Today, Bioshock 2's Special Edition arrived at my doorstep. I already have Bioshock 2. Indeed, I've completed it. But for £25 on Play.com, it was an offer I couldn't refuse. It's one of the finest Special Edition games I've ever owned, but I've not come here to brag. I've come to discuss the rise of the special edition, and what should and shouldn't be in that big, overpriced box.
It seems that every game coming out these days has noticed the cash-making potential of bundling in some crap and 'exclusive' content. I mean, Dead Rising 2 may turn out to be a great game, but does it really have a big enough following for a Special Edition? We'll see. To be honest, the sheer amount of games making their launch a little bit more special can only be a good thing. But it's with Call of Duty: Black Ops that I'll make my key criticism on the rise of the Special Edition.
A trend creeping in is the inclusion of extra digital content packaged with the Special Edition of a game upon release. Let's look at Call of Duty as an example. Regular edition is going for around the £45 mark, with the next step up, the 'hardened' edition, going for around £65. For this you get a medal, an avatar outfit, and extra in-game co-op maps. It'd be far too easy of me to make an observation on how £20 extra doesn't really get you far, but my main beef lies in the co-op maps. Why are Treyarch offering something that clearly should already be included in the standard game, trying to offer it up as extra, premium content?
If it was cosmetic, such as customisations for you online profile, I could understand. Generally useless, and only for show. But this is actual game content. It simply isn't right. As a consumer, you shouldn't be missing out on content, at launch, because you've only bought the 'standard' edition. Look at Modern Warfare 2's content? An extra game, design books, steelbooks, all superfluous to the game, all guaranteed to make fanboys excited, and perfect for a special edition. I feel that even if I paid £65 for the special edition, I feel that the medal included would only be a token of how stupid I am, and how much I've let Treyarch mock the idea of the Special Edition.
No, Special Editions shouldn't be about digitial content, especially game content. It's a nice thing to bundle in with a package, but it shouldn't be important. We all know what's important when we tear off that shrink-wrapping: STUFF. Wonderful, useless, tacky stuff. My Fallout Bobblehead sits next to my TV, and my Bioshock Big Daddy Ornament guards my Gamecube. These are the meat and potatoes of the Special Edition, the crux of the content, and what we should be getting, and getting excited about.
It should make no difference to the game. It should have nothing to do with the in-game content. What it should be is a gloriously self-indulgent luxury item, that makes you feel even more connected to the game, a loyalty badge you wear that only yourself can see, but further shows your love for a certain game.
Come October, I'll be eagerly running to my local gamestation to pick up Fallout: New Vegas. I'll also be doing the same when I go to pick up my girlfriend's copy of Fable 3. We've ordered the special editions because of the fake book for Fable, and for my Fallout Poker Chips. We love these game franchises so much, that we want to immerse ourselves further in the world. I don't care about a caravan shotgun, or a new dog I can download. I like my tangible, real-world extras. We need more gold lancers, more batarangs, more cat helmets in the gaming world, to further expand our geekiness. These are much better medals to wear.