I took a long look over Halo 5: Guardians’ pre-order editions, and I realized something. I’ve turned into a crotechety old man. My mouth was practically agape as I even read the laughable titles ascribed to each tier of investment in the next Halo title. There’s the “Limited Edition” which, if history repeats itself, then it’s “limited” to as many copies as 343 Industries can get printed, and the “Limited Collector’s Edition” which should just read “Actually Limited Edition,” since it comes with a numbered statue. It left me wondering: where’s the value?
The Standard Edition is pretty standard fare; it comes with the game and an exclusive poster for $59.99. The most expensive Limited Collector’s Edition of Halo 5: Guardians dives into the world of figurines, which is a dark, deep tunnel to fall into. To some, collectible figurines are priceless — especially the ones available in limited quantities, which the Halo 5 one promises to be (although the amount of figurines to be released has yet to be announced.) To Microsoft, however, the figurine plus the game, some exclusive in-game content, and a steel case, will set you back $249.99. No details have been released about the figurine, and until they are, it’s the special edition’s middle tier that most concerns me.
The Collector’s Edition of Halo 5 is $99.99, which includes some “digital content” and a “uniquely designed Steelbook.” The Steelbook upgrade for Halo 2 was five dollars more, and Halo 3’s steel case was ten. Halo Reach forwent a steel case in favor of custom packaging and cost twenty more, while Halo 4 kicked off the $99.99 MSRP. Clearly the limited edition price point has been a game of escalation, but another $40 premium is bordering on absurd. As for the digital content which promises to “enhance Spartan combat,” it’s doubtful that it will be anything more than exclusive skins and perhaps early unlocks of weapons and upgrades. The chance of of 343 introducing content that is genuinely game changing exclusively for pre-order is highly unlikely, because it would ultimately hurt the game’s balance.
Let’s say that Microsoft does announce that there will be a more powerful “Collector’s Edition” rocket launcher upgrade that will, in the press release’s words, “enhance… combat,” so you and your friends spend the extra forty bucks to explode some n00bs in style. This creates a negative experience for players who didn’t drop the extra cash, and turns the multiplayer into a game of the “haves” and the “have nots.” I would hope that Microsoft and 343 wouldn’t risk imbalancing their matchmaking and tarnishing their reputation for a few extra dollars.
Undoubtedly, people will still buy the Collector’s Edition of Halo 5: Guardians. Buying a mid-tier limited edition is how you express your faith in a franchise today. A steel case on your shelf shows everyone you don’t mind spending an extra few bucks to express your love of one game over another. But it’s not unrealistic to say that future collector’s editions will be priced specifically to exploit rabidly obsessive collectors and, at its worst, investors trying to make a buck on that eBay turnaround.
Halo 5’s various pre-order special editions may not seem so sinister today, but they could be a sign of things to come, and things look like they’re turning away from the avid fan, and towards taking advantage of deep-pocketed fanatics.