I'm a bit of a sucker for Collector's Editions, and frankly, I can't even really justify it. Most of the stuff included in them either never gets used, or gets admired briefly and then ends up taking up unecessary space. For some reason I translate excitement for a particular new game into a desire for frivolous, additional stuff.
Some are worth it. For instance, I have all three World of Warcraft Collector's Editions unopened. These are really the only ones that I think of as "collectable" in any sense of the word. Not only are they gorgeous (I have opened ones too, Blizzard really makes a fantastic CE), but the original WoW CE with an unused CD key can be tougher to locate. So they have a little bit of value in that regard.
But any value these have is a direct result of not only rarity, but also the colossal juggernaut that World of Warcraft has become. Because WoW is so huge, because there are hardcore gamers out there that would pay for an unopened collector's edition. That's not something you can say for or expect from most games.
When I was a little kid, pouring over my comic book collection, my first issues, scouring Wizard magazine's price charts, and dreaming about one day being rich because somewhere in my collection, I had the future equivalent of Amazing Fantasy #15, my Dad would always remind me "things are only worth as much as someone will pay for them." Wizard may list a comic's value at $15, but unless I could find someone who wanted that particular issue enough to pay $15 for it, it wasn't worth squat.
Same thing with most game Collector's Editions. I have the Collector's Edition for GTA4 (one of the CEs I consider to be a waste of space). It's incredibly unlikely that that's ever going to pop up as a valuable item. I doubt that there will ever be enough GTA collecting fervor that people will just have to have a GTA branded lockbox and duffle bag. Additionally, game companies generally print off so many of these Collector's/Limited edition these days, that any sense of value through rarity goes out the window.
Okay, so it's reasonable to say that at least 95% (if not more) of video game CE's will never appreciate in value over time due to too much supply and not enough demand. That doesn't mean they're worthless. So what value do they offer in other areas? Why do we buy them?
For me, one of the biggest draws a Collector's Edition can offer is in-game stuff. After all, the entire reason I'm buying the damn thing, the true core reason, is ultimately the game itself, right? So if the CE is offering some special, exclusive in-game item/weapon/maps/armor/pet/doohickey, that's a draw for me. MMO's doubly so because in the event that I end up playing the game for any extended period of time, I've got this cool stuff attached to a character I've invested time in.
So yeah, in-game stuff is a thumbs up from me. I bought the Mass Effect 2 Collector's Edition because it included all the Cerberus DLC that I figured I was going to pick up at some point anyway, so why not grab it with some other stuff and a cool metal case to boot. That CE felt worth it to me.
Most CE's offer an art book and/or game soundtrack. I might be in the minority here, but these are generally space-wasters for me. I'll flip through the art book while the game is loading or something, but they're never large, coffee-table style art books that you want to leave out and admire. Additionally, I never find myself sitting around thinking "Hey, I really need to listen to some instrumental tracks from a video game", so soundtracks generally never get played. Again, I may be in the minority.
The little odds and ends vary, and can be neat, but again, mostly filler. A USB flash drive shaped like whatever in-game object/character, etc.
Finally, you get the Collector's Editions that throw in something big. Something out of the ordinary, and something that really attempts to sell the extravagant idea of a collectable.
Let's use the Halo Limited Editions as an example (since they go a step above with their "Legendary" editions). Halo 3 sported, as many of you remember, the replica (but unfortunately not scale) Spartan Helmet. Utterly useless as anything but a display or cat headgear, but at the same time... a pretty cool display for a gamer's room or office. It doesn't do anything, but if you're a huge Halo fan, I could see getting enjoyment out of that as a decoration (mine sits in its box in the closet).
(Side note: a quick Ebay search at the time of this article shows sixty Halo 3 Legendary Editions for sale, every single one of them listed for a fraction of the game's original cost. Again, there is very little demand for game collector's editions post-retail.)
With Halo: Reach, the big ticket item is a sculpture of the cast by MacFarlane Toys. Once again, it doesn't do anything to enhance your gaming experience, but it is a hell of a decorative item (I think MacFarlane makes some of the coolest toys out there). Again, you'd have to really be into Halo for this item to make sense for you. I'm not that into Halo anymore, but I still looked at that sculpture and said "Cool, I want it!"
And this is how I end up with clutter. The worst case of this was Batman: Arkham Asylum. I (and I'd imagine everyone else) bought the Collector's Edition primarily for that damned Batarang, which turn out to be a cheesy chunk of scuffed plastic. Such an amazing game, but definitely on my list of biggest waste-of-space Collector's Editions.
So breaking it down, for me, the in-game stuff is clearly the biggest reason to buy a Collector's/Limited edition. I'll continue to buy them if I'm really excited about the game and they're giving me something exclusive to play with in-game. The big cool collectable items, while neat, don't have any long-term value to me. Neither do the little swag. And with that in mind, I've made the decision to be more scrupulous when determining which Collector's Editions are really worth the cost, and which just look cool but offer nothing I really want.
However I'm curious to hear from some of you. Hit my inbox. Do you buy Collector's Editions of games you want? If so, why? Do you consider them an investement? Do you really enjoy the artbooks and soundtracks? Have you bought any that include big items like a Spartan helmet, etc, and if so, do you still have those proudly displayed or taking up space in storage? Or are you just all about the in-game items?