Updated Fri, Mar 14, 2014 by gunky
I'm going to preface this by coming right out and admitting that I bought the Digital Imperial Edition. I have my reasons, and I'm sure a lot of other people do, too.
As we all know by now, the Elder Scrolls Online has been available to pre-order for a few weeks now, and comes in four different flavors: Standard and Imperial digital versions, and Standard and Ultra-Deluxe Super-Size Imperial retail box versions. Both of the Standard versions sell for $59.99, the Digital Imperial sells for $79.99, and the Retail Box Imperial Edition, with all the bells and whistles, sells for $99.99 ($114.99 in Canada). The question that must be asked, then, is: are the more expensive versions worth the extra money?
Well, first, look at what all you get.
The Digital Standard Edition comes with the game and the pre-order bundle that is common to all the different editions: 5 days early access, the ability to play any standard race in any alliance, a scuttler vanity pet and some "bonus treasure maps." No physical media - you have to download it. You get a product key you can write down somewhere, if you want to count that.
Retail Standard Edition is the same, but comes with physical media, and it includes only 3 days early access instead of 5. It may or may not come with a basic manual of some kind, possibly a paper map. I haven't seen the box contents yet, so I can't say for sure until April.
The Digital Imperial Edition comes with the same as the Digital Standard, plus a product key to unlock another set of bonuses: access to the Imperial race, access to the Imperial White Horse from stable vendors, a mudcrab vanity pet and the ability to essentially marry a leveling partner for an experience bonus (Rings of Mara).
The Retail Imperial Edition comes with all the stuff from the Digital Imperial edition, plus physical media, a super-nifty box, a 12" statue of Molag Bal, a book that actually looks really awesome, and a big map.
For my money, I don't think Digital Standard is really "worth it," but the Retail Standard is. If the digital version were 10 bucks cheaper than retail box version, then sure, totally worth it. But it seems strange to charge the exact same price for a product with no media or packaging as for one that has those things, minus the 2-day head-start. If I'm going to pay 60 bucks, I prefer something I can hold in my hand, and I don't really feel the "extra" 2 days early access that comes with the Digital Standard is enough to make up the difference.
That being said, it may sound strange that I went for the Digital Imperial edition, which is $20 more. Well, like I said, I have my reasons. Since I plan on writing extensively about it when it launches, I need the full game experience. I'm willing to pay a little extra to give all of you readers a little extra. Plus I've always liked the Imperials with their awesome Roman-y Roman-ness. Also, access to an inexpensive mount early on in the game is almost worth the extra money all on its own. If you plan on exploring as much of the game as possible, and spending a lot of time in Tamriel, that extra 20 bucks is an acceptable expense.
And of course, there's the Big Daddy Retail Imperial ultra-lux package for the rich kids. If you have that kind of money to burn, you're probably not looking for "best value." I'll admit, that book looks awful nice and I'm a sucker for maps and silver-painted resin statuettes, so... yeah, sure, it's worth it if you can afford it. You get all the goodies plus the swag.
About this same time last year, a similar issue arose when Neverwinter offered up a "Hero of the North" pre-order bundle for $199. The people that go for the big buy-ins find value beyond just the few exclusive items; there's a kind of weird prestige that goes with it, as well. We saw the arguments a lot during the early days of Neverwinter - the people who opted in through the less-expensive bundles mocking the Hero of the North guys, and the Hero of the North guys laughing about it from the backs of their awesome spiders. Once again, I bought the "middle" package - the "Guardian of the North" pack, which came with enough cool stuff to keep me interested, but wasn't so overpriced that I felt somewhat foolish buying it.
If you enjoy the game and you're planning on spending money on it anyway, there's no sense in not getting the best version within your budget. If you have only a casual interest in it, then by all means go for the cheap seats. The value you get out of a game is determined by you.
I'm a "middle version" guy myself - how about you? Do you go for the
fancy collector's editions, the no-frills basic version, or something in
between? Let us know in the comments!