Are special editions and expansions getting too pricey?

ceIt’s amazing to me not only how we get used to pretty significant changes in culture but how quickly we do so.  For example, a mere five years ago free-to-play MMOs represented a fringe business model, and we were shocked when DDO made the switch.  Now it’s pretty much the opposite, with subscription-only games being on the outskirts (and new sub games struggling to maintain those models).

This is why I’m not terribly surprised that the sticker shock we experienced just a few years ago regarding the high cost of collector’s editions has receeded to dull acceptance.  Remember when $150 for Star Wars: The Old Republic’s special edition was practically scandal?  (And it still is, considering how little you actually got for it.)  But SWTOR wasn’t alone in pushing the standard CE price, which formally was around $80, up into three digits.

But are all prices shooting up into the $150 range?  Or is this merely the case of selective observation?

Cost comparison

Guild Wars 2 sold its much more impressive CE for $150 as well. The best version of RIFT: Nightmare Tide will set you back $150.  There was a $150 EVE Online collector’s edition that came out in 2013.  The Imperial Edition of ESO was $100 (and slightly controversial as it included an otherwise-locked race).  STO is selling an “operations pack” of the upcoming Delta Rising expansion for $125.  Destiny had a big-box Ghost Edition for $150.  The Secret World had a Grand Master Pack for $200 that included a lifetime sub.  Then we get into pre-orders that allowed you to buy into the alpha testing program, such as Landmark’s $100 trailblazer pack and ArcheAge’s $150 founders pack.

That isn’t to say that $150 is all anyone does any more.  In comparison, the most expensive version of original RIFT’s special editions was just $80.  WildStar’s digital deluxe edition (there was no CE) was $85.  The Warlords of Draenor expansion CE, which is quite loaded, is still a reasonable $90.  The Diablo III CE is merely $50.  The FFXIV CE ranged between $50 and $80 depending on what version and platform you chose.  The DDO: Shadowfell Conspiracy CE was $50.  EQ: Call of the Forsaken CE is $90. as is the new EQII expansion CE.  The most expensive version of LOTRO: Riders of Rohan was $70.  Defiance had a $70 CE.

Of course, all of this is hard to compare because you’ve got so many factors — the base game vs. expansions, physical CEs vs. digital CEs, pre-order bonuses vs. launch editions.  But at a glance, $150 isn’t as “standard” as I thought when I began writing this post.  It’s probably more standard for a big physical box CE (i.e. “the cube”).

Is $150 too much for a collector’s edition?

This is a tricky question to answer, mostly because it boils down to your financial status, how much you have been looking forward to this game, whether it’s on top of a subscription, and what’s being offered for that price.  We also must consider inflation, which has been steadily rising whereas the average MMO sub fee has not.

While I am a complete sucker for CEs, I’ll say that the $150 trend is pushing it for me.  I’ve splurged in the past, to be sure, but thank goodness these don’t come out every other month.  $150 is a grocery store trip for our family.  It’s a really good Kindle plus a couple of ebooks.  And it’s a heap of digital goodies if I take that money directly to games’ cash shops and buy select items that I know I’ll use.

What we get with CEs is exclusivity — physical and digital items that you can’t get anywhere else.  I’m generally pleased with CEs that deliver account-wide beneficial items (such as mounts or increased inventory space) that will benefit my characters for years to come.  If I signed back up for World of Warcraft today, any new character I made would get the same mini panda or diablo pet that the original CE entailed.

I’m losing respect for the feelies of a CE, however.  Soundtracks are a huge draw, but only if you can’t get them elsewhere.  Statues?  Cloth maps?  Keyboard overlays?  Authenticator fobs?  Let’s be honest, most of these will be trash or dusty shelf items before too long.

I guess I can’t blame games like STO and ArcheAge trying to tap whales with their huge up-front pre-orders, since people can more easily justify spending that kind of cash if they’re getting the game or expansion for free anyway.  It doesn’t stop my eyes from bulging and/or rolling, but they gotta pay the bills somehow.

For me, I’d love to see more CEs in the reasonable zone of $60-$80, since it vastly increases the likelihood that I’ll drop cash for them.  $150 still triggers a strong debate in my household.

