One of the best games of the year so far comes out tomorrow, and you cannot buy it in a store or get it on a disc. But that doesn’t mean that those of you who love physical goods have to go completely without.
Firewatch, a mystery game for PlayStation 4 and PC (read our review), features a disposable camera as an item your character can use to take pictures of the world, and studio Campo Santo has set up the Firewatch.camera website that will develop and send you prints of the images you take for $15. This is a smart trick to give you something that is simultaneously physical and personal from the time you spend with Firewatch. It could also help Campo Santo increase its average revenue per player, an interesting tactic when ARPU is usually calculated in how much extra gold or vanity items a player buys in a game. Companies like GameStop and the music industry are turning to physical collector’s items to get more money from customers who want something they can hold. In music, it’s the reason that people are buying more vinyl records every year since 2008. Music lovers want the big artwork to go with the digital album from their favorite indie-rock band.
For gaming, we’ve seen variations of this for a while. The industry has long had $150 collector’s edition versions of games that come with toys, clothing, and art books. Some fans will pay a premium for an extra trinket, and publishers can make a significant amount of extra revenue from serving that audience. This was one of the primary reasons GameStop acquired the online-retail outlet ThinkGeek in June. GameStop president Tony Bartel told GamesBeat at the time that his company is predicting those physical goods could generate $200 million in revenue a year specifically because it could sell game-related products in its stores.
Of course, Campo Santo is not exactly GameStop, but it is like a rock band. And the studio is offering its biggest fans a chance to own a physical piece of their digital experience.
I almost don't even want to open these, that's how good the packaging is. pic.twitter.com/pNfTbccKlR
— it was me, austin (@austin_walker) February 8, 2016
I’ve ordered my prints, and you can take a closer look at the digital versions from Firewatch’s camera website right here (beware of some spoilers if you look at the photos too closely).