This week, I take a brief look at "special edition" versions of products that have graced our shelves over the last decade or so. I want to try and make sense of the extra money they're charging and what you get in return. How special do these limited editions make you feel? Do you care if you got one for Christmas or are you the type of person to stick it straight on eBay and then get a digital download anyway? Do you care if your Xbox looks like R2D2, or is it hidden away in a wooden, glassless TV unit like mine because the missus “doesn’t like wires”...

Special Games

With our sparing economy right now, do we have the money to be spending on games that can cost upwards of £50 when you can get the same game, right next to it on the shelf for £25? I think it depends if you want to be part of “that community" of gamers that can only play certain maps or have special edition cars or weapons. It used to be that when you bought a special edition, the manual was tarted up, say in a hard cover, there was maybe an extra gift thrown in like a piece of the Berlin wall (World In Conflict) or even a duffle bag as in GTA IV. Today it seems that special editions are all about exclusive game maps such as the Nuke Town map in CoD BlackOps II which is all fine and dandy but a piece of the Berlin Wall, come on!

Alduin Extraordinaire

The first game to make my special "Special Edition" line-up is Skyrim. Whilst I'm not going to actually talk about this game, it is epic and definitely worth a place on the shelf of any gamer. I consider myself a late starter of this game and only bought it about 9 months after release and even that was just down to peer pressure because so many people in the office were talking about it! I realise now that I really want a collector's edition because what comes in it, is superb.

Ooooh, so purdy. Ok, geek alert, fine. The answer to my question above is "yes", I would have this edition in a heartbeat. As you play the game, you realise how significant and symbolic the extra bits in this edition are. Alas, it is nowhere to be found other than eBay. Game currently have this for £49.99 but obviously not in stock and will never be coming in stock. Some people are lucky enough to be selling them on eBay but at a 300% mark-up, making them £159 and upwards. Some are selling just the manual, others the statue but all for far above the original retail price of the whole lot. Gutted I missed out but I may have to get the Elder Scrolls VI Collector Edition, right? Yeah, probably, I did that with other sequels I own too.

A Special Place In My Heart

The other special edition game I would like to feature here is an old favourite of mine, Civilization. More specifically Civilization V. As soon as this was ready for pre-order, I did just that. It was £49.99 and arrived 2 days before general release. In this edition, you get the pewter figures, a very nice art book which is really nicely produced. The only thing I can compare this to is when I created my wedding album on iPhoto and got Apple to send me a book and that was £90! Other items in this box are a “making of” DVD and two CD’s with musical scores on them.

I was sooooo exited when it arrived. I unpacked everything from the nice, big, heavy box, looked through the delicious hard backed and beautifully produced book, glanced at the figurines, raised my eyebrows and then got the disc out and installed it. Everything else was packed up, put back in the box and I got into the game. Personally, I think I could have done without this as the video is available on YouTube and the musical scores won’t be ranking in the top 100 on my iPod. So, £50 for this edition really isn’t worth it and I am a massive Civ fan. For the release of Civ VI, I think I’ll wait until it’s on offer from Steam and just stick with the digital download.

Forza Love of God, Haven’t I Learned Anything?

So to my next encounter, Forza. I have bought 2 special editions of these great games. Forza 3 and Forza 4 but both through different means.

For Forza 3, it was another Game pre-order arriving a day before general release. This special edition has slightly chunkier packing than the “regular” box. It has different artwork on and inside has a Forza branded 2Gb Sandisk USB drive and a rather nice Forza branded key ring. The content also has some special tracks and cars that are not available as DLC. Fairly happy with that purchase I think, although as I write this, I’ve just opened up the box and the “gifts” are still in the holders, wrapped. So not really special at all, again!

The Forza 4 Special Edition I had bought on the other hand was a fraction of the price from eBay. Going on the fact I had Forza 3 and it was a great game, the fourth offering was an obvious purchase. However, money was tight and I opted to search on eBay. Now I know that on eBay, any special editions you buy for a “good price” do not have the special codes in them allowing you to access the “special” content. These are always used up by the seller. What I did get was the special tin box and art work and the Top Gear stickers. It was only £25, same price as the standard version from Asda so I had a minor gain really. There are still sellers on eBay willing to part with codes for the special edition but these, like Skyrim, are going for far above the retail price which you can’t get any more.

Special Edition Consoles

Consoles are big money. The standard off the rail sales of Xbox have reached over 70 million worldwide and the PS3 has done the same. However, for a few loyal gaming fans, the standard off the press units just don’t seem to suffice. There are hundreds of custom skins you can get for both Xbox and PS3’s for just a few pounds but having a “proper” special edition of your favourite game or film is just something to behold.

Having an “standard” Xbox Elite 250 myself, I can’t really comment too much on these feelings. I have to say, for me, I wouldn’t go out of my way to get a limited edition console as mine sits in a cupboard waiting to be played on a night time after the kids are in bed. The remote is wireless and my favourite game is already in so I don’t even have to open the door to start playing. It’s not something I’m keen to show off although I can see the magnetism of having one, some of them are great on the eye:

XBL10

Alas, I’m not the winner of Microsoft’s recent “Thanks for 10 Years of Xbox Live” campaign. I would have been proud to show this off to all my friends on Facebook and tweet about it for months.  There is something deeply meaningful about having this type of special edition console. Not very many people have one and you certainly cannot buy one (not until they’re on eBay anyway). I think this type of special edition goody is priceless. Maybe they can make an Xbox out of the Berlin Wall?

Little ones can play too

It’s not just the bigger consoles that get special treatment. The little handheld consoles are seeing a trace of individualism aswell.

A 25th anniversary edition of the Zelda world was celebrated with this neat looking 3DS.  Interestingly you can still buy this as a pre-owned item from Game for under £80. Not that special then.

As I say, for my money, I don’t think the larger consoles are really worth the extra cash for something that sits out of sight. I would probably rather spend the extra money on a special edition game so that others online know I have a special edition too. Gamers on the other side of the planet are never going to know you have an R2D2 console are they?! If you manage to bag a limited edition console that has some meaning to you, then that is of course priceless, but paying extra for it? On the other hand, the portable gaming market, that does appeal. You have these out on display when you’re out and about so other do know you have something special and different. There are lots of custom skins out there that can personalise your console but that’s not what I’m getting at, you can always tell when someone has a skin cover on and when the unit is truly a LE.

So limited edition or not? Well, I would have to say, it depends on what you get in return and are you a massive fan? I am a massive fan of Civ, the special edition wasn’t so special. I wasn’t too bothered about Skyrim, I want the limited edition! I won’t buy a special edition for any limited edition DLC, call me old fashioned but I prefer something in hand that could sit on a display case and not remain in the box.

I’d like to hear what’s your favourite Special Edition so please comment away!

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