’s an loot crate edition of Borderlands 2 that looks awesome.)
    Ubisoft unfortunately have taken that concept and overdid it, and might have just shot themselves in the foot in the process.

  • Jesus. If they want to compete with GTA, then why does the physical map not come with the standard version. A bit annoyed that I won’t get a map with my preorder

    • How many people actually use a physical map while playing though? I always seem to take it out when I open the game, have a look and think, “yeah, looks nice” fold it up and never look at again because I end up using the in-game map all of the time anyway, because it’s more convenient, more detailed and you can set waypoints with it and so on.

      I even splurged for the SE of GTA V primarily for the fabled blueprint map and it didn’t really have any information that amazing that wasn’t up on the ‘Net in minutes anyway lol.

      • I like the maps as posters, especially when stylised, eg. the Elder Scolls maps

        • Yeah, I forgot about that aspect. I have friends who like to put them up on the wall in their games room. I’ve even heard of some people ironing the creases out and framing them!

  • I actually do like some of the memorabilia that comes with games, still love my Halo: Reach statue. But not if I have to buy a game 3 times just to get them all.

    I also don’t care for pre-order DLC skins or boosts. I usually play the game without them, as they usually increase a weapons damage or something that makes the game easier and I would like to play the game as designed.
    Oh yeah, exp boosts are lame if the multiplayer will be dead within a month.

  • Eh ill just keep buying the standard edition from my online source for $70. EB Games know exactly where they can shove their exclusive collector items that millions of people get on launch.

  • I drew the line at the white or black NFS game that had more cars in the more expensive version.
    Crap like this just makes me wait until they release the ‘complete’ edition for one (lower by that stage) price.

  • I think it started of as a pre order exclusive and they (eb, marketers, so on) thought hey this stuff works and it just got out of hand.

    Where what really is happening is people just pre order things so they can get them as early as possible.

    Look at green light. People buy games before they are even finished. Some don’t get finished at all.

    Getting things early along with some minor rubbish some people find cool, it got out of hand and now we got this.

  • Can’t wait for 60fps / 1080p resolution features to be a retailer exclusive
    – said no one ever

    $89.99 – EB Games standard stable frame rate edition
    includes the game locked at 30frames per sec

    $99.99 – EB Games deluxe stable frame rate edition
    includes the game locked at 60frames per sec

    $139.99 – EB Games hardcore deluxe stable frame rate edition
    includes the game locked at 60frames per sec at 1080p resolution

  • One trend I’m liking over at Lionhead is that they’re currently going through and releasing all the old Fable pre-order DLC for Fable 2 and 3. I’d rather they did that from day one and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about having people pay extra for exclusive content only to have it released to the public later (albeit much later).
    I get the impression the penny finally dropped and they realised they make good enough games that they’ll make more money long term selling this stuff directly to the fans for 99 cents a pack. I mean how much money would EB have to give Square to match up to even 1% of Final Fantasy VII purchases sending an additional 50 cents directly to Square over the course of just the first year of release? If you’re confident in the games quality and fanbase there’s not much value in giving good content to a retail chain that was probably going to see the bulk of the pre-orders anyway.

    I think Fable Legends will have a fancy collectors edition with some cool toys in it, but all the retail exclusive DLC will be timed and the digital deluxe edition will be permanently available.

  • I really only want the “Conspiracy Mode: Digital Trip” DLC, its reminds me of “They Live”.
    Dont think I’ll buy the season pass just for that though…

    Which is a shame, coz I’m actually really pumped for WatchDogs, I even tried to take the day off work, but i couldnt get it (they compromised and gave me a day off for Wolfenstien instead)

  • In fairness, whilst Watch Dogs is possibly the worst instance so far, Ubisoft in general are the culprits and have been doing it for ages now.

    Assassin’s Creed II was also a huge one for differences. Standard, White & Black Editions, each had a different figurine. That was just out local country, the US also got 2 different versions with a Jack In The Box, and Europe got something else also.

    As for the reason why, I’m in the “unable to price match” camp, it is such an easy way for retailers to keep the RRP on the product for longer. The publishers also would love it, as it shifts the blame mainly on the retailers, when in fact they would also love the fact that it can hold the value of the product longer, unless it completely bombs.

  • Why so many versions? Location, retail exclusivity and platform exclusivity. The publishers are responding to a need (multiple needs it seems) in a way that will ensure they make the most profit possible.

    This means there are people buying this stuff. Doesn’t sound like too many posters above are amongst them, but I am. I love this crap. I realise it is crap but to have a physical artefact in front of me of a game I’m playing is enjoyable. Not to you maybe, but that’s ok.

    For the record I bought three versions of the The Witcher 2 for the loot. And you should see that loot. It is crap, but it is awesome 🙂

  • I’ve preordered the Dedsec Edition because I wanted the statue and didn’t care about the hat or mask (which I think are dumb anyway, which is why I hadn’t preordered prior to seeing the Dedsec statue).

    I didn’t realise just how much “bonus” DLC I’ll probably be expected to buy seperately, assuming I’ll even be allowed to buy it. There’s certainly been games in the past (not Ubisoft titles, mind you, but some titles like Fallout New Vegas and Mass Effect 2) where some DLC was only available in some countries as part of a cross promotion with Mountain Dew or something!

    I don’t mind that there’s console/platform exclusive DLC like the White Hat pack being Playstation-only, but what’s the deal with the Ubishop-exclusive DLC? Is that just day one DLC that has to be purchased no matter what?

  • I’m a grown up and I still enjoy the extra Diablo model on my desk, or the Powerlifter vs Alien statue above it. Hell, I even pre-ordered the limited CE for Homeworld HD remastered, because it comes with a 13″ model of the mothership.
    There are games I don’t care about extras for a CE, some games it just makes the game right.

  • There was a pretty big uproar over ME3 bonus content that shipped with mice/keyboards/etc.

    I recall that purchasing Mass Effect 3 with everything unlocked would set you back around ~$900

  • It is absolutely ridiculous, I have already canceled my pre-order (PS4 version). This game is hype on steroids, it won’t live up to the hype, but those who bought the game will try to convince themselves that “2 + 2 = 5”. A retail game should be complete at the point of purchase- the video gaming industry of today is decidedly bereft of integrity!

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