I can't help it; I love collector's editions so much. In fact, my interest in them is so keen that the number one and two questions I have for any anticipated MMO in beta are: (1) When can I pre-order the CE and (2) what's included in it? I'm like a junkie, except that instead of burned spoons and constant trips to White Castle to stave off the munchies, my shame is marked by mountain-sized boxes that litter my closet.
It's confession time for this collector's edition addict. What are my reasons for this undying love, this unbridled passion, this all-consuming need to own the best edition possible? You're about to find out.
Lest you be sitting there thinking, "Well of course you love CEs; you can afford them because you probably are as rich as the six greatest sultans of the world!" Actually, I'm not. I don't even know any sultans. Our family is budget-conscious and quite frugal. I even have an allowance.
But that's what makes CEs so special: They're one of the few extravagances I splurge on because it's part of my hobby and it's not ultra-frequent. For a guy who actively seeks out generic products at the store, paying $150 for a video game -- not a video game console, mind you, just a single game -- is a heady touch of the rich life that will never be mine. And that's actually what I prefer; the occasional splurge makes it that much more special to me.
2. Allowing friends and family to use it against me as a sign of mental deficiency
Face it: We sometimes crave attention. We don't like being seen as boring, normal conformists by those who care about us; we like feeling as though we're this magical starchild who brings light and whimsy into those who fall into our orbit. This might be my narcissism talking.
So in a weird way, buying a collector's edition for an MMO is a big attention-getter because you can tell your non-gamer friends and family that you've done so and then enjoy their mystified faces and reactions. Why would I do such a thing? You'll never understand me, mom; I'm Chinatown.
3. The sense of security
Being the owner (or pre-owner) of a collector's edition takes a good amount of anxiety away from me. It's like buying a security blanket: I know that the studio is going to take care of me. I have a guaranteed copy of the game, I'm going to get all the frills, and I won't be missing out on the tasty morsels that might be included.
Even though I've been a general supporter of the move to go to smaller computer software boxes from the old monoliths (and now mostly to digital sales), there's something just... fun in receiving a game that comes in a big, honking package. Collector's editions aren't meant to be subtle; they are to computer games what Cloud's sword in Final Fantasy VII was to practical weaponry.
The big box is awesome. Even after the game or my interest in it is kaput, the box is usually hardy enough to retain practical value. I store a lot of old CDs in my Warhammer Online CE, for example.
5. Unpacking it
Second to unpacking a new computer, opening up a fresh collector's edition and carefully laying out the contents is one of my favorite nerdy traditions. Even though I know every item that will be in that box by heart, it's still thrilling to finally pull all of it out and decide what to do with it. Hey cat, would you like a SWTOR authenticator key? Knock yourself out!
6. Early access and beta passes
This is a time-limited perk of the CE, although it's a very important one to many people who invest in the big box. I'm not as keen on beta access as I used to be, but early access (aka head start) is another story. If I can get in two, three, even seven days early, then I am sold on that CE. I want to be there right at the (pre-)beginning, reserve my character names, and get ahead of the launch day pack that will inevitably overtake me.
7. The useless physical junk
Yeah, most of the physical items that come in a collector's edition are, frankly, worthless. Even the gigantic statues that studios seem to be throwing in all the time now are of little interest to me unless I'm in dire need of a new hood ornament for my Mazda. Make way for Rytlock, Charr warrior! He has the right of way in all traffic situations!
Still, it's nice to have the useless physical stuff there to pad out the box. The comic books? The making-of journals? The froofy bandana? Art books? Mouse pads? The cloth map? The little pewter figure that I'll never have the patience to paint? Throw that in there. Some day, they will all make for interesting exhibits at my garage sale.
The single exception to physical items being worthless is any MMO that tosses in a full soundtrack. I'm not talking "sampler" CDs that you'd get tossed in with a purchase from Starbucks; I'm talking about the real deal. I'm a video game music nut, and sometimes the collector's editions are the only places that you can obtain these scores.
9. In-game items
Right here is one of the best perks to any collector's edition: the inclusion of in-game goodies. These range from one-shot potions to cosmetic outfits, but my favorites are always mounts and expanded inventory space. Long after the big CE box breaks down and I've lost the limited edition Elf statue that came with it, all of my newly rolled characters will be granted a fresh set of adventure presents. I like feeling like I can get off on the best foot possible (the left one) in these games.
10. Feeling that you're supporting the home team
I know that MMO studios don't care about (or even know) me. I'm just this abstract dollar sign to them. Yet like any fan who roots for his or her favorite sports team, I like to cheer on "my" games and studios. As such, I like feeling as if I'm contributing to the success of a promising title by giving it my business.
Again, I don't buy a CE for every MMO that comes down the line. Most of them have to earn my admiration and money. But every once in a while, either a studio I respect or a game that looks to be awesome can cut to the front of the line and get a "go get 'em" pat on the back from me as I purchase the best edition there is. It's a nice feeling, even if is rooted in delusion.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.