Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

5 May, 2007

Weekend Design Challenge: Extras
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 6:33 AM

One of the coolest things that some games offered were cool little extras in the package. The most famous ones were probably the cloth maps available in various computer RPGs. It was always neat to have something game-related in the package.

So, this week, let’s discuss those extras.

Some of the most elaborate extras were in some of the console RPGs that (the now sadly defunct) Working Designs published. Their localizations of the Lunar games had a lot of great extras, including a heavy amulet featured from the game. Of course, some people claim it was these extensive extras (and the higher prices they required) that discouraged people from buying the games and thus the company going out of business.

What kind of extras would you like to find in a game? What’s the most interesting extras you’ve seen when buying a game? How can you include these types of extras without driving up prices or driving down profits?


  1. Hah! I had this talk with RedOctane already for a new version of Samba de Amigo (sp?).

    A blow-up Sombrero you can dance around!

    Silly works better than cool :)

    Comment by Ophelea — 5 May, 2007 @ 7:17 AM

  2. I’ve always been fond of the cloth maps because they have value during the play of the game, as well as ‘Hey neat!’ value. Beyond that, most of it is stuff I didn’t have a place for until I took a job in the industry and got a desk to decorate. In my ‘normal’ life I really don’t have a space in my home to hang gaming related posters, or little toy figures.

    So, for me, I’d rather see the extra have a direct use with the play of the game.

    Comment by Grimwell — 5 May, 2007 @ 10:38 AM

  3. I think LOTRO did a great job with its preorder extras; the ring of agility and regeneration cloak are fantastically useful at low levels, but not unbalancingly so, and as you gain in levels you’re going to eventually replace them with better items.

    Of the freebies I’ve gotten from games, the pets from WoW and Guild Wars rank way up there. I had a friend in a WoW guild who made it a point of pride to get *all* of the pets that she could. She was bummed that she couldn’t get all three of the special edition munchkins (one per account, non-tradeable), but I think she had everything else. I think she event spent money on ebay for the hippogryff pet you get in the card game (sickness).

    Likewise, SWG’s box rewards have been pretty excellent. The AT-RT walker you get in the recent ‘complete’ edition makes me honestly a teensy bit jealous; even though it marks you as a newb it’s still a really sweet ride.

    I’m going to disagree with Ophelea and Grimwell then: cool-non-useful items are the way to go. A pimped-out unique mount or vehicle, a non-combat pet, or something you can put in your player housing are all things I like seeing in my rewards package.

    If I were to argue for something totally new: a one-use gift certificate for the services of a 3-D printer to create a statue of your favorite avatar. You know, like they’ve been passing around for Spore? (Actually, now that I think of it, that might be a freebie in Spore’s box.) For a MMOG it would have even more meaning; as much as you might get attached to your Spore species, your avatar has a lot more impact. You’d have to choose your clothing and stuff, but running company could send off your character’s data to the printer guys, who’d print it out and color it to match the in-game clothing. Then they’d ship it back to you.

    How awesome would it be to have your own personal action figure of your Tier-6 armored level 70, or your max-level Jedi, or whatever. Kickass.

    Comment by Michael — 5 May, 2007 @ 11:29 AM

  4. I always enjoyed the cloth maps. I think little free extras in the box are great, even if they have no in-game use — as long as they’re not just useless gee-gaws. In a non-gaming context, I really loved (until it broke at a show) the free Misfits Fiend Club pin that came with the coffin-shaped box set. That thing lived on my leather jacket for years.

    Granted, I don’t think I’d really want to wear any gaming-related swag on my outerwear at this point in my life.

    But hey, last time I was in Best Buy, I saw a ton of WoW ballcaps on the shelf. Free junk to wear may make a resurgence yet!

    Comment by CmdrSlack — 5 May, 2007 @ 1:44 PM

  5. I was underwhelmed with the LOTRO Special Edition items. The special map was paper and not very special. The color manual was what I expected from a product. The Behind the Scenes DVD is nice (I like Turbine’s world editing toolset) and I consider a music CD a requirement for any Collector’s or Special edition MMO. Their pre-order in-game items, as stated above, are very useful.

    From an e-mail I wrote regarding LOTRO pre-order numbers:

    Midway failed to provide information about the collector’s edition to Amazon. Purchasers who wished to find the information had to check the discussion at the bottom of the page or research it on third party websites. I believe this, and the perceived “lower value” of the collector’s edition is responsible in part for the lower CE sales. Items that are common in Collector’s Editions are:
    - extended game time or special account bonuses (60 days instead of 30 included; Sony’s extended Station Players package for 30 days)
    - mouse pads (WoW:BC, GW:NF)
    - art books (WoW, GW (all releases))
    - special packaging (EQ2, WoW)
    - toys/collectibles (EQ expansions, EQ2, CoV)
    - behind the scenes DVDS (WoW, EQ2, LOTRO)
    - soundtracks (WoW, LOTRO, GW, EQ2)

    Art books will almost always get me to purchase a Collector’s Edition. Special pets, twink gear, or in-game doo dads may have me purchase more than one copy of the CE. Mouse pads are appreciated, soundtracks are expected. Physical toys are nice, but secondary–I don’t bring a lot of toys to work, and since I used to contract/consult, I rarely kept a desk for more than a few months (and I still don’t). A tin or special box will probably have me hang on to the CE box and materials long after I throw out paper boxes for games.

