Packaging extras are a rather neat little idea that a lot of RPG companies have incorporated in minor ways to their selling strategies, but only a few have done so to any major extent. Why is that, I wonder? It seems like a rather neat idea, and the companies that do it do so in ways that must be profitable I feel.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Because you're probably wondering what the hell I'm talking about. What's a packaging extra, you ask? And why do you always assume that you know exactly what I'm thinking about asking, you presumptuous prick, you ask? Well, my definition of a packaging extra is an extra item of interest that comes with a game you buy that isn't the game itself, its instruction manual, or the myriad of little paper cards jammed into the case that inform you, in the highly unlikely case that you haven't already guessed, that the company that made this game has also made OTHER games, and that you should buy them. Most commonly, this comes in the form of an extra CD with the game's soundtrack on it.* At other times, this will be something like a small book of official art that will come with the game for free if you reserved a copy with your local vendor and thus guaranteed the game company a sale. This quick, easy little packaging extra has the advantage of usually being a free addition that gamers can appreciate without paying extra for.
There are, however, a few cases (steadily becoming more numerous) where a company will come out with two game package options. The first is just the standard deal--you buy the game, you get the game, its manual, and plenty of ads to insulate your house with, or whatever people do with them (I could probably avoid buying toilet paper for a month if I decided to wipe my ass with the ones I get each year with my games, there's so many). The second, however, is at an elevated price (often like $20 - 35 higher, I think), and comes with the game, manual, colorful TP, AND neat little knick-knacks related to the game. Art books and soundtrack CDs are usually just the start of the stuff offered, and sometimes it can get so silly that it's fun. For example, Fallout 3's special edition came with an art book and a Making Of DVD, which is nice, standard stuff, but it also came with a Vault Boy Bobblehead and a Vault Lunchbox, both of which are fully functional at head-bobbling and boxing foods, respectively.
Does having my very own video game lunchbox that I'll never use matter all that much? Well, no, not really. But it's fun to have! And cheaper than most video game collectible crap you can find.**
Why don't game companies do this sort of thing more often, I wonder? I mean, plenty do the pre-order stuff with minor tidbits, but those ones are almost never all that interesting. Let's face it, you can get the art book's pictures online the day after the game's released pretty easily. The upcoming Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2's pre-orders come with a stuffed Jack Frost doll, which is something, but Jack Frost is boring and overplayed as their mascot. I'd rather have an adorable plush doll of somebody like Beelzebub, or Thanatos--something you'd want to hug and then run screaming from.
But they don't often go all-out with the little trinkets, and I kinda like them, sometimes. I mean, maybe there's no point to having a cloth map of Lunar 1's world, but the Lunar 1 packaged extras made such a big fuss over the game that it was endearing (in fact, I was way more satisfied with the map than I was with the game's plot and characters, sadly). It's got to be at least a little profitable for the company--a cheap plastic bobblehead and a lunchbox can't be as expensive as the difference in price for them that Fallout 3 charged--and it's something a lot of gamers are happily willing to pay for, should they need to. And hell, even if you don't want to invest the time and effort into a separate collector's edition with goodies in it, offering something really cool with the RPG's pre-order instead of just the normal art/music crap that anyone can view/download online would be effective and appreciated, too--the best game-related pieces of merchandise I own has got to be, without any competition whatever, the Ghaleon Punching Puppet that came with pre-orders of Lunar 2. That thing is WAY more fun than the actual game is. I mean, it's Ghaleon. As a punching puppet. I just think that this is a largely unexplored market for RPG-makers, is all.
Also, I unfortunately couldn't really find a proper place for this in the rant above, so I'll just stick this in as a parting: a half-assed bonus disc of ads, art that's easily obtainable elsewhere, and very short, largely uninformative "History Of Final Fantasy" video that eventually becomes another ad does not count as a Collector's Edition just because you put it in a fucking metal case, Square. I can't believe that people were actually paying extra for a fucking METAL BOX with their FF12 copy. As if all these game remakes didn't already prove that you'll do ANYTHING to have your fans give you money for nothing.
* Although, oddly and unfortunately enough, I've noticed that most of the time an OST is included in games whose soundtracks are generic and have maybe 1 or 2 songs max that are noteworthy. I guess it makes sense, though, that if a company knows they've got a good soundtrack, they'll want to sell it separately instead of just give it away.
** Have you SEEN what they charge for crappy, fragile, non-moving Final Fantasy figures lately? I know this ain't the early 90s, but my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures cost 1/5th of the cheapest FF figure price, and could actually DO stuff, not to mention manage to keep their goddamn limbs and heads attached to them. Even adjusting for inflation and extremely minor additional costs for the FF figures' detail, it's fucking crazy.