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I'm Tired of Special Editions That Don't Include the Game

God of War: Ragnarok's special edition has a digital copy of the game, but that's more than several others.

This is not a blog about God of War: Ragnarok, specifically, but the special editions for Sony Santa Monica’s sequel have once again reminded me of a weird, frustrating trend in video game collector’s editions: why do so many companies not include a physical copy of the game when fans buy these physical collections?

Companies offering fans a big box of collectibles and statues to go with a game they’re excited about is pretty standard for AAA games, but the trend toward not actually including the disc in the box is relatively new. It’s not a universal problem, as I bought the Ellie Edition of The Last of Us Part II and am happy to say I have a steelbook case and a game inside it on my shelf. But it’s happening with a regularity that makes it harder to justify buying a collector’s edition when the game isn’t showing up alongside it. Much of this has been because of the industry’s shift toward digital goods. It’s just simply cheaper to not manufacture and include the disc in the collector’s edition. And yet, games like Ragnarok and the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition remasters still include a steelbook case to put on your shelf with no game inside.

At the very least, Ragnarok does offer those who buy its Collector’s and Jötnar Editions a digital copy of Kratos and Atreus’ story, but for a non-insignificant amount of players, getting a digital copy on day one might as well be the “gift” of a physical disc getting delayed in a snowstorm. I live in a rural area in the southern US, and downloading a game the size of God of War would take me possibly multiple days to install on my system.

I'm Tired of Special Editions That Don't Include the Game

Managing a digital library has always been a struggle for me, as my internet service provider has a monopoly on the area, and only offers double digit download speeds. For years before that, the fastest internet I could get was 3mbps download, and for several years I was getting even less than that because of poor installation on that ISP’s part. The shift toward digital in video games has been leaving people in rural areas with slow internet speeds behind for years. That special editions are moving away from physical discs has ramifications for everyone, and may make the simple act of playing the game more costly across the board.

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While Ragnarok does include the game in some form, several of these expensive packages don’t. I grabbed the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition Cache because I wanted the N7 helmet and steelbook to have on my shelf, but there was no copy of the actual game for me until I bought a separate one. It added an extra $60 to my purchase to buy a disc to put in the steelbook.

That hard case feels like both an acknowledgement that collector’s editions are losing the plot, and a subconscious reminder that the giant box of goodies still feels incomplete without the additional investment. While the game itself is being removed from these packages, that’s hardly been reflected in the price of these collector’s editions, which often cost three figures. I recognize that buying all of these things is a choice I’m making, but at one time, these collector’s editions were put into the world with an understanding that they were adding to the experience of the game, not that they were entirely separate. Now, a $100+ box shows up with all the makings of a collector’s edition, but the core experience that inspired and facilitates all these statues and doodads is missing.

I'm Tired of Special Editions That Don't Include the Game

For some, the distinction between collector’s editions of old and present is pretty cut and dry. These are complimentary things meant to be enjoyed alongside a separate purchase of the game. But they’re never really framed that way. And while Ragnarok’s digital copy is a fine enough half step for a lot of people, anyone who can’t download the game in a timely manner is missing out on the core experience they paid for longer than they would if the disc came in the steelbook.

But video games stopped caring about anyone without a three-digit download speed years ago. So why would that change when they can get another $60 from them by requiring them to buy a separate copy?

About the Author

Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Staff Writer at Fanbyte. He still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.