Whenever I buy something new, I cherish it and engage as many senses as possible in enjoying its undeniable and soon-to-pass newness. I stare at the untouched awesomeness of a still-packaged gadget, smell a book before reading its pages and I love to hold new things. But that tangible experience is in a steady decline when it comes to purchasing a new game.
These days, you’re expected to fork out extra dollars on a limited or collector’s edition of a game to access items that are worthy of sight and touch (also smell, if you’re like me). But it wasn’t always like this.
Back in the day, you could expect to purchase games in a box that was the size of a hardcover novel. The extra cover space would allow for more intricate cover designs, which made certain titles a work of art worthy of being kept and displayed facing outwards (Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe springs to mind), not slotted side by side like DVDs. Within the box was the game, a sizeable manual that actually explained the important components of the game, and other assorted gaming stuff such as DRM spindles (which were totally cool, by the way), brochures outlining upcoming titles (this was before the interwebs!) and, if you were lucky, a guide or booklet that expanded on the mythology of the game.
To this day, I still have old box copies of games stored at my parents’ house because I can’t bring myself to throw them out.
Nowadays, even if you’re purchasing a regular edition boxed copy, you’re guaranteed to get a game disc or two and a flimsy manual that’s barely worth the glossy paper it’s printed on. And that’s it.
The digital revolution has brought a massive amount of convenience with it, but it’s also seemingly necessitated the creation of so-called collector’s editions. There was a time when almost every game you bought had something collectible about it. Sigh.
To add insult to injury, companies are now devising clever ways to digitise limited/collector’s edition content so that even the future of expensive boxed special editions are in jeopardy.
I love the convenience of Steam, but was recently retroactively shocked to learn that I hadn’t even considered the possibility of a retail release of Alan Wake before breaking out the credit card and throwing my money at Valve. Now that word comes through that Remedy Entertainment has extended the digital exclusivity of the game and has yet to announce when we should expect boxed copies in Australia, I’m left wondering just how many prospective PC purchasers are patiently waiting for a boxed copy of the game.
The reality is that we PC gamers are a savvy breed, and I’d be willing to wager that the vast majority of you that want Alan Wake, already own a digital copy of the game. To take the point further, how often do you actually find yourself in EB Games, Game or some other games retailer given the convenience of digital distribution networks such as Steam and Origin?
But the real question at the core of this particular rant is this: if publishers went back to the old-school approach to boxed copies of games, would you go out and buy them knowing full well that they’re available digitally from the comfort of your home?