Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ultimate Edition Marketing

Here's another example of how marketing interacts with product development and profitability. The idea of the Deluxe Edition has been around for quite a while; I remember the hardcover Champions RPG bundled with HeroMaker software back in 1990 or thereabouts. The 90's saw a number of electronic games and paper games in limited release editions with extra features and an extra price tag. The simple form was to throw a few extras in the box (like a miniature or a map or a poster), or just a hardcover version of a softcover rulebook for RPGs, and then charge extra. Gradually this has evolved into special containers, DVD's with "Making Of" documentaries, soundtrack CDs, even such things as night vision goggles and statuary. Now comes the announcement of the God of War III Ultimate Edition bundle... so glitzy it demands a $99.95 price tag. An amazing box, an art book, a documentary, and a whole bunch of special downloadable content.

A few important things to note here. Aside from raking in some extra bucks from the devoted fans, this Ultimate Edition also serves a marketing purpose. It's free advertising... the press release is popping up all over game sites, reminding all that this game is coming up soon. It's positioning... the very existence of the Ultimate Edition tells you that this game must have a large following, and it must be special to deserve this treatment. So even if you don't spring for the Ultimate Edition, you are more interested in this because it's obviously an important title. So this adds value even to the ordinary edition.

Of course, there are some downsides to the Ultimate Edition. Somebody had to spend a good amount of time pulling together all of the elements in the package, so that's an opportunity cost (what else could that staff time have been used for?). These bits have some expense that need to be amortized over the production run, so there are more upfront costs... and hopefully there's enough margin to cover those costs, and the sales of this expensive edition are enough to cover all of the extra costs. There's a risk factor there, and some extra capital expenditures that had to be made. Finally, the DLC was not without cost. Somebody had to put together the documentary, the soundtracks, the skins and other game elements, so there's some staff time in product development that has to be accounted for. At least the DLC doesn't incur any shipping costs.

On the positive side, you'll probably boost sales of the regular edition, and you got some free advertising and some positioning help. Special editions keep getting created, so unless many different companies are deluded they seem to have sufficient value to outweigh their costs. Consider it as another weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Hmmm... I wonder if someone could pull off a special edition of an iPhone game... might be an interesting way to stand out from the increasingly large crowd...


  1. On your comment of the iPhone game... that is the whole idea behind "Freemium" (Chris Anderson).

    What you are explaining is also the idea behind "halo" lines of cars for a brand (like the Dodge Viper was).

    Good article.

    Kevin E. Schlabach
    twitter boardgame account: @seizeyourturn

  2. Doing a premium version is trickier for an iPhone game, since it's purely downloadable content. Then again, if you have a cool setting for your game or iconic characters, people might be willing to pay for a miniature, a bobblehead, a poster, a t-shirt or some other item related to the game. I haven't seen this done yet for iPhone games, but it should be happening soon as the marketing battle heats up in that marketplace.