What is the appeal of Nintendo games

The appeal of the limited

Indie games have often been available digitally for years before they appear again in limited physical editions. Why are such Collector’s Editions still so popular? A look at collectors and archives.

The market for collectable products in the gaming sphere has always been large. Many older players: Inside remember from their youth brightly printed cardboard boxes, thick manuals or small goodies, such as printed fabric cards of the game world. Back then, often out of necessity: When the game itself had no card function, there was no space on the disk for lengthy tutorials or copy protection was printed on the inside of the package. Over the past few decades, physical package inserts have become increasingly rare. Since the days of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, there are usually only warranty slips in the plastic covers instead of manuals.

At the same time, the age of the Collector’s Edition among AAA games began: Much more expensive disc versions that fill a pretty box with action figures, soundtrack CDs, collectible pins and the like. These Collector’s Editions are still selling so well today that they have become a mainstay of the industry. Today, in addition to limited physical collector editions, there are also digital special editions, which are often more expensive for no real value - the additional downloadable content they contain is often purely cosmetic or messes up the game balance of the first few hours. And even the physical collector's editions, which have become so normal that they are hardly worth reporting, occasionally make it into the news with small scandals: The poorly crafted sports bag from the Collector's Edition of “Fallout 76”, for example, fell into disrepute that Bethesda bought new ones Had to produce bags and had them shipped afterwards.

All of this essentially applies to AAA games: Big blockbusters such as "Call of Duty" or "Assassin's Creed", which are available as a physical version on the shelves of electrical retailers even without a Collector's Edition and whose publishers have the budget themselves, allow expensive collectibles for sale to produce.

The 200 Euro Collector’s Edition of “Fallout 76” promised, among other things, a sports bag made of linen. The delivered one was made of thin nylon and smelled bad. The fans were angry.

Indie pearls for the showcase

In most cases, indie development studios are set up completely differently when it comes to the usual release structure of their games. Exclusively digital publications are the norm: whether on the PC, where digital sales platforms like Steam have dominated the market for a decade, or on the consoles, for which a considerable proportion of the games are still sold on disc. Many indie games only become the coveted hype objects after their first release, which AAA titles are often made into years before their release due to their gigantic marketing budget. Fan favorites like "Undertale" or "Untitled Goose Game" often sell hundreds of thousands of units digitally before they receive a physical edition.

Even so, these late editions of popular games are in great demand. Although they can usually only be ordered via specific online portals, be it directly from the publisher or via import sites, there is hardly a physical indie publisher left with stock. Development studios almost never produce these game versions themselves. Instead, they sell the rights to specialized companies, which in turn take over the licensing of switch modules and PS5 disks and advance the production costs of collectable coins or cloth cards.

Collector’s Editions usually come in limited editions and are often sold out a few hours after publication. The coveted editions are good business for publishers and the used market.

Specialized publishers make it possible

One of these companies is the British company Super Rare Games, which is breathing new life into less successful indie titles with physical editions for Nintendo Switch. In contrast to many of the competing products, which are extensively equipped with coins, soundtrack CDs and other expensive collectibles, the editions of Super Rare Games are based on typical sales versions of physical publications: Ordinary switch packaging with attractive reversible covers, which one likes to buy in specialist shops. The versions generate additional purchase incentives through smaller goodies such as trading cards, a lavishly illustrated manual and stickers, as well as the consistent numbering of all the publisher's games on the back, which makes it attractive for collectors to buy the entire series.

Thanks to their deliberate simplicity, these versions do not add a massive "collector's bonus" to the price, but they remain significantly more expensive than the digital versions of the games. For example, “Ghost of a Tale”, number 43 in the Super Rare Games catalog, was launched digitally in 2018 and costs € 25 in the Nintendo Switch eShop. The physical edition of the British distributor was published in 2020 and costs £ 27: If you add the shipping costs, you get the equivalent of a good € 40, significantly more than the digital costs. At this surcharge you have to consciously want to put a game on the shelf; Especially with other companies that advertise with even more elaborate and therefore more expensive collector's editions. However, this expresses an appreciation that many people like to reward with an extra charge if they can support a development company they like: Often even with the purchase of a game that they already own digitally.