12 thoughts on “Are special editions and expansions getting too pricey?

  1. Jeromai September 11, 2014 / 9:29 am

    There’s usually a more middle-of-the-road digital goodies-only CE / expanded edition in the $80 range, to go alongside the regular box price of $60 (at launch, with a high possibility of going to 50% off a couple months down the road.)

    I see $150 CEs as the realm of the slightly fanatical / enthusiast supporter, akin to something like a DVD collector’s edition boxed set with lots of discs, making ofs, art or physical stuff. For me, an art book and some kind of physical statuette are my draws, along with a soundtrack.

    To be honest though, I haven’t seen the urge or need to pick one up after GW2 – the newer MMOs don’t seem to have any special draw or hype. I kinda understand the idea and attractiveness of throwing money at an Eve Online special anniversary or whatever CE, over the current batch of newer MMOs. Still, I guess maybe they appeal to some people.

    Founder packs are a whole different thing altogether, imo. Those make me nervous, it’s like selling hype and wishful dreams and an alpha or beta version. A CE at least celebrates a game that’s relatively ready to launch and has tangible toys/packaging to play with.

  2. Asmiroth September 11, 2014 / 10:04 am

    I think the term CE is used a bit too broadly today. Back in the day when we had to hang up the phone to use the interwebs, CE mean physical items. Today, a CE is an experience boost and a ring that’s used for 2 levels, or some stupid day one DLC.

    I’ll consider a CE when it has the following, with my associated cap in value:
    – physical items (maps, statues, books) (~$10-$50 in value)
    – a soundtrack (~$10 in value)
    – a “use forever” in-game customization (like a mount, unique reusable dye, title, cape, etc…) (~$10-$20 in value)
    – pre-launch access is no longer a CE item for me. It’s part and parcel of any digital distribution package.

    Expansion costs make no sense to me. 95% of the game is already there, with a significant portion already subsidized by your subscription. Dovetails into long term value….

  3. HarbingerZero September 11, 2014 / 10:36 am

    ESO Imperial Edition was cheaper if you went digital only, and that’s exactly what I did. I’m done with $150 for CE’s. If it’s more than $80, I’m out. Burned one too many times – even with EVE – hey, here’s a code for lots of cool future products….and nothing has been added since.

  4. Tyler F.M. Edwards September 11, 2014 / 11:31 am

    It’s worth remembering that things are worth whatever people are willing to pay for them. The reason that $150 CEs exist is that people keep buying them. Whatever you or me think of them is largely irrelevant.

    Personally, I’ve never seen much appeal to CEs in the first place. The bonuses you get never seem worth the extra cost to me. I don’t believe I’ve ever bought anything but the base edition of a game. The one exception, which isn’t exactly an exception, is that I did buy the lifetime sub for TSW, but that was after I had already been playing the game for over a year and come to the conclusion it was something I wanted to stick with over the long term.

  5. firithnorm September 11, 2014 / 11:50 am

    I think the $100 level is a barrier to a lot of people. What I see happening, though, is that some studios are positioning a top-level “kitchen sink” CE at the $150 to make their “expanded edition” (“EE”), at anywhere from $60-$80, more palatable. Usually, the “EE” is digital only without any of the physical goodies and maybe one less cosmetic or pet option. The “EE” is where they get most of their sales from while the top-level CE sales, while smaller has a killer profit margin, which is why they push that one the most.

    I don’t usually fall for any extra edition stuff unless it includes account-wide gameplay extras, like storage, or a cool weapon skin, outfit, or mount. I’m a hoader, so storage is usually big for me.

  6. Hafsah @ Gameuli September 11, 2014 / 1:01 pm

    Action figures are junk to me. Maps and other goodies are worth it. I’m not a fan of the extra booklets, either, but if they’re well-done, and look incredible, then I’m all for it.

    That being said, I think the most I’ll pay for a CE would be $100, and that too is pushing it, because like you said, $150 (or $100) is a grocery store trip, and so many other necessities.

    I found your blog through the NBI, because I’m a newbie blogger, as well (though much newer than you are!). I’d love if you could stop by, as well 🙂

    Happy gaming!

