It should go without saying that the video game industry is one of the greediest and most expensive industries in the world, alongside the beauty and healthcare industries. It wasn’t always the way it is now, though—I’ll spare you the history lesson—but over time, gamers found themselves receiving less and less for their dollar from a lot of developers in the industry. In retrospect, one shouldn’t be surprised when one looks at the root of the word ‘industry’ and the whole purpose is to provide quality goods to consumers and also monopolize on consumerism itself; one is more important than the other, depending on whom you ask. Video gaming, whether it be hobby or lifestyle, is no longer simple as it once was; back in the day, gamers were able to pick up a game for their console or platform of choice, pop in the cartridge or disc, and have at it. With today’s goings on, the simple concept of pick-up-and-play is out the window with installation requirements, hard drive capacities and continuous updates and patches. However, the newly released Nintendo Switch interestingly enough does not require installation prior to play—imagine my surprise when I popped in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and was able to begin immediately—which is definitely an interesting change to the standards of today.
With that being said, though, there’s a lot more to it than just the inconvenience of waiting for a completed installation notification on your PC, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4 dashboards. It’s the matter of choice, which has now become overcomplicated and tedious due to the powers that be within the industry. It started initially with exclusive pre-order and retailer-specific incentives; for example, when Hitman: Absolution neared its launch, several retailers had exclusive incentives for picking up a copy from them—GameStop, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon all had their own content packs that were later made available for purchase for around two dollars each. It wasn’t the first instance and it wouldn’t be the last, but thanks to Ubisoft, we have a new standard when it comes to upcoming games, and that is their editions.
Standard, Deluxe, and Gold. You’ve heard it before and you’ve seen it on the shelves. It started with Ubisoft and now other developers have jumped aboard the bandwagon, most recently Warner Brothers and their upcoming sequel, Middle-earth: Shadow of War which contains four editions: standard, deluxe, gold, and the outlandish collector’s edition which will run you a whopping $300. Now, this is all fine and dandy, considering that gamers can always make their own decisions and if they don’t need a bunch of extra bells and whistles, the standard edition of any game will do them just fine, right? Of course. However, there is a bigger problem at play here: content and price. Let me break it down for you:
- Standard Edition (base game only): $60
- Deluxe Edition (base game with bonus pack): $80
- Gold Edition (base game with bonus pack and season pass): $100
- Collector’s Edition (usually comes with Gold Edition version of the game): $100+
Naturally, this doesn’t factor in any pre-order incentives, but this is what gamers can expect from different editions of games so far, as the pricing and content-to-edition ratio has been consistent across the board, with the exception of Mafia III, for instance, as there was no Gold Edition of the game, as the Deluxe Edition contained the base game and the season pass. In the event that you haven’t noticed this new trend, allow me to highlight a few: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, For Honor, Rainbow Six: Siege, Steep, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and Watch Dogs 2; notably, most of which are Ubisoft titles, though some only had Standard and Gold Editions. Is this new practice an inherently negative one? Not necessarily, given the fact that we all have a choice presented to us and that choice is fairly simple when you factor in the content. With the Deluxe Editions of games, the bonus pack that is bundled with it usually doesn’t ever seem worth another $20 and seems to be one of two things: an afterthought, or a piece of DLC that is already in the game and is merely unlocked by activating the code packaged inside—a practice that does indeed infuriate a lot of people. However, between the Standard and Gold Editions, the decision is usually a simple one and can be made by asking oneself a small number of questions, or follow my diagram:
It’s on the same level of discussion as the concept of the season pass itself: pay more money and access more content. It currently isn’t a truly negative practice, as gamers are still able to opt for the standard edition for the usual MSRP of $60 that we’ve come to expect these days, and if you decide you want the season pass down the line, you can always purchase it separately and most likely spend in total less than the $100 asking price of the Gold Edition, especially if you wait until the game is on sale or purchase it pre-owned, which in itself is a safety net thanks to GameStop’s return policy on pre-owned merchandise. Just as well, there are satisfying and worthwhile ways to get around the exorbitant prices.
With an Amazon Prime subscription for $10-$11 per month (or $99 for the year) gamers have access to a 20% discount on pre-orders and newly released games up to a week or two post-launch. You’ll also have access to Amazon Video to stream quality movies and television shows, as well as Amazon exclusive programs, Amazon Music, Twitch Prime, and other benefits like free Two-Day Shipping, which translates into Release Day Delivery for video game pre-orders. Amazon is essentially a one-stop-shop for almost anything, so a Prime subscription in itself is already worth it. Best Buy also offers something similar for a much lower price via their Gamers Club Unlocked program. For just $30, you have a two-year subscription that gives you plenty of gaming benefits such as 20% off new physical video games, including pre-orders, 10% off pre-owned video games, double My Best Buy points on qualified purchases, and more.
Now that we have the SDG formula put into effect by Ubisoft and being quickly adopted by other developers, there is the potential of this becoming a new standard in the gaming industry, much like reams of post-launch DLC and the controversial season pass—the redeeming factor in all this is that at least we have some firepower of our own thanks to Amazon and Best Buy that can lessen the impact of the blow and keep us gamers above water for awhile longer.