Because as much as indies have become the superstars of the video game world, the gap between success and failure is wide: those who have not already sold millions of units through word of mouth like "Undertale" or "Hades" often have a hard time getting visible in the digital storefronts become. Nevertheless, small fan communities gather around many high-quality games who are happy to support the success of their favorite game. It can then be more expensive, after all, you have something in your hand for that.

Switch versions rarely offer the smoothest or nicest gaming experience, but are still very popular among collectors.

To unpack and touch

The feel of digital media should not be underestimated. The new XBox Series X comes in elaborate outer packaging that should be fun to open, and the appeal of opening is not limited to a new console every seven years. The characteristic snap of a BluRay cover or the quiet click when closing a Switch game box are just as well thought-out recognition features as the silhouette of the box on the shelf. Haptic, visual and auditory enjoyment turn a piece of plastic into a treasured collector's item.

When this love for a certain collector's item spreads culturally and a game that is no longer available becomes a hot and coveted investment, reaching for the physical edition often pays off financially as well. As a result of Nintendo's restrictive discount policy, Switch games suffer significantly less depreciation than the discs of other consoles. Due to the limited number produced, some of the limited games may even later be resold for more than you paid for them in spite of the used condition.

Collector’s editions like this one for “Ghost of a Tale” by Super Rare Games entice with package inserts and solid value retention.

For eternity?

Last but not least, the worry about losing a beloved game drives many people to reach for the physical edition. Nintendo, in particular, makes few remakes or remasters of old titles available and, with its restrictive policy with regard to fan sites that archive old games, creates real fears about the future of old games. “Super Mario 3D All-Stars”, for example, will only be available digitally and physically until March 31, 2021, before Nintendo supposedly takes it out of sale permanently. Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that gamers prefer to use the physical module in order to retain access to it even if the Nintendo eShop is closed at a later date.

Even indie games are not automatically immune to disappearing due to their connection with digital distribution methods. The Taiwanese "Devotion" by Red Candle Games was removed from all digital storefronts due to a cartoon directed against the People's Republic of China in the game and has not yet been published again despite repeated attempts by the developers. The game will still be available as an illegal copy in internet forums, but the hassle of getting the copied version will keep most players from experiencing "devotion". In retrospect, many players would have liked to have bought a physical copy to experience and share the game.

And not only the pure game file is saved for posterity by such versions: "Packaging and accompanying material represent meaningful components of our archival objects and can be of interest for future exhibitions or for research questions from future users, for example." computer games are also archived on request. "That makes Collector’s Editions interesting for archiving as long as other relevant properties are given, such as copying to DRM-free storage media in order to remain independent of the physical degradation or format obsolescence of the media."

Collector’s Editions also play a role in the International Computer Games Collection, a joint project by the USK, the Computer Games Museum Berlin and the University of Potsdam. “We try to depict the whole 'computer game phenomenon'. This also includes collector's editions, as they tell us something about the fans who buy them, ”says Winfried Bergmeyer, former head of collections at the Computer Games Museum. Such editions also play a direct role for exhibitions, as they and their often lavishly produced content can be clearly presented.

The delivery of - digitized - accompanying media such as manuals, reversible covers or art books is also part of the offer in the retrogame shop GOG.com, so it is not only interesting for commercial collections or scientific archives, but also for private buyers.

A collector's edition published exclusively in Taiwan is currently the only way to legally purchase »Devotion«. Source: Red Candle Games.

So there are enough reasons to assume that Collector’s Editions will remain with us - as a concept and quite literally speaking. As long as people want to pay an extra charge to get hold of additional merchandise for their favorite games or to have the security of still having access to a title 30 years from now, publishers will produce action figures and companies like Super Rare Games will endeavor to publish indie games license. And due to the increasing consolidation of game studies at German and international universities, the number of archives that secure physical versions of digital games for posterity will also increase. And not instead of, but in addition to digital archiving through fan sites, the Internet archive or prepared game versions, for example on GOG.com. The future of archiving video games looks a lot brighter than one would think when looking at the headlines about games like "Devotion" or companies like Nintendo.

The Collector’s Edition of »Ghost of a Tale« was made available to us free of charge by Super Rare Games.