  7. Pasduil September 11, 2014 / 2:34 pm

    Even in the days of yore when I had money to burn (comparatively) I’d have considered $150 ridiculous. As an upfront cost for a thing that you haven’t even had much experience of yet, and have no idea if it will have staying power for you or not? No way.

    Now if something has become very precious to me over a period of years, I might have considered that kind of spend for something really special and commemorative.

    But here’s a thought… given how pricing psychology works, sometimes the way it goes is that the ridiculously overpriced model that pretty much nobody buys helps make the merely expensive model look like a pretty good deal, and so helps bumps sales of that.

    I don’t know if game companies are fiendish enough to go in for such tactics, but they may be.

  8. Warsyde September 11, 2014 / 2:51 pm

    I think it really depends on what’s in them. For some games that include a TON of bonus material, a $150 CE might be worthwhile, but for others that just slap a few extras in there it’s just a waste of money. I’ve never spent more than $80 on a CE, as the jump into triple digits generally seems to be unjustified. I’ve seen a few CE content lists where I’ve gone “whoa, I want that!” until I’ve seen the sticker price and thought “never mind, not worth that much.”

    I find expansion pack collector’s editions especially offensive. You note the Warlords of Draenor CE is a “reasonable” $90. It’s a fricking expansion to a game, not a new game unto itself. Remember when expansions to games were $20-30? That wasn’t that long ago.

    Strangely it’s usually the free-to-play god-awful-expensive editions that are the best “value for money”. The Star Trek Online one sounds stupidly expensive until you realize it contains 6 ships that will end up costing $25 (or more?) each to buy individually, and then there are a bunch of additional perks on top of that. Whether charging $25 for a digital spaceship is reasonable or not is an entirely different argument, but that’s the going rate in STO so if you’re a player that likes to collect all the ships then the Delta Rising pack actually represents a solid value. I won’t be buying it myself (don’t need 6 new endgame ships) but I wouldn’t feel gouged if I did.

    The Secret World Grandmaster pack was actually fairly reasonable considering it included a lifetime subscription. In addition to the CE perks, you’re covering your sub forever.

  9. Azzura September 11, 2014 / 4:19 pm

    My draws on CE’s are:
    1) Special items that keep giving…like the ones that every character you ever make in the future get them…a free mount…a BIG bag…
    2) Exclusive items like a mini pet – armor or weapon skin – dyes
    3) Soundtrack
    4) Extra Sub months (say 3 months instead of 1 free)

    So so ok’ish items – art book – mouse pad (though I don’t use one)

    Don’t give me a statue – a poster – trading cards – bumper sticker

    I did like Ultima’s cloth map – I haven’t seen a GOOD cloth map in a while for games.

  10. Shintar September 12, 2014 / 2:59 am

    I’ve always felt that special editions are less about the extra goodies and more about the company giving you a way to show just how much you love them and their products by throwing extra money at them. From that point of view the price increase only makes sense – as long as people keep wanting to give you more money, you should give them the opportunity to do so. 😉

  11. mbp September 18, 2014 / 5:20 am

    This is classic market segmentation as practised by every business from car makers to soap powder manufacturers. You provide essentially the same product at a range of different prices in order to maximise revenue by offering everyone a version that meets their particular price range. The trick is to differentiate the versions in a way that doesn’t cost you a lot of money but also doesn’t make anyone feel ripped off. If it is done right the guy who buys the hose out base model is just as happy with his purchase as the guy who buys the leather seated top of the range model. In my experience this is the part that games companies continually get wrong, often on both ends of the price scale. Premium purchasers feel aggrieved that they are being charged too much for a few digital extras at the same time as base model purchasers feel aggrieved at being excluded from parts of the game.

    Is seems to me that the lure of customers paying $150+ has blinded some companies to basic marketing economics which suggests that the bulk of your revenue will come from volume sales at the lower price points. The $150 sales are just the icing on the cake. First make sure the $50, $60 and $70 dollar customers are happy with their offerings and then when you do come up with some nice extras for the $150 customers go back and make sure these don’t upset the low ballers.

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