There’s nothing particularly remarkable about a modern, AAA game ramping up its pre-release marketing with the publisher pushing multiple retail SKUs. Red Dead Redemption 2, developed by Rockstar, is perfectly unremarkable in this: in early June, multiple versions of the game, with respective sets of “bonuses,” went on sale. But there is an idea that some publishers, mostly the bravest ones, have tried at least once. Of this idea, Rockstar is the latest of a small number of large publishers that have pushed through angry gaming discourse to offer something only the most die-hard fans may even consider. But is it a foolish thing to consider in the first place, or are good ideas secretly buried under the brazen disrespect for bank accounts?
The idea, as you may suspect, is offering a collector set that doesn’t actually include the game. That’s right – for $100, you can purchase a metal box of Red Dead Redemption merchandise. But if you want the game, you have to shell out an additional 60 to 100 depending on what other version, therefore additional bonuses, you want to play with. To get everything, you’re looking at two, separate 100-dollar buys. At a minimum, with the fancy box, you’re looking at around 160 total. That sounds bizarre, and it’s certainly tough to wrap your head around when you look at the available options for the first time, the good parts actually rest within that confusion.
It’s all about the options. With most games, you have the standard, deluxe, and limited editions these days. There’s the base game, the base game with some digital goodies, then the big boy with all the physical swag that either stays in the box or makes its way onto a shelf somewhere depending on who you are. You can’t really make much of a choice, and all the physical stuff is loaded into an expensive edition with, sometimes, digital content also sequestered. With Red Dead Redemption 2, there’s an attempt here at a different system. The die hards can now spend all the money they want to get the fancy merchandise, but all the digital content is tied to the actual game, with priced tiers. This lets you decided how you want the game, but still have access to the merch. You can even buy it digitally, but still get the stuff. But it also has a benefit for Rockstar and Take-Two.
With this release model for limited-edition, physical goods, which are obviously in demand, sometimes the publisher will eat some dirt on a lot of leftovers. If limited editions don’t sell through, it doesn’t take long for retailers to drop the price off a cliff so they can move the products that take so much more space the hell out of their stores. By having a single, limited box of junk, with the game separate, that makes the extra goodies platform-agnostic. Now a bunch of different versions of the same thing for different consoles don’t have to be manufactured. Instead, they can produce a flat number, and anyone interested can pick it up regardless of how they’re playing the game. So in a way, despite the high numbers, it’s almost a conservative decision.
That’s the long and short of it. Games have been stuck in their ways for a long time, but doing things the same way forever isn’t always sustainable. These companies are looking for efficiencies that yes, save money, but also give customers attractive options they may not have had before. A collector’s edition that doesn’t come with a game is kind of abstract on paper, but if you crunch the numbers and compare them to the amount of extra options, it seems like it generally works out in the favor of anyone who would have considered this in the first place. What do you think?