The Limited Print Industry is Not in Good Shape

Again. AGAIN. I’m not repeating this usual shtick of my reluctance to write on this subject in the intro again, so just refer to my last article on this subject. This time around, another publisher got my focus, one I hadn’t even mentioned until now since I had zero issues with them and considered them to be generally cool!

So in recent news, Special Reserve Games have been getting a rather heavy amount of heat lately. In the past year, some of their prior games that were formerly exclusive to them have been reissued as retail versions for the mass public to enjoy, and some people were not really too happy about that, as is usually the case when any seemingly rare item gets a second chance at life. Generally, I don’t personally mind games getting a second wind. It helps newcomers to the system/dev enjoy a release just as much as those original folk, and helps increase the overall availability of a game. Lord knows how much a lot of retro games need it, which is why I always smile when I see Retro-Bit put out a cool reproduction of some rare classics.

Limited Run and Strictly Limited have done this as well, with LRG going for putting out certain numbered games at Best Buy, and their distro lineup via all sorts of retailers, while SLG’s ININ branch pumps out whatever they can at local walmarts and via Amazon, usually stuff relating to their partner store or weird, incomplete versions of SLG compilations such as Wonder Boy. Generally, I’ve never really had a problem with how it was handled outside of the odd nature of ININ’s compilations, since most of the time the original printings come out far earlier, are more distinct, and generally worth the original purchase.

Heck, I’ve even been hoping Devolver Digital (another branch of the parent company that owns Special Reserve) would put out a retail version of The Messenger on PS4, since that original printing has gotten absurdly rare and expensive. But typically, they’ve put out some cool recent games, such as the charming Gato Robotto and the recently delivered, positively received darling Demon Throttle. I never really brought SRG up in my report card or prior articles since I had two purchases from them and both were perfectly fine with reasonable ETAs and updates, so I was honestly stunned to see just how horribly they acted regarding two recent retail reprints, mainly just due to the nature in how fast they’re coming and how they’re barely different from SRG’s variant.


It started a few weeks back, when Trek to Yomi, a pretty artsy stealth game was given an Amazon listing out of the blue, indicating a retail release from Devolver. Special Reserve was publishing this through their label, as they typically do with most Devolver products, and like Death’s Door, it seemed like a fairly quick turnaround. Except it was done a bit too quickly in this case, for the preorder period for the SRG version was still live when the amazon listings were first discovered. Obviously, Amazon provides cheaper options for a lot of people, so some people were understandably pissed off about this and wanted to cancel.

So here’s the weird thing about Limited Print companies and cancellations. Since they’re done on a “pay now, get your game after MOD ends” model, a lot of time passes between payment and delivery. Thus, if someone wants to cancel, they have to often pay a restocking fee. This is normal for business, especially for smaller ones that have to be really careful about not having false charges or excessive refunds causing the company to go broke. Limited Run was notorious for outright refusing all kinds of cancellations except in extreme circumstances, solely due to how their small startup status made it very impractical to let anyone cancel willy nilly and leave them with unsold copies galore. (This has recently been changed by the way, and I can personally vouch they dont have issues with refunding these days)

However in the European areas, refunds must be mandated, no questions asked. It’s one positive of Europe’s super strict and powerful consumer protection laws, meaning that for companies like Strictly Limited that have given lots of frustration due to long delays, you can cancel no problem and they have to abide by it. They’re pretty cool and quick with doing that, especially in an experience I had, so generally that’s the idea way for everyone. (Doesn’t stop some European companies from trying to pull a fast one: Warned Collectors still managed to scam people, and First Press Games is notoriously slow and stubborn to answer refund requests, even going as far as to hide tweet replies and erase facebook comments asking for one, yikes!)

Sadly, US doesn’t have those protections, meaning companies can choose to stonewall customers if they choose to, which leads to why the whole mess with Dispatch Games was even allowed to happen. If US had those strong protections, Brian would be forced to pay back the money he stole from people pronto. So where does Special Reserve fit into this, a company that by all means, is generally small and chill? Well, in their TOS they had a clause saying during preorder phases, you can cancel your pre-order and get your money back as long as it’s before the window closes. Key word is had, since when word of the TTY physical broke from Amazon, someone on the Limprint subreddit tried to ask for a refund using those terms.

