Red Dead Redemption II: The Special Editions Backlash

So Rockstar have revealed the various editions of Red Dead Redemption II that you can buy and the feedback has been “mixed” to say the least. Before I get into the meat of this one and take a look at the different versions of the game. I just want to provide my invested interest in this subject.


I’m not much for buying games day one (with the odd exception) and most definitely not into pre-ordering. I just find the whole practice pretty abhorrent. I just want to play the game not be surrounded by useless tat. For me to get into special editions and pre-orders, they need to be well worth the extra coin and for the most part, they aren’t. But for Red Dead Redemption II I was willing to make an exception. See, I grew up with Rockstar games…and I don’t mean I jumped on the bandwagon when Grand Theft Auto III was released and shook up the gaming world. No, I was there from the very start before the name Grand Theft Auto existed – even before the name Rockstar Games existed. I go back to those early Psygnosis days, the publisher who gave an eager and highly talented small game development studio their first chance. DMA Design was their name and they made a pretty average shooter called Menace in 1988, this was followed up with a far superior shooter called Blood Money and from that point, the games got better and better. What followed were games made with a real and honest passion. Long story short, they created some of the finest games of the 90s, I mean, they made Lemmings


In 1997, they made the first Grand Theft Auto game and changed the gaming industry forever. BMG Interactive who published Grand Theft Auto were brought out by Take-Two Interactive and after the release of Grand Theft Auto III, DMA Design became Rockstar Studios and I really don’t need to continue the history lesson here do I?

As I said, I grew up with their games, I really did. I fucking love Rockstar as they deliver highly polished and beautifully crafted games. The characters are always larger than life, the stories are intriguing and the game worlds they create are second to none. There is no finer example of just how good Rockstar are at what they do than Red Dead Redemption. For me, this is Rockstar at their very, very best. I don’t want to get into a lengthy monologue of just how much I think Red Dead Redemption is one of the greatest games ever made, but I really do believe that. The characters, the setting, the story all melded into one hell of an amazing package that leads up to an ending that still leaves me with a lump in my throat eight years later. So as you can imagine, when they announced a sequel (turned out to be a prequel), I quickly became Fry form Futurama

Fry Take My Money

I kept scouring the interwebs in an attempt to find out just what would be on offer in terms of pre-order bonuses and limited edition collectibles. As I said at the start, I don’t go into all that stuff – but for Red Dead Redemption II I was willing to make an exception. I just knew that given Rockstar’s attention to detail and love of what they do that they’d offer something special. A limited edition with an awesome, authentic cowboy hat, an impressive 18″ model of the main character with stunning detail, maybe a replica gun model? Oh just what greatness would they include to entice the fans? Well, none of the above as it turns out. The special editions for Red Dead Redemption II are (being polite) utterly underwhelming. Let me just quickly run trough them.

Standard Edition: Just a copy of the game. Though if you pre-order the game digitally before 31st of July you’ll receive a cash bonus for story mode and a treasure map. £54.99

Special Edition: A copy of the game, an extra bank robbery mission and gang hideout to use in story mode, the warhorse the use in the game, an in-game cash bonus, special story mode items, and additional weapons and a Gunslinger outfit. £74.99

Ultimate Edition: A copy of the game, all of the content from the special edition above plus various bonuses for the online mode for the game, a survivor camp theme, additional weapons, rank bonuses and a thoroughbred horse. £89.99

Collector’s Box: A metal box containing a collectible coin, jigsaw puzzle, a bandanna, a treasure map, pin set, some playing cards, cigarette character cards, and a Wheeler, Rawson & Co. Catalogue. £89.99

Red Dead Redemption II Collectors Box.jpg

There is nothing there worth paying the extra for, at least for me anyway. You may have missed this just glancing over but the Collectors Box that will set you back a penny less of £90…you don’t even get a copy of the game. So allow me to do the maths for you. Get a copy of the game with the most content, the Ultimate Edition and add on the collectible items from the box and you’re looking at forking out £179.98. I could buy a brand new console with a game for that – and that’s a price point were you seriously need to ask yourself if its really worth it?

Just as a quick aside, the prices come from Rockstar’s official site, I’m sure shopping around you can get them cheaper…a little bit.

Now, this really irks me. Not because I can’t afford it (I can) but its more a case of how I perceived Rockstar as a company. Remember Grand Theft Auto V? Remember all the different special editions they released for that? Remember all the extra content you had to pay through the nose for? No neither do I because that never happened. There was one and only one version of Grand Theft Auto V at launch and it contained EVERYTHING, no special editions, no ultimate editions – just a game, a full and complete game. Oh yeah and lets not forget how Grand Theft Auto V became the most successful piece of entertainment media EVER. So how have Rockstar gone from creating a genuinely great game that gave the players a full game with no paid for DLC and a shit ton of FREE content and updates since its release in 2013 right up to today – how did they go from that business model that is clearly very profitable and pleased the fans to this crap with Red Dead Redemption II?


I can not believe I’m about to write this but a thought just popped into my head. EA’s Battlefield V is set to launch with no loot-boxes, no paid for DLC, no microtransactions other than cosmetics. EA have just pulled off a Grand Theft Auto V while Rockstar are doing a Star Wars: Battlefront II. EA are putting together a better, fairer and more enticing business model for their game than Rockstar have…the people who gave us the mighty Grand Theft Auto V and all its free content in one and only one version of the game. Seriously Rockstar (though I suspect Take-Two are behind this idea), what are you doing here aside from pissing people off? Just like Grand Theft Auto VRed Dead Redemption II will sell…a lot. You don’t need these cheap tactics to make money, you created the most profitable piece of entertainment in history, not just games but any medium with Grand Theft Auto V without any of this crap.

