These days, video game consoles are well renowned, recognizable, and in a crap ton of homes across the globe. Chances are good you have at least one in your house, if not two. My husband and I have a nice collection of various consoles that are sometimes in duplicate, like our Wiis, or triplicate, in the case of our PS2s, since we each had one before we got married, and now they sit on the shelves and hang out together.
Most titles created these days span platforms, meaning that they are accessible for all systems, from console to handheld to PC. Getting a game for your system is easier than ever, too. You go to the store, check out the section for whichever console you’re trying to get the title on, and voila, you buy that baby and bring it on home. There are, of course, titles that are limited to one system, but I mean hell, I just finished playing the new Tomb Raider on my 360 a couple months ago. I have my original Playstation copies of some of the older games and even a bundle of EVERY Tomb Raider game that I got on Steam when it was on sale—
Oh, how the wallet groans at the mere mention of a Steam sale.
—which means that I have digital and physical copies of the same games across four different consoles. In the not too distant past, such a thing would have been absolutely preposterous. When a game had its run, it ran for ONE console, one developer, and if you didn’t have that system, you better hope to hell your rich kid friend’s dad bought it for Christmas just so you could watch it get played, because you got socks and a sweater, mister.
Video games are prolific these days… So why do developers bother with limited edition runs?
The first part of course, is easy to answer: Cha-ching, baby.
Like any human with a predilection for collecting anything, video game collectors want to believe the hoard we’re amassing is important and holds value, even if we never plan on selling any of it. Limited edition runs appeals to us on those levels, certainly, because hey, we’ve got something that they only sold 500 copies of and you don’t, and we don’t have a problem paying the cushy price!
One of the games infamous for this very thing is a little title called Earthbound for the SNES.
For those of you who don’t immediately recognize it, this series introduced the character Ness that you’re not planning on using in Super Smash Bros. but want to unlock anyway.
Earthbound’s run was pretty limited in the US at first because Americans didn’t really care for it. A couple different things like bad marketing and lack of interest in the ‘simple’ graphics were blamed for its poor reception, so America only ended up selling about half as many copies as Japan did of the same title.
America… always complaining… this is why we didn’t get Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels, and got Doki Doki Panic instead, guys.
Later on, everyone turned around and basically said, “We love Earthbound!” and then bought the pixelated graphics out of it on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console.
“But,” you’re probably asking, “what does this have to do with limited edition?”
Good question, astute reader! You know how America only sold half as many original cartridge copies of the game? Guess how much they go for now that it has critical acclaim?
Free shipping? I’m sold!
That, my friend, is a copy sold by Nintendo itself, and that’s not smudge on your screen. You’ll see that used versions are selling for less, but its still a pretty hefty price tag for a 21 year old game. That’s right guys, if that game were a person, it could totally buy alcohol. Feel old yet?
That particular limited run was an accident, because I guess people were pickier about their pixels then, but limited it is, and expensive as all get out because of it.
Now, a limited run isn’t always a shite situation… sometimes getting that edition is really great because it honestly adds to the game you’re purchasing.
Skyrim’s legendary edition had that amazing dragon sculpture, and Mass Effect 3 had a nifty lithograph and N7 patch that came with it, and in general, people who play the games love the art books and maps and other goods that come with such a purchase. Limited edition stuff makes it special, and we like special. I still display my N7 patch on my bookshelf, as a matter of fact, and I proudly have a limited edition Skyrim poster and at least four maps from the Elder Scroll games displayed in frames. What could be so wrong with that then?
The second part is also easy to answer and is remarkably similar to the first: Cha-ching, baby!
There was (probably) once a time when people bought limited edition goods because they genuinely enjoyed what came in said bundle. These days, the Internet has changed that perspective, however, and buying limited edition has gone from genuine buyers to a grotesquely large group of scalpers who purchase multiple copies of the items just to sell them at higher prices online. They have no intention of playing, enjoying, or gifting them—it all goes immediately online at sometimes double or triple the original price, just so that the people who actually want the item but couldn’t a) get it in time, or b) afford it during its run are screwed over and forced to pay exorbitant prices to scalpers who have no love of the items they’re selling. This doesn’t just affect video games, of course, but they do suffer from it quite a bit.
Recently, Nintendo (yeah, we’re back at you, buddy, even though I love you) released a series of figures for the Wii U called Amiibos. These were plastic Nintendo characters similar to Disney Infinity or Skylanders.
Apart from there being confusion over where to buy certain characters or when they were being released, they also immediately started discontinuing certain characters–that’s right, discontinuing them all together. This, of course, caused a run on every store that sold the Amiibos, sending scalpers and collectors alike into a frenzy. Keep in mind that the Wii U itself is about $250-$300 and the games are $60. There was barely any time between the release of the new Super Smash Bros. game before you had to immediately dash back out and spend $12.99 apiece on figures if you didn’t want to miss out on them before they went bye-bye.
Scalpers, on the other hand, ate that shit up. Now, if you go and look online, you’ll see some Amiibos are as high as $45.
This is a constant problem, destroying true fans’ opportunities to get the goods they’re after and giving money to a bunch of asshats on Amazon and eBay who make more selling that stuff per figure than the company that made them did.
Does this mean the limited edition item should die before it wears out its fans? Nah, not really. It does mean that companies are going to have to get tougher on making certain that limited runs reach a wider variety of people in a bit larger numbers, but it could be a while (or never) before that happens. Companies probably aren’t going to be interested in policing the releases more than they have to, because hey, first and foremost, they want to make certain that their product sells, and those d-bag scalpers are definitely buying them up. It’s not like they’re purposely screwing over fans… just creating the scenario that allows their fans to be screwed over, and then letting it happen.
And scalpers? Pssht. Just… just do me a favor, people, and don’t purchase from them.
Oh, and to the creepy old dude at Walmart buying the hell out of those Amiibos to sell online? Eff you.
It’s not like I–I mean some kid wanted them for Christmas… or something…