Here’s where everything starts to implode and where Special Reserve shows their absolutely horrid reactions to all this, outright ending up as the second most criminal of the limprints in the process, purely out of spite in a way that could have been avoided many times over. What did they do, instead of refunding the customer? They erased the note from their FAQ, then refused to refund the customer, changing the policy on them. Thank god for the power of screenshots and wayback!


So, what does this entail? Well, it pretty much means that Special Reserve went “Shit, their version could impact our own sales” and edited the TOS hoping nobody would notice. Sadly, the internet doesn’t really forget, especially when it comes to consumer goods. Even then, I could give a smidge of a benefit of the doubt if this just ended in the user getting his own refund, but all other refunds being blocked from that point onward, even if it would be incredibly shitty. After all, it could be argued that a flood of refunds could bankrupt or ruin Special Reserve financially, which is why other limprints hesitate to begin with, or clearly run on tight cashflow dependent on sales.

Only they didn’t end that way, and instead, SRG stood ground, in arguably one of the shittiest, most stubborn ways I’ve seen any company do in a long while.

All of this? Just an unraveling shit show. Calling an item “forever in stock”, technically not making it a preorder despite the site listing and grouping it as such? Refusing to cancel no matter what, despite the period still being open and the physical discs not even printed yet? This is beyond unacceptable and is outright deceptive, especially when it was in core writing that you would allow refunds during an open preorder and you changed it after being contacted by the customer. What the hell.

That was the one ordeal that kicked this all off, yet even then, being the benefit of the doubter I am, I figured it was just some freak one-off thing, and it wouldn’t happen again, at least, not any bad reaction to their customer base, and I was proven very wrong in the past week when Demon Throttle was listed for Amazon as preorder. For those not in the know, Demon Throttle was originally pumped up at E3 2021 as a physical exclusive game from the same dev behind Gato Robotto, and as I noted earlier, it recently shipped out to pretty high praise. So thus, it would seem a bit sensible for a general public retail release to follow shortly after.

Except it’s merely two months after the limprints began shipping, and it includes extra stuff the limited edition does not: mainly a download key for Gato, along with bonus goodies. Yes, the Special Reserve version includes their own fancy box, yes, it includes a stamped number on the back for collectibility, and yes, they made it clear future printings would be possible, but the thing that makes this dirty to a lot of people and even gets my eyebrow raised, is how it’s outright cheaper than the version people paid for a long, long while ago, yet includes more stuff, and is even more easily available via Amazon, thus, killing a big chunk of the FOMO incentive that got people to buy 10K copies of this darn game to begin with, and that incentive is the core reason why I’m heavily confident this whole limprint race is on the verge of crashing and burning, due to a variety of factors I’ll go into later.

Needless to say, when a cheaper variant of a game you just starting shipping out goes up for sale, it is very understandable that people would be pissed off that the copy they had waited so long for was almost immediately outdated and made pointless by the option they likely would have picked if both options were made available to begin with. Lots of people reacted accordingly, both on that aforementioned subreddit, SRG’s twitter accounts, and their own discord, which led to a variety of exchanges, most of which were ridiculous attempts at pretzeling why they didn’t disclose this was happening before amazon listed it, and why it broke the whole “Exclusive to Special Reserve” FOMO incentive that got a lot of people, including folks who had to pay import fees, to pay up extra cash for a game they literally couldn’t get elsewhere, at least they thought. You thought how they reacted to the customer on Yomi was bad, with stealth editing their own FAQ to avoid accomodating him? Here’s how they outright treated someone who was openly mad about the lack of transparency.

Yeah, that’s not a good look at all. And it’s not just one person! People on their discord have been calling out the pretzel show going on, and how technicality doesn’t excuse the need for good communication and PR so customers don’t get confused or feel as if they’ve been mistreated. The fact that the “Special edition” includes less stuff than the Amazon variant is utter bullshit, especially since having the SRG version bundled toward say, a CE with a cool steelbook like Ape Out was would have made this whole ordeal so much smoother and not an issue, and more people would still have access to the game. Lots more excuses were given, and even I popped in briefly to the server to see the chaos unfolding, with pretty much all the SRG people deflecting blame and doing not a damn thing to compensate, pretty much going “sucks but them’s the rules.”

