The Struggles of Limited Print Games

This generation of gaming has seen a monumental shift in the way we play video games and what video games we play. The latest generation of consoles allow for all ranges of video game developers to publish their games to the consoles storefronts. From huge budget AAA titles from your household name developers like Rockstar and Ubisoft, to the small 2 man team games that can afford to develop from crowdfunding or kickstarter.

These smaller indie games are releasing more frequently digitally, but for someone who is old fashioned and afraid to let go of the past, it’s quite troublesome to get these games when they do eventually get physical releases due to the low volume of prints of the games thanks to the costs that would be involved to get mass prints of them in the same volume as AAA games.

There are plenty of outlets doing stellar work however in releasing some big indie releases physically. Such as Limited Run Games, Special Reserve, Strictly Limited and many more, but the problem is within the name of these outlets. They are all limited in print. Some of these games only get 2500 copies physically printed.

As someone who wants to collect these great indie games in physical form, it can be really quite a stressful process. And it’s actually quite annoying too.

As indie games continue to thrive on platforms, their popularity is ever growing and the recognition they deserve is finally becoming apparent too, especially evident at the Game Awards where the big prize for Game of the Year featured breakout hit Celeste up against the big boys of Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War. As these games continue to gain popularity, you would think that the ease in which they could be released as physical editions would increase, but it would appear not.

Celeste collector editions went on sale via Limited Run Games on January 1st 2019. From what I can see on Twitter they were sold out within seconds with some complaints that by the time pay details were added to the payment page, upon hitting submit, the game had already gone out of stock. I did manage to get a pre-order in for a PS4 and Switch version thankfully as I never intended to attempt a collectors edition of the game. I legitimately wanted a standard copy to open and actually play, rather than sit on a shelf gathering value.

It might offend some, but these have all be opened and played

And this is another part of the frustration I have. Because these games are only every created in small batches, and to be honest aren’t the cheapest when ordering from the UK ($15 for shipping from the States) I can’t keep up with the release calendars that they have of a game or two every week. I have to prioritise which to get. This sucks. Rain World went onto Limited Run Games in December for PS4. A game I’d be incredibly keen to have in my physical collection and a game I have interest in playing, but because Celeste was coming New Year’s day I waited for that.

If I were to look for Rain World on eBay now, well, you can guess what the story is.

I hear you, “It’s not hard to buy a game a week?”… uhhh, yeah it is. “Yeah but they’re only £5-£10 digitally”, Great, but you miss the point of this rant completely in which I say I’m all about physical gaming media and will be for as long as there is the option.

There was one other rant I had about a game that went to Limited Run Games. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. That’s right, Jak and Daxter, who were a staple franchise in PlayStation’s first party line up during the PS2 and PS3 years. Games that were easily available to purchase and play. Well they’re getting released physically on PS4, but rather than mass produce in the way that Crash N.Sane Trilogy or Spyro Reignited are they got a limited release with LRG. I can’t complain as I did manage to secure my copy, but it is still a tad frustrating that even once large platform mascots from one of the best know developers are seeing limited releases.

Really… a Naughty Dog game getting a limited release?

I guess the point of the rant I’m trying to get across is, why can’t these indie games be put into mass production as we are now clearly seeing a greater interest in indie games this generation. I appreciate it’s not cheap, but there are some great publishers such as 505 Games and Sold Out Sales and Marketing that are happily sharing the burden and releasing some smaller games to great success. It’s not all bad, some great indie games are getting mass produced such as Stardew Valley and Prison Architect which I’ve amassed stupid amounts of hours into. I’d just like to see some of these incredible games be easier to attain in a physical format and not a frantic 30 seconds of refreshing a website and sitting in a queue with debit card in hand ready to type numbers down as fast as possible.

Some fortunately get larger prints

Fortunately for the most part, the games I’ve been aware of their release and wanted, I’ve managed to pick up when the countdown hits zero on their release page, and I hope I can continue to be as fortunate going forwards. But I’m pretty gutted to have missed out on picking up games that did get releases long before I was aware of such outlets selling them such as Odd World: New & Tasty and Shadow Complex, which now If I were to splash money on, would be upwards of £100 on eBay.

– Murr

13 thoughts on “The Struggles of Limited Print Games

  1. Oh, do I ever hear you on this. I will always buy physical by preference — I’ll even take technically “inferior” console versions in preference to PC purely to have something nice to put on my shelf — and while it’s great that some previously digital-only titles get limited physical releases at all, it’s a pain to get hold of them, particularly outside the US.

