Video game retail continues to decline as casual and hardcore gamers alike move to digital platforms for their gaming purchases. GameStop is slipping away while Steam, iTunes, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and others continue to deliver content directly to consumers. What’s a major game publisher to do? Start releasing bundles of games with greater frequency. Both Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are releasing budget packages for two of their most successful franchises with the Assassin’s Creed Ezio Trilogy and the Mass Effect Trilogy Edition this November.
The first of these is actually a PlayStation 3 exclusive. On November 13th, Ubisoft will release a PS3 only package with Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and Assassin’s Creed Revelations included, just in time to capitalize on Assassin’s Creed III’s release. The package is just $40, an impressive figure considering that each of those games is sold individually for $20 or more.
EA’s Mass Effect Trilogy Edition on the other hand is for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Out on November 7th, this will actually be the first time the original Mass Effect is available on Sony’s system. No word on what DLC for any of the three games in the science fiction series will be included on the disks.
Both of these packages reflect a dramatic shift in how big publishers are approaching the retail video game business. In multi-million selling franchises, anthology collections are typically reserved for years when there’s no new entry in the series, for when enough time has passed that a standalone release has reached maximum saturation, or to promote a major new release. The Metal Gear Solid Collection for PlayStation 2 for example came out four years after Metal Gear Solid 3 and just weeks before the release of Metal Gear Solid 4 in 2008.
While that logic holds for Ubisoft’s Assassin’t Creed Ezio Trilogy—though the turn around for this is unusually fast—Electronic Arts’ release of the Mass Effect Trilogy Edition would never have happened even just four years ago. Mass Effect 3 has only been on shelves for six months, and the company is releasing a brand new standalone version of the game for Wii U at $60 two weeks after the Trilogy Edition. In the past, this would be seen as an insane move, destroying potential sales of the first two games through a renewed push for the latest sequel through the holiday. Today, though, EA’s release is a reflection of the overwhelming competition in the shrinking retail market.