Then it gets more absurd, with customers and fans pestering the company more and more, eventually squeezing out a response that, as far as I’m convinced, explains it all as to why they’re doing this, and why they’re hesitating to refund those unhappy, in all cases related to retail releases:

Budget Concerns. Budget Concerns? Are you kidding me? This goes back to my earlier point about how yes, limprints and small companies do have to be careful with preorders in the event that a bunch of false flaggings could lead to chargebacks and financial damage. Yet this company could have avoided the whole darn mess if they disclosed to people ahead of time that a retail release was happening. Or included more stuff with their variant. Or left that door open from the get-go, so excuse me if maybe those amount of requests were caused by the lack of transparency that opened this pandora box to begin with. If Special Reserve Games were in the EU, their asses would have to refund, and they know that. The fact they’re pretty much ignoring the common goodwill thing to do as a result of this, even with a finance hit, and are choosing to stubbornly stick to their guns, is honestly a feat I’m amazed to see: way to shoot to the second bottom of my limprint company rankings guys, not even First Press pulled this stunt despite their avoidance of refunds and being in the EU themselves.

It gets even more frustrating. OP in the reddit post keeps noting, rightfully so, that they keep contacting Paypal and their bank to push for a chargeback. Keep in mind, this is absolutely worth a ban from any retailer since it pretty much does major damage to their finances, and is only a last resort for the customer. The reason I advised people do it with their Dispatch Games preorders, is because that company is literally gone with the money and has nothing to show three years later. No, having a vinyl record delayed with annoying communication isn’t worth a chargeback if you can at least get ahold of the company in question.

But this? With a company knowingly changing the terms on a customer, caught in print, then blocking multiple people from their social media, discord, IP ban from the web store, support email, all at once to prevent any kind of contact, hoping you can just, plug your ears and hope the customer will give up on asking for a refund they arguably have a right to because of your own terms? Yeah, no, I argue that’s not only deserving of all the chargebacks in the world, but also a god damn lawyer’s input. Pretty sure this skirts the line of legality, and i’m sorry if your business may not be doing as hot lately due to the state of the market, but that doesn’t excuse your right to be a prick and rely on technicalities to squeeze your way out of the moral thing to do.

And hey, another print from these guys is coming, with Serious Sam Collection: I have it on good authority that this is getting a retail release as well, so you can rest easy knowing from the getgo that this release is at least semi-transparent…


That whole big, awful mess is pretty much another layer on top of a disturbingly unstable cake of mayhem regarding the limited print market as of late, one I’ve personally noted myself as I’ve begun liquidating my own collection, talking with other collectors, current and ex, and even cutting off from some limited prints entirely due to my own issues with them, along with just seeing how some companies act in general. Yes, we’re finally getting to the main point, in how this is just one of many symptoms of what I feel me, as an amateur collector and not a market analyst, is sensing in the near future: a huge crash of the limited print model.

Why would I think that, per chance? Well, in some ways, it’s due to good steps from the industry, making games generally more available with multiple printings, more publishers picking up indies for physical editions, and more word of mouth all around. All the events from the past seven years have led to the PS4 and Switch being arguably the most physical heavy consoles in a long, long while, with so many games available through all these labels that it’s almost nightmarishly impossible to consider full setting these. Hell, even the Playstation Vita is mostly consisting of Limited Run published efforts at the end of the day, and that’s more reasonable!

Generally, I feel the limited print model made perfect sense for those who used it first. Smaller devs or groups of people with enough cash to personally ask Sony for a print run of their game, and if that did well, they’d do more. Some of these earlier games go for a lot of money based on the limited print alone, but even disregarding those, a lot of the very first ones didn’t even go for that much on the aftermarket back in the day. One of my all time favorite LRG gets, Futuridium, was one of their absolute first non-Mighty Rabbit games ever put on a PS4 disc, and you can still easily get it for less than the original MSRP.

