Used to be when you bought a new video game, the first thing you would do upon cracking open the box would be to peek inside the game manual.
Or at least that's what I would do. When I was a kid, before I could travel to the game store and buy them on my own, I can remember the car rides home after getting a new game being excruciating.
I would rip open the box right then and there in the backseat, pull out the manual, and read it cover to cover in anticipation for when I could get home and start playing.
That's not the case anymore. Pop open a modern day PlayStation 4 or Xbox One game case and you are likely to find a slip of paper telling you to buy the game's season pass and maybe a download code for a special pair of pants as reward for buying the game on "day one." No manual. No map. Just advertisements, pushing a publisher's next big game.
With no actual manual or tangible benefit to buying physical over digital aside from resale value, it truly does seem like digital is the way of the future, and with it comes its own pros and cons. But physical games, tangible objects, haven't gone the way of the dodo just yet, as CD Projekt Red recently proved with their physical copies of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Hold a copy of The Witcher 3 in your hands and the first thing you will notice is that it has actual weight to it.
Open the case and inside you will find relics that haven't been seen inside a video game case for quite some time.
Here is what you get:
• An actual honest to goodness manual
• A massive world map
• A Witcher universe guide booklet, to help you get up to speed on the characters and setting of the game
• Two Witcher "wolf head" medallion logo stickers
• The game's soundtrack
This all comes free of charge. You don't have to buy a deluxe edition of the game to snag the soundtrack. You don't have to pre-order to get this map or the stickers. It's all included. The digital version comes with some of these goodies as well, like the game soundtrack, but there is nothing like having a physical map laid out in front of you, or a manual that isn't in PDF form.
And to top it off, the game includes a letter addressed to you, the gamer. Below is the letter in full:
First of all, we would like to thank you for your support. We really appreciate that you have decided to spend your hard-earned money on our game and hope that you will have a fun time playing it. Over 200 of us have spent the last three years working on The Witcher 3: Wild hunt and it is with great pleasure and humility that we present our game to you.
At CD Projekt Red, we believe that when you buy our games, you're entitled to continuous, free support - updates, patches and bits of new and amazing content. We owe you that for believe in us and purchasing our game. To thank you, we have prepared something really special - 16 DLCs for you to download, totally free of charge, regardless of the platform or edition of the game you own.
We salute you for your support and wish you a fantastic next-generation of RPG gaming!
CD Projekt Red
That's not something you see every day, and I'm not even talking about the 16 free pieces of minor DLC coming to the game, which is rare in and of itself. I'm talking about the idea that a game developer took the time to connect with their audience in way few do, to build a relationship between creator and player by including a note that every person who buys their game will read upon opening the game case.
Call it a clever marketing ploy, a heartfelt message or something in between, but I found it refreshing. I found the whole experience of opening my copy of Witcher 3 refreshing, exciting even. That's a feeling I haven't had in a long time, and is proof that for as long there are developers like CD Projekt Red who are willing to go the extra mile, physical games won't be going away anytime soon.