    The 3D printer voucher isn’t all that dissimlar to Amazon’s Shutterfly photo book credit for digital or video camera purchases. It’s a great offer for some people, and because it expires relatively quickly (30 days) it encourages the customer to use the service early and repeat business as his character reaches new plateaus in power.

    Comment by Chris — 5 May, 2007 @ 9:56 PM

  6. The issue Brian raises is how to make any “premium” affordable so as to avoid hitting the bottom line (i.e., the profit margin). I suggest that this may be done through sponsorship. It could even become a revenue enhancement if it is worked into the game design from the beginning. With branded characters, this may be easier to do as a business deal.

    Comment by Harrison Rose — 6 May, 2007 @ 12:57 AM

  7. I wrote an article for The Escapist, “Feelies,” about this topic.

    Comment by Allen Varney — 6 May, 2007 @ 4:22 AM

  8. I’m going to disagree with Ophelea and Grimwell then: cool-non-useful items are the way to go. A pimped-out unique mount or vehicle, a non-combat pet, or something you can put in your player housing are all things I like seeing in my rewards package.

    Oops! I stated myself poorly. I was referring to the trivial ‘real world’ items you can get. In-game items are fantastic, and actually are the low cost solution that Harrison is mentioning. It makes premium affordable because a little dev time is less expensive than a few hundred thousand action figures stuffed in the box with the game. Or a metallic case. Or a art book, etc.

    Plus, making it in game creates visibility for that ‘status’ item you have given the players. Even if they can only show it off in their house, it’s fun to show off.

    Comment by Grimwell — 6 May, 2007 @ 10:32 AM

  9. My favorite is still Wishbringer’s rock. It was purple!

    (I actually wish more games came with posters; I’m feeling particularly hosed by the new Pokemon, whose ‘special edition poster’ was an ad for the Wii version.)

    It’s always best if they have some use in the game; the double-sided map/poster is nice. Metal Gear’s “the codec frequency is on the box” was cute but I wouldn’t like to see it repeated too much.

    Comment by mike — 7 May, 2007 @ 11:20 PM

  10. I always hoped my puzzle games would come with a little puzzle box or something with them… they never did.

    The worst ‘collectible’ extra: the perfect dark zero ‘glyph.’ Basically just a card with an image on it. Will it ever be worth anything do you think? :D

    Better examples: an action figure with ‘lost planet’; anything with a cloth map.

    The art books that came with warcraft special editions were good too.

    I’d love to see badges or something come with every game you buy.

    Keeping prices low is the tough part, i guess sponsorship of the items might be a way of subsidising it. Maybe it comes with an ad for pepsi or something :D

    Comment by Jpoku — 8 May, 2007 @ 7:20 AM

  11. I want something TOTALLY different as an extra.

    I want a coupon for free cell phone game features that integrate with online MMOGs.

    First, give me a coupon for free text message units for my cell phone. Why? Because I want to see some innovative MMOG incorporate the use of cell phone technology with my games. I want my friends in-game to be able to message me right into my phone, so I know when something cool is going on and need to log in.

    Then, I want a list of all my friends who are online and in what game to display, much like XFire, only on my cell phone.

    Take that a step further and I want an add-on package that sends me a ring tone when someone logs onto my account. I want the ability to lockdown my account from that phone and secure my own virtual property MYSELF (since no one else seems to be doing such a bang up job in securing it anyway). I want to be able to change the “PIN” number to my game account from my phone, kick the intruder out and leave him befuddled as to how to get back in within seconds.

    And for parents, they never had so much control over what their kids are doing. Win, win situation.

    I know.. I know.. I want a lot.

    Comment by Kaylena — 10 May, 2007 @ 8:14 PM

  12. Supreme Commander’s pack-ins were a LOT of posters (I think 4) and a little badge (cute). I wasn’t exactly impressed, although the badge was nice.

    Honestly, printed matter as a pack-in doesn’t do very much for me. Figures, even if they’re just little 2- or 3-inch figurines, are nice.
    What I’d like to see, though, is something which actually has some in-game use. Maybe even something like one of those gizmos banks use for 2-factor authentication, which processes the date and displays a code – it could be the security code for something in the game, maybe… Or (I’m stretching here) a VMU-like device which displays some kind of additional data. I guess a small USB black-and-white LCD, with a casing appropriate to the game setting, might not be too expensive (?) – the most obvious use that comes to mind is an “invisible-unit detector” for strategy games/Diablo-alikes/etc. IIRC some Dreamcast games included a custom VMU in their special editions, so that might actually not be too much of a stretch!

    Comment by n.n — 10 May, 2007 @ 8:37 PM

  13. I always enjoyed the posters that came w/ the old nintendo games.

    also Sunsoft once sent me a novel written about a game since i send in a warrenty card.

    imagine that 20 years later and i still remember that book. hows that for marketing.

    Comment by austin — 23 May, 2007 @ 11:20 PM

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