    As you say, shipping costs are pretty extortionate (especially for heavier limited editions), but the real problem is the scalpers who snap up the games within seconds with no intention of collecting or playing them — they just want to resell them for a profit on eBay. It’s sickening, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do anything about it. Perhaps on the payment page you should have to write a short essay detailing why you want the game? 🙂

    I’ve been fortunate enough to grab quite a few games that I’ve wanted recently, but there are also loads that I’ve missed out on. Hopefully some other opportunity will arise in those cases; a lot of Limited Run’s games for PS4 end up ported to Switch at a later date (and rereleased via LRG at that time) so that’s often a “second chance” to snag something I want. Still holding out for Shantae: Risky’s Revenge…!

    • Apparently Limited Run Games are able to track which orders are compiled by bots. No idea how, but they say that bot orders are cancelled and can be redistributed to people who sign to a waiting list for the game that they initially missed out on. Another issue is that a lot of their game orders there is no limit how many people can buy. So can see scalpers just picking up 10 or more copies of games. There is even a sort of incentive if you order 30 of the same game in that they just send you the unopened box of 30 games from where ever they get the games manufactured.

      I do like how the do a pre-order method now though, So they open pre-orders for the game they plan to distribute next, and will only produce that number of pre-orders they receive (but again I believe this is a tad adjusted and that they’ll only accept x thousand pre-orders for ease of manufacturing).

      • Yeah. And they don’t seem to do the pre-order thing for every title they do, either. They could do with being a bit more consistent.

        I don’t know how prone to this problem the other “boutique” publishers like this are. I’ve bought a few things from Strictly Limited games (who, bonus, are Europe-based) and not had a problem, but they were also slightly lesser known titles.

  2. As someone who overwhelmingly prefers physical copies over digital, I can definitely relate, wholeheartedly. It sucks even more since I prefer my Xbox One over the Switch and PS4, so the fact that companies that do these limited prints of games to disk never do so for the Xbox…

  3. I’m not a physical collector myself, but I totally understand where you’re coming from.

    One thing that would be great for these companies, is a publisher who specifically caters to on-demand production of physical games. The issue is that this likely wouldn’t be great from a consumer’s perspective (trust me, been looking into one-off productions of things for my social group)… But if enough indie developers jumped on the bandwagon, it could begin to bring the price down.

    I guess all I’m saying is, as nice as it would be, there’d need to be significant drive from indies to do this – and a publisher willing to take a big gamble. However, if it’s print on demand, that gamble decreases for the publisher somewhat, but the margins for the developers begin to suffer (or the consumer forks out more).

    I just wonder how big the demand is? That’d be an interesting study in itself.

    • Given that the number of outlets that are now manufacturing indie games in limited batches is ever increasing, I’d say the hobby and interest is definitely there. Some of them have collaborated together with games so that the batches are larger to purchase (Ruiner was sold via Limited Run Games and Signature Game I believe as a combined effort).

      There are a few publishers that are getting games with less development budgets out, Abzu, This War of Mine, even Stardew Valley all getting mass prints is very positive. It’d be nice as you say if some would take more on.

      • This is it, there’s interest, but it’s getting a publisher / company to take that punt. I hate wording it like that, as I love a good indie game, but a big developer can mess with margins more than a small dev.

        Great article, by the by! 😁

  4. I guess the question to ask is why would an indie developer want to release them physically? It costs them more and their sales aren’t being effected by being digital only. The video game market is now apparently 80% digital, why go with something that is effectively becoming dead technology?

    • It costs them more to release physically, but if they sold enough physically they’d make it back and more? What does Ruiner cost on Xbox game store? It was sold physically for $25 which I’d hazard is a lot more. The stock ran out and I can’t recall but I think a good 5000 copies were printed. I’d like to guess that 5000 at $25 per copy is more than they’ve made with all digital sales combined even with Limited Run Games taking a cut of the money for the manufacturing and distribution.

      Yes digital sales are definitely increasing year on year as is evident with your 80% 2018 figure. But if indie developers are charging £5-£15 for their games digitally, but can sell even at least 10,000 at £25 physically (which they’d probably achieve based on the thirst for these limited print games selling out in seconds) I’d guess they’re making more money there right?

      Dead technology an all, but a collector is a collector. Music industry still sells records because collectors buy them and it’s still income to the artist and record label. Physical gaming media can still make money from physical releases, and evidently do with regards to these limited print games, my rant in, just up the batches from 2500/5000 to maybe 10,000/15,000? I’m sure they’d all still sell.

      • Ruiner is owned apparently between 200,000 and 500,000 people on steam, so the question for them is still why would they do it. They’re clearly doing very well just digital.
        Sure they could sell them physically and maybe they’d make more on the individual sales, but they’re selling to a niche market i.e. the collectors. You’re average gamer probably doesn’t care. Most people just want to buy a game online for the cheapest they can find it.

  5. Pingback: Around the Network | MoeGamer

Leave a Reply