While limprints are collectible, I do not feel they were originally meant as collector’s items, and a lot of early labels didn’t really push it as such for that reason, but moreso as a way to not go bankrupt in the way Dispatch did by overproducing a title to the bargain bin. Dispatch Games was literally a limprint label who got the bad ending of a business like this: they wanted to put cool games in the West, thought printing tons of Soldam would do the trick, but then it ended up being your typical bargain bin game due to missing the niche. But not wanting to dare fess up and just say the truth on their finances, Brian kept putting out more games at smaller numbers, and then ran out of money to print those, leaving to their current ordeal with 3 years of ghosting customers on thousands of spent dollars. Even they didn’t start as making these a purely collectible thing, despite their last breath being in the Collector’s Edition market!

Yet as the years went on, and as Collector’s Editions became more viable for the formerly small companies like Limited Run, a lot of copycats and other small companies started making limited prints, some outright gearing for the collector’s perspective, rather than just to preserve a game or give it a safe, low-risk release. Hard Copy Games, Strictly Limited, Super Rare Games, 1Print, Physicality Games, and Special Reserve to name just a few, doing things such as individually numbering games, focusing really hard in their advertising on a limited amount of copies available, just to get ya to spend more money and not miss out. (Which sure got me, having done a whopping 10K or so on limprints over the past seven years, a good reason I stopped buying for FOMO reasons!)

After all, you don’t want to miss a game due to needing to afford health insurance here in the US, only for it to explode from MSRP to $130, as happened to me with Evoland on Switch, do you? Gotta buy the subsequent games right as the countdown ends just to ensure you don’t miss out on the possibility that you will have to pay an absurd amount later. And that’s what gets a lot of people, the possibility. the fear. Companies that play into this, even if they produce great quality stuff, are honestly cruel in my mind, and I’m sad to see this industry shift more and more towards it, especially with CEs that are $175, even on a limited open preorder, solely because if you miss out, you may have to pay double in the future! That’s how you produce a whale like I was.


Now you may be asking, “Well, I’m sure if these companies are still around, their stuff does well on the aftermarket for collectors and fans, right?” And honestly, no! A lot of these things don’t really do that well! Some of these companies seemingly stopped breathing or barely do much at all!

Physicality Games? I didn’t even have to mention them in my report card, as they failed to meet MOQ on a single game, even Guilty Gear couldn’t give them the boost they wanted. They shut doors and did the right thing, not charging customers for placing their interest.

Hard Copy Games? Well, after going for their racist roleplaying with Limited Rare Games, they ceased to produce more games under the HCG brand and even pulled all in-stock physicals from their store, leaving every item as “Sold Out”, despite them clearly being nowhere close to selling out. If that isn’t an attempt to create artificial scarcity and exploit people, I don’t know what is. Despite their attempts, all their PS4 games go for a super reasonable price on Amazon, save for those two done under their Limited Rare roleplay, which sell for hundreds if not nearly a thousand thanks to the FOMOing they pulled with those. Utterly shameful and not at all respectful to the devs they partnered with, honestly.

Disgusting.

First Press Games? I loved the quality of their Hole New World release and the QC on their products, but man, they are horrible at communicating! Their Production Update page has endless delays that all seemingly indicate most of their stuff put up for sale 2 years ago have not even been submitted to the proper outlets, with some stuff labeled for Q4 2021, bumped to 2023 without so much as a customer email! Granted, they did slow down and refrain from releasing new titles, but then resumed with Sydney Hunter, a wave of Facebook and Reddit ad spaces promoting their in-stock games that are nowhere close to selling out (only some of their huge CEs like Crimzon Clover sold out, and that’s 2023 too!)

Worse, they’re blocking people on social media who are asking for refunds, ghosting emails (only replying to them when getting public heat), and erasing Facebook comments constantly. Seriously, look at their Facebook, and see their comment section. There are almost, always tons of comments that are labeled as having been there, but are suddenly missing, and usually they’re about status of their overdue shit. Seeing how these guys are in the EU, this makes me feel real bad about the stability of this company.

1Print? Barely a name I remember at this point. They delivered what they promised, yes, but pretty much have gone off the grid…

Strictly Limited? They almost had me scared with how they too, were going MIA and not updating customers on absurd wait times for their products, before suddenly going all in and delivering stuff in nice timing in the past 9 months. Yet the fear remains: was the delay/lack of communication a cash flow issue? Could it happen again, with them not getting funds for components and thus having to delay stuff? Who knows! This uncertainly means that I at least will buy their stuff in-hand, but definitely not do long preorders, especially on their absurdly huge CEs, which feel more like stealth kickstarters. Don’t even get me started on their EU version of the Egret II, going for over $500 USD and still nowhere in sight despite the JP version shipping nearly five months ago.

