A Physical Situation
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Jun 9th 2021
Hold on to what you own
The world of video games has changed quite a bit, but one way that a lot of us older folks probably couldn’t have imagined when we were kids is the current status of physical game releases.
I used to work in a store called Game Crazy. It was a GameStop competitor, and a darn good one at that. The problem was, all of its locations were physically attached to Hollywood Video stores. Both businesses were owned by the same company, so to cut out a huge chunk of the startup costs, they brilliantly took some of the massive real estate they already possessed and sectioned off enough space for a retail video game store using chain link fence. It was a genius maneuver, and made the Game Crazy brand a very profitable one with a very bright future.
That was, of course, until Netflix happened.
As we enjoyed all sorts of growth on the Game Crazy side of things, the encroaching world of video streaming swiftly started decimating rental stores all across the country. Once Hollywood Video couldn’t sustain itself anymore, Game Crazy unfortunately had to go with it. The advent of digital media distribution was upon us, but surely that wasn’t going to be the case with video games, right?
Well, as you well know, that was very wrong. Digital game sales soared as physical storage media became less and less expensive, and now the world of video games has a VERY different landscape. Where just a few years ago, digital versions of games were the exception, there are now hundreds of games on every platform that just plain don’t ever see physical releases.
The market for physical games didn’t disappear though, and several companies have appeared to keep physical media in games alive, albeit at a price.
I’ve heard lots of stories on this subject over the years, but I’ll stick with telling about my own personal experiences for the purpose of this post. I have several situations in my gaming world where the state of physical media has caused me problems, and while I’m ultimately very thankful that companies like Limited Run Games exist, I long for a time when things aren’t quite so confusing.
The Blaster Master Zero III Conundrum
I’m a huge Blaster Master fan, so naturally I bought Blaster Master Zero the instant it was available. I loved the game from top to bottom. Then they made a second one, and you better believe I snatched that up the day it was released too. They were both digital only releases, but that was no shock to me. The last new Blaster Master game, Blaster Master Overdrive, was a WiiWare title and never saw a physical release either.
But then, years later Limited Run Games produced physical versions of Blaster Master Zero and Zero II. I bought the standard editions because I already owned both games and all their DLC, and I simply don’t have room in my house for bulky collectors editions anymore. Yes, I bought those two games twice, but all in all I wasn’t too miffed. I was just glad to have them both in a physical format to add to my collection.
Then Blaster Master Zero III was announced, and my immediate wonder turned to the timing of an inevitable physical release. As a huge fan, I’m going to want to play this game as soon as humanly possible, but the collector in me wants to have the game physically. However, at the time a US physical release hadn’t been announced yet. A Japan exclusive physical edition was announced though, and it included exclusive content. They added voice acting to all three games, and that was only going to be a part of the physical trilogy. So, do I import the trilogy, even though I already own the first two games physically? Do I buy the same games a third time on the same darn platform just so I can play them with voice acting? I’m a Blaster Master nut, but that was just a bridge too far, even for me.
Then Limited Run stepped up and announced a physical version of Blaster Master Zero III, complete with the new voice acting. Granted, it isn’t the trilogy release, it’s just the third game, but still, that’s clearly the version to get.
The only problem is, pre-orders for the game close on July 11th, and the game isn’t expected to ship for another 4-5 months after that. Meanwhile, the digital version releases on July 29th. So, do I buy the game twice like I did the first two? Do I wait an unknown number of months to play the latest game in one of my favorite franchises just so I can have it physically? No matter which direction I go in, I’m going to have to sacrifice something, and that stinks.
Eternally Waiting for Doom Eternal
I love Doom. The first 2 PC games absolutely rule, and are some of the few PC games that I’ve played in my life that have really stuck with me. They released them digitally on Switch a while back and I snapped them up and played the heck out of them. They recently took pre-orders for a physical collection of the classic Doom games through Limited Run, but I didn’t really let that one bother me. The games were all of $5 a piece to begin with, and I suspect playing Doom in its original form isn’t going to be an issue in the future.
Doom 2016 was a different animal though. I was very excited to play that game, but I didn’t have any of the platforms to do so in 2016, so I resigned myself to just not ever really being able to play that one. Then they ported it to Switch and I was over the moon excited. I bought it, played it, and absolutely loved it. So when they announced Doom Eternal was coming to Switch too, I couldn’t have been happier. But then the Switch version got delayed, and delayed some more, and when it was eventually released, the physical version was inexplicably cancelled. Now, I own a PS4, and I could play it there for sure, but I want to play the game on Switch. I know I sound nuts, but I’ve made peace with that.
