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.
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.