Now Super Rare and Special Reserve? Generally don’t seem to be that out of the ordinary! Super just puts out games, people buy, and demand speaks for itself. They have a regular schedule, wait for stuff to be in-hand before shipping, and it seems they have things going good for them. Even with my noted gripes about Octahedron and the scarcity of their earlier releases (along with certain contracts that are a little silly to keep holding onto), they at least knew when to drop the Super Rare Shorts and go for a better execution of that, with the Mixtapes.

Special Reserve on the other hand? Before this whole match that lit this long, rambly flame of an article blew up, I thought they were a pretty cool Devolver partner! Yeah, their numbering scheme was weird, but nothing outside of the Messenger really blew up to absurd scalper status, and even stuff like Gris that was at one point, got reprints for availability! Literally, the events of the past month, if they never have happened, would have made them a company I would have zero qualms with, yet I ended up having to write this due to seeing two people being treated like shit by the company, all because they won’t give refunds for a fuckup they unintentionally or not created.


So what’s the point of all this? All these companies, looked back on? Their releases, going for either absurd prices, close to MSRP, or lower than? Honestly, it’s really just me rambling and noting that with how much people are openly and audibly sick of all these companies and prints and labels popping up on what feels like a monthly basis, it seems to me this market is on the verge of a complete and total crash. Companies like First Press, burning out of money and turning into another Dispatch Games. Companies like Special Reserve, being relegated to a glorified merch store with easy availability of their games on Amazon, with only a FOMO numbering system to hook the full setters. Super Rare Games, running out of licenses to keep forever and ever. Etc, etc.

This sort of future feels not only inevitable, but almost certain with the impending state of the market and the world: recession is coming in parts of the planet, people are cutting back on stuff to focus on things they need, and a lot of old limprint stuff is being dumped on marketplaces and in local stores. I personally liquidated 40+ games from my Limprint collection over the past month, upon realizing I could just keep the ones that had actual personal value to me, rather than being things I bought out of fear that they’ll be rare or they have a cool gimmick in some form. (Replica Boxart, OST CDs, etc) Some stuff, I made my money back on, a lot of it, I didn’t. I didn’t personally care, but I absolutely notice the difference between people on Ebay listing these CEs from Limited Run and the like for absurd amounts of money, and people actually paying for them, and it’s not pretty. With every Shantae III or Dangerous Spacetime, you have dozens upon dozens of Kemco Games, Bloodstained 2s, Vasara Collections, and all sort of games that just do not serve as collector items. Almost every PS4 standard I had from Limited Run, was worth way less than what I bought it for. Some games have dozens upon dozens of copies on ebay, and nobody is buying them.

Yet if the focus for a lot of companies now is to just cater to the FOMO crowd, and those who fail end up suffering, what is the positive way for game availability? Honestly, I think companies like Limited Run and Strictly Limited, VGNYSoft, and Red Art Games are slowly realizing the proper way to do things: small scale prints, available widely and not through one site, available as an easy pickup for people to buy and enjoy. If the market keeps buying out all the stock, great! There’ll be more. If not, then that print will be it, and whether the market decides to do what was done with Xenoblade 2 when that sold out fully, remains to be seen.

Limited Run’s Distribution line, ININ, and other companies selling to more accessible outlets like VGP and such lead to these limprints still being limited and safe to produce without a huge financial risk, while also giving a lot of games that would never be touched by a major publisher the light of day in physical media, the whole core reason most of you reading this wanted to buy a physical version months later to begin with. Hopefully, this shift towards wider retail and reprints continue, even if the days of huge CEs and niche products like physical EXE Create games, may find their time fading away, like the wind.

TLDR: FOMO focus over getting games out is hurting these companies who started out for a quick buck, and even those who started with noble intentions are getting far too caught up in wanting to milk whales. It really needs to stop. The market will be flooded if it doesn’t. And companies may go under and leave customers without their games or money, and Dispatch Games should have been the big warning sign to all other limprints to be very careful…

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