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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Game On: ‘Deluxe editions’ are anti-consumer nonsense

My excitement for Sonic Origins fell flat when I gazed upon this messy chart promising to lock content behind paywalls. It’s due for release June 23 for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.  (Sega Corp.)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

When I watched the trailer of Sonic Origins released last week, I was pretty over the moon. A lovingly made remaster of the original 2D Sonic games that catapulted the hedgehog to instant video game stardom in the early 1990s? I’m sold.

These games – Sonic 1, 2, 3, CD and Sonic & Knuckles – made up a good portion of my childhood and informed my taste in video games from a very early age. Since I can’t even remember not having those games at any point in my life, it might seem weird to be excited about yet another rerelease.

Well, this time they’re going the extra mile, adding all sorts of quality-of-life features like cartoon-animated cutscenes, widescreen, the ability to play Tails in Sonic CD and Knuckles in Sonic 1, a mirror mode, boss rush and so on.

It’s all ported to newer hardware via the same “Retro Engine” that superfan Christian Whitehead coded when he led the creation of 2017’s Sonic Mania, which was the highest-reviewed Sonic game in 15 years.

Essentially, this collection will doubtlessly become the definitive way to play these classic games once it releases June 23. And really, aside from the dated 4:3 aspect ratio, even the original releases from around 30 years ago hold up to scrutiny today – there’s not much to mess up.

Alongside this year’s excellent movie release, Sonic Origins is sure to usher in new fans to the series. One can only hope that the next modern mainline release, Sonic Frontiers, doesn’t turn out to be the proverbial turd in the punch bowl later this year.

But I’ll freely admit that my enthusiasm was dulled somewhat when I reached the end of the collection’s trailer. For whatever reason, Sega has felt the need to muddy the waters with some bogus add-on content, and they chose to present it via a tangled mess of a chart.

Would your Sonic Origins experience really be complete without a “classic music pack,” a “start dash pack” or the “premium fun pack”? If not, you’d better pay up! To be fair, these add-ons don’t sound like one would miss much if they decided to stick with the base game.

The “start dash pack” just offers players a head start on earning unlockable content they can get through normal playtime, it’s not entirely clear what the “classic music pack” will actually do, and the “premium fun pack” adds a bunch of visual bells and whistles to the game’s main menu.

All of this comes included with the “digital deluxe edition,” mind you – which costs only $5 more than the standard edition. But would it really have killed Sega not to include this content with the base game?

They’re already asking $40 for Sonic Origins, which is somewhat steep considering these games exist in some form on almost any platform you can think of, and the comparable Sonic Mania retailed for a very reasonable $20.

This practice is hardly unique to Sega. Big publishers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts have been nickel-and-diming their customers in similar fashion for almost a decade now. This isn’t a trend that’s going away any time soon – it’s clearly making them money. The real question is why are gamers willing to plunk down extra cash for such paltry additions?

I don’t have to stretch my mind much. Most consumers like a complete product – they like knowing they’re getting the full experience. There are those of us who don’t mind rummaging through the $5 DVD bin at Walmart, and then there are those of us who just have to own the special edition in 4K UHD on Blu-Ray even if their TV doesn’t support such high resolutions.

Sega and other publishers are exploiting this mindset by selling gamers intentionally incomplete products and locking the full, unaltered experience behind paywalls. Expansions were once universally exciting – back when it meant gamers got the full, intended game, and it sold well enough that the developers could afford to add content later.

Intentionally chopping a game into pieces prior to its initial release, meanwhile, is exploitative and blatantly anti-consumer behavior. We need to think twice before supporting this business model.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at