Rotund chubmeister Martin Roberts
“Did you have a good time?” burbles the baritone host of BBC’s Bargain Hunt, Tim Wonnacott, “Yeah!” scream the contestants, “Well done. Enjoy your £5 profit then.”
“Alice has dreamed of owning a set of copper saucepans her entire life. Hopefully by clearing out her gaf that’s full of useless tat to gullible profiteers, who we hope are just stupid enough to make a few bids, we can fulfill Alice’s dream” wails a delightfully shrill, shit-eating Alistair Appleton on daytime TV treat Cash In The Attic.
“Neil and Jason have done great with this condemned 1 bedroom studio in Lewisham. Bought for just £15,000 at auction, we’re delighted with our guidance they’ve made a whopping £150,000 profit!” squeals rotund chubmeister Martin Roberts on lunchtime favourite Homes Under The Hammer.
I’m hoping you are sensing a recurring theme here. We’re in the age of profitatting (a word I just made up). An age of buying up any old video game shit and flogging it off to the highest bidder. A practice that’s as old as time itself within many trade circles, but something relatively new to the world of video games. Let me have a go at explaining what, precisely, I mean by this.
When I refer to ‘any old shit’, I’m discounting retro games. That bubble has been alive, well and still thoroughly ballooning for years. What I’m focusing on here is the current trend of loading up every new video game release with about 57 different limited editions, all stuffed full of varying quantities of tat, scooped up by all and sundry and immediately shoved on to online auctions sites for ludicrous money. The ‘pomme de terre‘ being that those that missed out first time round are actually buying these tat-laden products at scalper prices. Not just the odd punter here and there, but literally scores of you are out there lapping it up, right now.
I find this to be a truly remarkable and bizarre situation. It begs the question why are we so obsessed with the packed in tat that accompanies so many new video game releases? Are there any limited editions which are genuinely worthwhile purchases? I’ll give you some examples of games I actually own, all limited editions, but all scoring differently on the tat-o-meter.
First up is the PlayStation Vita rhythm game Persona 4 Dancing All Night. The limited edition in question is the Disco Fever pack. This little beauty ships in a small cardboard box filled with Styrofoam packing chips and contains a double disc soundtrack, a bunch of DLC, a key chain and a Vita console travel pouch. On release, this particular edition of the game commanded a whopping £70-£80. If you have a look around you can find it for half that or less. Alas some online auction nincompoops are flogging this ware for £90-£100+ then offering sensational marked-down prices in order to attract buyers. Not cool.
Two impressions immediately occur here. Firstly, there was likely an initial rush to snap up limited editon copies of what is admittedly a good game under the well known and revered Persona banner. Thus when initial store stock sold out copies were immediately shoved online in the hopes of whopper Cash In The Attic profit. Thankfully it doesn’t appear to be the case with this game as aforementioned you can still pick the Disco Fever edition up at a sizeable RRP markdown.
What of the tat? Well, the keychain isn’t up to much and the travel pouch, although decorative, is likely to raise a few maturity eyebrows from fellow commuters should an adult male yoink a fancy neon travel case from amongst his carry-on luggage. Admittedly the DLC is a nice bonus although I am still a firm advocate of games shipping complete, without the requirement of in-app purchases or downloadable content to aid completion of a game. The product you purchase should be final and complete, not a license to extract more money. Is this product worth £70, 80, 90, even 100 plus? In my opinion it is not. Admittedly I only bought this edition of the game as the deal at the time made it cheaper than buying the standalone version. Plus I’m a sucker for a soundtrack CD. The packed in tat is cheap enough to produce in limited numbers, even with an RRP of £40-50 I believe there is still a beefy markup being had. It’s cheeky and in my opinion predatory.
PlayStation 2 chunkster
Winding back the years a bit, next up is PlayStation 2 chunkster Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters In Space (Limited Box). You can cry retro all you want, but this is my article and I’m including it so there! You can find used standalone NTSC-J copies of this game relatively cheaply, though prices do appear to be creeping up ever so slightly. The Limited Box is a different beast though with copies being flogged for upwards of £160.
In comparison to Persona 4 Dancing All Night, which is presently being milked by nincompoops for £60 less (albeit not everywhere), the tat-o-meter is about to take a bit of a contradictory pasting. Encounters In Space is quite some beast. Believe me when I say shipping from Japan via sea mail was my preferred option. MSG:EIS (as I will refer to it henceforth) ships in a retail box that wouldn’t appear out of place at a shipping container yard down by the docks. Passengers and cabin crew wouldn’t bat an eyelid when you check your copy of this game in to the aeroplane hold. It is quite a hefty vision, and a luxurious hefty vision at that.
Bundled betwixt the portly cardboard flaps of this girthsome limited edition is a special 2 disc copy of the game (v1.5 is bundled in as well as some online stuffs and extras), a luxurious hardback and ring bound ‘Secret File’ (this is actually the instruction manual in disguise, albeit an extremely lavish one that was most likely not cheap to produce), a beautiful full colour and hardback History of Gundam art book (again, no expense spared and very likely expensive to produce in small numbers), a Mobile Suit Gundam anime DVD (exclusive to this limited box) and as if that wasn’t enough, an RX-78-4 poseable Gundam figure!
Compare this to the cheap, flimsy Persona 4 Dancing All Night tat and I believe we have a clear winner. Everything in the Gundam box I’ve gotten some sort of use out of. The anime DVD for starters is superb. If you feel so inclined you could rip the disc to your media centre and download subtitles in the language of your choice, with the help of your preferred search engine. The historical art book is a joy to browse, even for Nihongo illiterati as it contains little in the way of incomprehensible text. Of course the bundled in Gundam figure, whilst not quite a towering Tokyo Tower-scale herculean mecha monolith, is a divine and detailed collectible. An adult wouldn’t be ashamed to display this in their home office or study.
