Let's go over one's limits!...in regards to limited edition titles.

I’ve already discussed about whether preordering is a good idea or not. While both sides make good points, let’s say you are interested in a particular title. You hear about it, want it, have the money ready…

And then realize preorders are already closed.

Two Limited Special Editions

Limited Edition of Fire Emblem Fates

Released back in February 2016, the special edition of Nintendo 3DS RPG Fire Emblem Fates includes both versions of the game (Birthright and Conquest) along with DLC in one cartridge. It also comes with an artbook and pouch. It retailed for $79.99 and was sold at most major retailers (Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart).

Final Fantasy XV Ultimate Collector's Edition

The next installment of the Final Fantasy RPG series isn’t due out until September, but it will be available in three different packages:

  • game only with a first press DLC bonus ($59.99),
  • a steelbook with extra DLC as well as the anime film ($89.99), and
  • a steelbook with even more DLC, anime film and series, a figure, and an artbook ($269.99).

The game is available in all formats on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Ultimate Collector’s Edition is a Square Enix Online Store exclusive and was advertised as being limited to 30,000 worldwide.

Initial Stock

Both Fire Emblem Fates Special Edition and Final Fantasy XV Ultimate Collector’s Edition sold out quickly. Reports across the Internet show that Fire Emblem Fates sold out in places like Best Buy within two hours and Final Fantasy XV within 30 minutes. In fact, GameStop actually oversold on preorders of Fire Emblem Fates and had to cancel orders. As for Final Fantasy XV, the Ultimate Collector’s Edition was made available only a short time after its announcement, around midnight Eastern time. In fact, news site Anime News Network didn’t even post about the news of the collector’s game until after it sold out!

So, what options does a person have left after stores no longer have an item in stock? Turn to the Internet of course!

Scalping

Scalpers are people who stock up on items at low cost or scoop up limited editions just to try to resell on eBay or Craigslist for two, three, four times what they paid. A lot of times, scalping items is a no-risk situation for sellers. They preorder a limited item, post it on the Internet at a high price, and wait for a desperate buyer to cough up the dough. If an item doesn’t seem to be fetching a high price, they can either a) cancel a preorder or b) return it to a store. Many sites don’t charge until an item ships, so money isn’t tied up. If bought online, the scalpers may not even be out return shipping if they return the item to a physical store.

As of this writing (about two and a half months after release), the cheapest for a cartridge-only copy of Fire Emblem Fates Special Edition on Amazon is $290. Want the complete package in new condition? That will set you back $320. You’re better off tracking it down on eBay: a complete used copy can be bought for just under $200, and some new copies have sold for around that price. For Final Fantasy XV, preorders of the Ultimate Collector’s Editions are selling for an average of $550. Only a few have sold for around $400, and about the same number has sold for $800.

Fan Reaction

Many fans (including myself) were disappointed by these two games’ lack of availability. Fifty-eight percent of reviews for the special edition of Fire Emblem Fates on Amazon are one star, giving the game a rating of 2.6 out of 5. Most of those are people expressing frustration about the limited availability. (The regular edition games average 4.5 and 4.3 stars.) Here are some of their comments:

“Really disappointed that Nintendo doesn’t seem to care about fans at all and gave this such a limited release that scalpers are actually able to sell this at nearly 300% the retail price. Was really looking forward to this game and the inevitable special edition, but due to not happening to be at my computer at the right times, I’m SOL. Complete slap in the face as a longtime Fire Emblem fan.”

“Why Nintendo thinks it’s acceptable to manufacture so little of products there is a clear overwhelming demand for is beyond me. The second this was announced, I knew I needed to have it. Not once have I actually had the chance to do that.”

Even people rating it a full five stars also remark on the lack of stock:

“Nintendo needs to stop releasing a small amount of supply for collectors/special edition games.”

“I do feel bad for those who truly wanted the special edition to actually play it and not sell it for 3x the original price. I wish actual fans got the special edition and not just scalpers.”

