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How Collector's Edition Adapted to the Digital Market

A popular marketing tool for developers was releasing "collector's versions" of their titles to limited store shelves. But with the shift to digital has led to changes in how to sell them.

A common marketing tactic used by game developers for the last two decades includes giving consumers the opportunity to upgrade their copy of a game to a "collector's edition:" Featuring more content at a higher price.

Diablo3Promo, steam, digital, deluxe, warcraft, wow, extra

While the practice is still around today, it has declined in popularity thanks to the rise of digital content. For today's post we're going to look at where collector's editions are now and how developers can leverage their use for additional sales.

The Remaining Physical Examples:

There are still a few companies that make regular use of collector's editions. Blizzard is famous for their collector's editions which cost usually $30 to $40 more than the regular game. They come with physical bonuses like art books and making of DVDs and digital content like unique pets for World of Warcraft.

Another example is Atlus who usually makes the first edition of their games limited edition featuring soundtracks, mini art books and so on. They will sometimes price the game more because of the features and their recent 3DS titles were aimed higher than the average at $50 instead of $40.

The remaining examples belong to the big name AAA titles such as Call of DutyDragon AgeBorderlands etc. They can vary in price from simple $10 to $20 upgrades, to massive editions that could go into the hundreds.

The reason for their decline is simple, as games have gone down in value over the years, so has wanting to spend $70 + on one title. Most collectors’ editions that are released just aren't worth it from a value standpoint and is why Blizzard gets away with it thanks to the value their editions have.

BlizzardCollectorsEdition
Blizzard's collector's editions are always big sellers thanks to the variety of content they provide.

And if people aren't spending the money, the added cost to create, manufacture and ship these editions doesn't make sense from an economic point of view. But while they have declined in the retail space, Indie and AA developers are leveraging exclusivity to create digital collector's editions.

Digital Exclusivity:

As we've talked about before, digital titles by their very definition are infinite, which takes some of the allure out of owning a collector's edition. However that doesn't mean that all the content available needs to be.

There are two kinds of collector's editions being put out by Indie developers. The first are simple upgrades that are always available to the customer. These editions usually come with a digital art book, soundtrack and maybe some kind of in game bonus like new costumes.

For games that have or will get DLC, the collector's edition in this case may come with some or all of the DLC that is produced. This creates a very attractive purchase for consumers during sales events where they can get the collector's edition bundled with the DLC at a lower cost.

DungeonoftheEndless
Dungeon of the Endless featured a collector's edition providing value for it and other games from the developer's lineup.

The second type has risen alongside the popularity of kickstarter and early access as a way to entice consumers into spending their money early. Developers who go this route will have different "editions" of the game available with the pricier versions having more content.

Prison Architect by Introversion has gone this route with different editions of the game at escalating cost and value. The basic version just gets you the game and as you go up their editions, you'll get soundtrack, art book and even your name in the game. Once the game is released, some of these versions will not be available which gives the content exclusivity.

What's great about digital collector's editions like these is that their cost to develop is far less compared to retail versions and a few bonus features can be enough to get someone to buy. We have also seen AAA developers make use of upgrade versions of their titles on digital platforms as well.

For AAA developers, they may just release a digital version of the collector's edition featuring content without any physical goods. That way they get the added profit from the content and not have to worry about physically producing a physical copy.

With any kind of exclusivity deals, it's important to be careful about what you include as a limited time offer.

Balancing Exclusivity:

While consumers love getting exclusive content for their titles, this can backfire on a developer when it comes to those that didn't buy the special edition or missed it in the first place. Especially if the developer has their game on multiple stores such as Steam, GOG or from their own site.

PrisonArchitectCollectors
Prison Architect had numerous additions with different content made available and some are no longer available as development continued.

It's important to keep in mind that gameplay content is always worth more in the consumer's eyes compared to cosmetic. Having gameplay related content locked to a limited time purchase may not go over well with consumers when they realize that they don't have or can't get everything that comes with their purchase.

This is why it's customary when having exclusive pre-order or limited DLC, to offer it as a standalone purchase at a later date. That way the people who got the deal will get it at a discount and the people who missed it will still have the option to purchase it.

And if you are developing a title through early access or the Minecraft model of escalating cost over time, it's very important to alert everyone about price increases, discount offers and changes to what buying the game gives you.  Spelling it out crystal clear will avoid any confusion or upset customers down the line.

Giving Value:

Collector's editions are all about providing added value for additional pricing and a well designed one can do a lot to get consumers interested in your title. While not every developer can copy Blizzard's style, understanding the best type of content to reward your fans with will help with not just selling your game but also producing additional content and games down the line.

(Reprinted from the Xsolla.com Blog)

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