The thing here is, Limited Run has done a ton with Doom on Switch. With the exception of Doom 2016 which just had a regular old physical retail release on Switch, they’ve made physical versions of the rest of the franchise on the platform. It stands to reason that there’s more than enough of an audience for that game on Switch to justify at the very least a Limited Run of a physical version, but as of now it still hasn’t happened. And this isn't like Blaster Master where it’s just a $15 game or something where if I buy it digitally it isn’t a HUGE deal to buy it again to have it physically. This is a full $60 game, and I will not buy it twice. So I’m stuck waiting. Because I know the instant I spend the money on a digital copy, a physical version will be announced, and that's how I want to play that game. And that stinks.
Doubling down on Double Dragon
I love Double Dragon, specifically the first 3 games on NES. I also loved Double Dragon Neon on Xbox 360, so when they re-released the game on Switch earlier this year I couldn't wait to buy it. However, I was in the middle of a couple of other games at the time, so I put it on my wish list so I could grab it when I finally had the time to give it my attention. Then Limited Run struck again.
A physical version of Double Dragon Neon would be fantastic. I don’t love that it’s literally twice as expensive as the digital version, but it’s the kind of game I feel is worth considering. However, Neon isn’t the only game they’re taking orders on. They’re releasing a physical version of Double Dragon IV for Switch as well.
I physically own Double Dragon, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones for NES, and Super Double Dragon for SNES, which was considered the fourth Double Dragon game at the time. I skipped V because it’s based on the cartoon and is just kind of awful so I never felt like spending money on it, but getting physical versions of Double Dragon IV and Neon on Switch would make for one nice-looking collection. The real problem is, I already bought Double Dragon IV, and it’s awful. It’s just the most dreadfully thoughtless brand cash-ins imaginable, and as much as the completionist in me wants to physically own them all, I just can’t bring myself to do it. But it’s tempting me that this game exists in the world, and it’s not the kind of thing that’s ever going to be for sale somewhere for dirt cheap. I can’t wait for it to go on clearance because this is a Limited release. They’re only selling the game to people who actually want it. So while the Contra collector in me will eventually pick up Rogue Corps for $10 somewhere, Double Dragon IV in physical form will likely forever elude me, and that stinks. (sort of).
The Late Castlevania Anniversary Collection
I bought this darn thing the instant it was available on Switch and promptly played through every game in the collection to completion. I also already own all of these games physically for the platforms they were created for (except Kid Dracula). But man, if I was given the chance to buy these physically a year or so ago when the collection first came out, I absolutely would have gone that route. But I never imagined it would happen because this was freaking Konami. If they were going to release something physical, wouldn’t they just do it themselves? They released Rogue Corps for crying out loud and that game was terrible!
But this is the world we live in. Physical releases could happen at any time, and there’s no way to plan for them. You just have to either take a chance and just not play the game until something is maybe released, or buy the digital version and then buy it again when the physical version comes out. I ultimately passed on the physical collection, which breaks my heart. And that stinks.
Turrican Anthology, or Turrican't Anthology?
I’ve always found the Turrican series to be fascinating, but I have very little experience actually playing the games. Late last year, they announced that Turrican Flashback was releasing for Switch and PlayStation 4, and I was delighted. I was also a bit confused, because when I looked at the collection it only had most of the Turrican games on it, and the ones that were missing weren’t quite enough to justify a Turrican Flashback 2, but I suppose this was better than nothing, right?
But then Strictly Limited Games announced Turrican Anthology. There were two volumes, and between the two they contained all of the Turrican games, and special features that weren’t going to be present in the Turrican Flashback release, including the ability to play the games with remastered soundtracks. This was clearly the version I wanted, and that it was physical made it all the better. So I preordered them both. The problem is, I still don’t have them, nor do I have any realistic idea of when I will. Turrican Flashback released on January 29th, and the Turrican Anthology releases were scheduled for Q2 this year, but are now listed as “Later This Year” on their site.
I want to believe I made the right choice, but the striking lack of transparency with the game’s actual development is frustrating. Strictly Limited says there will be other new features that will be worth the wait, but the wait has been pretty long already, and that stinks.
I have had good experiences with these limited physical releases, and I am genuinely glad they exist. I just wish there was a way to get some more parity with the digital releases. That physical versions of games have become boutique purchases is kind of terrible. That people want to physically own their games to future proof their purchases shouldn’t come at such a cost, and the nature of the way things go now leaves folks like myself in a position where if they want to play the games they want to play in a timely manner, it involves buying them more than once. Unfortunately, I don’t see this changing in the future.
And that stinks.