On Twitter, Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata acknowledged fans’ frustrations (translation from here):

“By the way, I heard that the preorders swarmed in for the ULTIMATE COLLECTORS EDITION, and as a result, a lot of people couldn’t place their orders. I’m really sorry about that and we’re currently investigating if there are ways we can somehow increase production. I will keep you updated when there’s any progress!”

Should More Copies Be Made?

To many people, the obvious thing to do when a preorder does well is to make more. If people are willing to buy your product, why wouldn’t you?

Well, Nintendo did not do a second printing of Fire Emblem Fates. On the other hand, Square Enix has announced they are going to make more copies of the Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Final Fantasy XV. However, these additional copies may not be released in time for players to open on release day.

However, some buyers of the Ultimate Collector’s Edition were not happy by the announcement more copies are being made. One person on GameFAQs even asked if a class action lawsuit could be filed:

“I mean they lied to us its not 30k but 40k with the announcement of them making 10k more of them.

I bought it because in my mind it was 30k limited, now with 10k more the value of this goes down for me. I should not have to pay all that money now for it I believe.”

Across the web, others also posted their concerns about whether Square Enix would go for a third printing or even more. If the Ultimate Collector’s Edition goes beyond its advertised 30,000 units, what’s to stop them from making 50,000, 60,000, even 100,000 units?

The Battle Between Fans, Companies, and Scalpers

Obviously, companies do not want to be stuck with a lot of leftover stock. As any first year economic student will tell you, when supply increases, the price drops. Take a look at the Final Fantasy Type-0 Collector’s Edition. It is still in stock at many retailers and at a price well below its initial $99.99 MSRP. (It’s even been as low as $49.99.) If you search Amazon for “collector’s edition”, you will find many limited edition games and movies at a significant markdown and still available years after its release. For example, this Transformers: Age of Extinction Blu-ray with statue is being sold for about 75% off by third-party sellers. Obviously, the company overestimated demand, as people did not think it was worth the $119.99 retail price. Anyone who bought these editions at or near MSRP hoping it would be rare or valuable was surely disappointed.

At the same time, while stores may implement limits per person or household on items, they really don’t care who they sell to. For a store, selling 10,000 of an item to 10,000 people earns them the same amount of profit as selling 10,000 to 2,000 people. However, if many people are earning two, three times the amount on eBay or Craigslist for an item, why wouldn’t the company try to capture that profit for themselves instead of giving it to a random individual?

My Opinion

I know I didn’t find out about Fire Emblem Fates until well after it was announced, but I was very interested and would have bought it if I had caught it online. As for Final Fantasy XV, I knew there would be some type of special edition; I just didn’t think it would be so limited. I went to bed before it was announced, and I woke up to an awesome package that had been sold out for hours.

Here’s my not-so-secret confession: I hate scalpers. If there’s a good deal, they will buy them all and often brag about how much they made selling them. I wish companies would make more instead of letting others profit while also ripping fans off.

Obviously, there’s never going to be a perfect time for everyone to make an item available to order. People have work, school, families, and different schedules. Personally, I would like stores to announce when preorders are going live at least a day or two in advance so that everyone has a fair shot. (Of course, I know a lot of stores will worry about their store crashing and causing more frustration for fans.) As for companies, I wish they would take orders up until a certain date. Either of these would allow a vast majority of people who want the game to get the game. It would also cut down on the profitability for scalpers.

I do think it’s a bit shady to advertise something as being limited to a certain number of units and going beyond that, but, in Final Fantasy XV‘s case, 30,000 worldwide just seems way too small for a game where they’re hoping to sell 10 million copies. I admit to being a bit of a collector with my items, but I don’t want things just to lord it over others that I managed to get a copy. I buy a special edition because there’s something special about it. There’s also a difference in buying because it’s limited and buying because it’s limited to resell.

Final Thoughts

I was very disappointed about Nintendo’s handling of Fire Emblem Fates. They had months to produce additional copies but chose not to. I appreciate Square Enix giving buyers like myself a second chance, but I hope the restock won’t catch people off-guard.

So, what do you think? Should special editions be first come, first serve? Be limited to a very small number to keep its rarity? Is it false advertising when an item with an announced number of units gets more copies?