Saturday, May 20, 2006

Byte: Added value

Some videogame publishers don't think that charging you £34.99 for their latest game is enough. This has given rise to an increasing frequency of "Collectors" or "Deluxe" Editions of games, where they bundle up very cheap added extras and charge you an extra fiver or tenner for them.

The latest on the list is Heroes of Might and Magic V, which I picked up yesterday (for reasons I won't go into at this moment in time - all will be revealed in a week or two). Here, the Deluxe edition includes three extra single scenario missions, a Factions Document giving you a breakdown of all the units in the game and their abilities, a concept art booklet, a printed map of the game world and a copy of one of its prequel games, Heroes of Might and Magic II.

On the face of it, this sounds all well and good. Well, it would, if there weren't just a few little problems. One, the printed map, whilst pretty enough, is thoroughly useless in helping you play the game (unlike, say, the maps bundled with the GTA games). Two, the art booklet is nice in and of itself, but it's something you'll look at once, and never ever need or want to take out of the box again. And finally, the icing on the cake, the "free" game, HOMM II, doesn't work on Windows XP, even in compatibility mode. And believe me, I've tried. How's that for futile, eh? There's even a little printed note in the box telling you that it won't recognise your operating system and that none of the game update functions will work, since 3DO don't exist anymore. It just begs the question, why did they bother at all?

Okay, so the actual box for the Deluxe Edition is very pretty (it's bound like a hardback book - a whole lot nicer than metal tins they typically stick games in for their special edtions) and the Factions Document is quite useful, but in terms of actual bang for your buck, all that you really get is the three extra standalone missions. When you consider that the six campaigns total a good 30 missions, and on average, you'll need around four hours for each one (not quite true - the first couple of missions in each campaign can be done quite quickly, an hour or two each, but the ones at the end of the campaigns can eat anything up to a staggering 8 hours alone), maybe that's not such bad value after all. 12 hours of game (assuming you only play them once) for a fiver? Your average FPS only runs to 8-12 hours these days and you pay full price for those. Though if you're plugging upwards of 120 hours into the game just to complete the campaign, will you even have time to get around to playing the standalone missions? And that's not even touching the multiplayer... I'm not against Deluxe or Collectors Editions in principle, it's just that it would rankle with me less if the vast majority of the "added value" wasn't so thoroughly useless.

Oh, and my arm's much better now. Thanks for asking.
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