In short, as far as limited editions go, and in terms of their usefulness as far as tat goes, Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters In Space (Limited Box) is, in my opinion, one of the better truly limited edition video games available. You get a good deal of tat for your outlay and you should get varying degrees of use out of all of its contents. Good luck finding it for a sensible price though.
The most recent limited edition to enter my homestead is bouncy PlayStation Vita foot-tapper Superbeat: Xonic. This cheerful beaut was purchased directly from the good people at Rising Star Games during a festive sale, it would otherwise have damaged my finances to the tune of £69.99, however, at this price I would say it is almost worth the full asking.
Superbeat: Xonic is (in my opinion) a great little game in it’s own right. I confess though that I am not the biggest fan of rhythm games. I gave all those tippy-tap, spinny-roundy, jump left and right and do the Timewarp arcade games a wide birth a long time ago and I have never been prepared to give them a second shot until recently. I will also admit to giving the likes of the ever popular Hatsune Miku tappers a swerve. The last rhythm game I recall purchasing was Parappa The Rapper for my PlayStation 1 about 20 years ago. So what the hell was I doing buying Superbeat: Xonic?
I was seduced by the tat.
Like the Gundam Space Opera Mystical Caravan Holidays Armored Supermecha Fries And A Milkshake: Limited Box I purchased before it, Superbeat: Xonic has a tremendous yet quaint beauty about it, and it all lies within it’s tat. For your £69.99, and assuming you purchase the PEGI rated EU edition of the game, you will receive an individually numbered box (I received 490 of 500 as it happens), a copy of the standard edition of the game, a 2 disc soundtrack on CD in one of those nice oblong jewel cases that you can’t seem to find spares of anywhere complete with a lovely full colour jewel case booklet, a large branded 12″ size vinyl record cleaning cloth and, best of all, a beautiful 180 gram double vinyl pressing of the soundtrack complete with resplendent artwork. This is, to put it very simply, sensible tat. Suitable items that match what their source material is all about.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of limited editions of video games, movies, picnic baskets, profiteroles and what have you that contain utter bunk tat you will never use. Superbeat: Xonic is an example of a perfect limited edition. The tat is well presented, of excellent quality and is likely to be something you will use. What more do you want from a rhythm game? It’s all about the music, so beautifully presented soundtracks make complete sense. What would not make complete sense is including a kiln-fired bust of Jermaine Stewart. Or a set of Chilean postage stamps with pastel sketches of Bobby Vinton‘s earlobes on them.
As I type this I’m looking at a cardboard tombstone for Castlevania 2 Lords of Shadow on the XBOX 360. Not only is the packaging ridiculous and over the top, making it tough to shelve away, the bundled in figurines are the biggest load of hokum I’ve seen in years. It’s a step short of tossing in a gold painted house brick and calling it limited edition individually numbered bullion treasure. The tat serves no purpose. Nobody wants it. What the hell was I thinking buying it? Oh that’s right, it was on clearance. Like a lot of these limited editions end up becoming as the shops can’t get rid of them.
So why do so many limited edition video games on sale today include such utter pony? Perhaps box designers and marketing teams are looking for new avenues to push now that so much of the market has moved to digital distribution? That’s fine, and more than welcome, but all of this tat is being snapped up, stored away and left to rot on collectors shelves. I genuinely do not understand the thought process behind this. Landfills are fit to bursting and forests are being destroyed for this bunk and let’s be honest, that Bioshock 2 box set won’t get you ahead of the queue at the Antiques Roadshow when the person in front brings in a Monet sketch, or General Custer’s hat, or the arrow that lodged itself in King Harold’s eye.
It seems to me that two parties are pandering from the same trough. Brash marketers wanting to outdo each other with the latest and greatest in cheap tat to attract a sale, and as we know, market a limited edition right and it will sell out fast. Then on the other end of the trough are the scalpers and ‘collectors’ hoping that these limited editions will be worth a few quid come their retirement. The thing is, and stand by for the crushing body blow, nobody will care. Michael Parkinson will not be giving you a free Parker pen and you will not receive a brass carriage clock as the games industry’s gift to you. The market has long since shifted towards digital distribution and DLC all encased within the tight corporate reigns of DRM and scary lawsuits.
I believe the bubble within this market is on the verge of bursting. The impression I’m left with is that the only people who care enough about these limited editions are adults nostalgic for times past, when video games came in a big box and prizes were found in cereal boxes. So why not cater to that market properly like Rising Star have with Superbeat: Xonic? If it’s young adults (and big babies) with disposable income buying this stuff, cater to them. Fill those limited edition boxes with appropriate goodies. Yoshi no Cookie: Kuruppon Oven de Cookie achieved limited edition legendary status way back in 1994. Not only were you purchasing a wonderful little Super Famicom puzzle game, but you also received a real microwave oven. Sensible, honest, limited edition brilliance! Don’t belittle us with busts of John Elway in the latest Madden game. Or an embossed Richard Simmons ring binder with the latest Tokimeki Memorial adventure.
Want a real tip? Pork bellies and frozen concentrated orange juice commodities are where it’s at. Go ahead and open those sealed boxes. Play the game. Flip through the art book. Fire paintballs at that ceramic bust of Master Chief. Write a letter to someone with that flowery Root Letter stationary set.
Use and enjoy what is inside, after all, it won’t change your life. It’s just tat.