I said earlier how I was willing to fork over my hard earned for a special edition for Red Dead Redemption II but not anymore as they are way too expensive and what you get for your money is just not worth it. Some fans have gone a bit OTT and said they will boycott the game. Not me, I still can not wait to get my hands on a copy, but I’m only going for the standard edition…and this itself annoys me because the standard copy does not come with the bank robbery mission or the gang hideout for story mode. I fucking hate withheld content. I’m not a big fan of DLC at the best of times and have argued why its just not needed in gaming at all. But this shit, holding back already completed content for people to have to pay extra for…withholding content to squeeze more cash out of the punters? Fuck you Rockstar. I bet the content is already on the disc too, you just have to pay to unlock it.

Red Dead Redemption II Shadows

Now in all fairness, Rockstar have addressed this issue with this following Tweet.

The Bank Robbery and Gang Hideout included in the RDR2 Special Edition are side activities created specifically for that edition and are not part of the main story.

So what Rockstar are saying is the content is not that important as its not part of the main story. Sorry, I don’t buy that. If the content is not that important then why is it part of a Special Edition? Even more so, its still gameplay that is being withheld from the people (like me) who won’t buy the other editions. Its a cheap tactic. Now I’m not saying that special editions shouldn’t have content the standard version won’t, I’m saying that withholding content like this is bad practice. Yeah give special edition buyers all the cosmetics and collectible tat you want – but gameplay elements should be fair game no matter what version you buy. So as it stands, if you buy the standard edition then you’re not getting all of the game. Do I really need to bring up Grand Theft Auto V with its one and only one version, no withheld content, etc again?

Red Dead Redemption II Sunset

Yeah I’m looking forward to the game and the year long delay hasn’t bothered me at all. But I’m disappointed by this penny pinching Rockstar, not as angry or vitriolic as some of the fans I have seen on Twitter, Facebook, etc…but I am disappointed in my favorite game developer since 1988.


4 thoughts on “Red Dead Redemption II: The Special Editions Backlash

  1. I’m also a DMA fan from a bit later, but yep, Lemmings, the underrated Body Harvest on N64 (which seems to be a game that inspired GTA 3 on a few fronts) and others (I even liked the quirky Wild Metal on the Dreamcast). BTW, GTA 4 got a big deal collectors edition that came in a metal bank box with a key, the game and a few other cool items. RDR II’s editions are a bit eyebrow raising, but not necessary for those of us who just want the game proper. EA actually learned a very hard lesson from the Star Wars Battlefront II debacle with the loot boxes and skimpy solo campaign, so BFV’s more direct focus likely comes from the angry folks who slammed that SW game up and down until stuff was fixed.

    As for the bonus missions, I likely won’t miss them at all, but I know they’ll show up in the inevitable GOTY edition that will include that and any other DLC for probably less than what the initial release will cost. Personally, I think these publishers should just sell the games and any swag should go into an online where anyone who wants that stuff can buy whatever they want to accent their copy of the game.

    It’s funny you mentioned wanting a cowboy hat or replica gun because the former couldn’t be manufactured cheaply (hat sizing is a pain because unlike a baseball cap, an authentic cowboy has to be properly sized and fitted) and the latter would be trouble to get into most territories because of assorted restrictions (I don’t want to imaging the shipping issues for a fake gun even if it’s a smaller-sized version. That and the potential licensing fees if it were based on a real firearm would be quite expensive).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The idea of the cowboy hat, replica gun, etc were just that – ideas.The kind of thing I’d expect to find in an expensive collectors edition as others have done in the past. But what is being offered in just plain insulting. If RDR II had an edition with the game, all the content and a nice, well crafted figure of Arthur Morgan on his horse (or similar) then Rockstar would have my money already. But what they have put together is not worth spending money on. Plus not including the game in the collectors box is insulting.

      As you say, GTA IV had a collectors edition. It came with the lock box, an art book, soundtrack CD, a key-chain, duffel bag and most importantly – a copy of the game. That was a decent collectors edition with some useful items…like the game.

      The content “removed” from the game and being sold in the special edition though. It may not be major content, but its still gameplay that us standard purchasers will miss out on, so are not getting the full game. That is just something I really can’t stand. As I said in the article, give special edition buyers all the cosmetics and box filling tat you want. But when you get into restricting gameplay and holding back content for people with more money then sense – that’s a treacherous road to go down.

      There is part of me that hopes Rockstar/Take-Two get a real good EA style backlash off this.


      1. Well, I’d bet a penny that excised content will pop up as either paid DLC or hopefully, a freebie (post launch plus a few months) for those who didn’t buy those collector’s editions. That and I’d bet a second penny that you’ll see those empty box versions either sell out fast or not sell all that well (meaning they’ll end up in some shops or online at a discount at some point – that’s how I got my GTA IV set). I don’t play GTA V Online at all, so any MP stuff in RDR II will go untouched and I won’t miss it because I’ll be focused on the story and where it goes.

        I’d say keep an ear peeled for what Rockstar does post-E3, as I think they’ll be hearing a lot more big noise from fans on this (and yes, that may help them change their minds). I’m against boycotting games, but it seems that the always angry folks who pile onto a cause and will review bomb games (or just write a crap review without playing the game at all) just because that seems to be the way to gripe these days (I’m not referring to you at all, btw!). I hope that doesn’t happen to RDR II because I’d rather see it succeed for what it nails as opposed to what could turn into something that’s less than the issue it initially threw into the ring.

        As for bonuses, it’s too bad there wasn’t something like a Fredric Remington-like statuette in that big box. That would be pretty neat to have take up shelf space. I guess it’s a good thing there aren’t multiple collector’s editions from different retailers offering different DLC, as that’s possibly the worst thing a game publisher can do to fans who can’t buy more than one retail edition.


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