Big box PC games are an often overlooked part of game hunting. Some people were always into consoles and never played much on the PC. In general some just naturally separate it from game cartridges in their minds. As a result sometimes the old big box computer releases from the ’90s get passed over. In reality these are extremely exciting to find if they’re intact and can sometimes be worth a nice penny.
So when I’m in a thrift store or at a yard sale and I see not only a big box PC release but a collector’s edition at that, I’m naturally interested. Last Saturday I grabbed a copy of the Age of Empires III collector’s edition. This isn’t one of those big box releases that’s worth much (around $20 it seems), but it’s got quite a decent value inside.First of all, the box is massive and HEAVY! Lugging this thing around while still shopping wasn’t too fun. The condition looked to be very good however and there’s a ton of stuff in here. This is why a lot of big box PC finds have demand. Even though this is a collector’s edition it still shows why people have nostalgia for these: they often included a lot of neat items just for purchasing the game. In a special edition like this, even more so.
First off we have a huuuuge poster. 43″ x 27″ to be exact! Unfortunately it being boxed up means a square fold, which isn’t conducive to hanging at all. Still I think it’s a nice item to include especially if you’re not picky about the folds. The first of the extra discs included is the original soundtrack. I love OST’s from games and back in 2005 when this was released I would’ve been thrilled to own some original music from a game in a time when it wasn’t as easy to come by. The demo disc allows you to give it to a friend to try. Not a bad marketing tool. Lastly, there is a “making of” DVD documenting the development of the game. This is pretty cool and I think I will watch it at some point down the road. It’s is an above average extra that probably doesn’t justify the time and cost of putting it together, but the pure gamer in me finds it to be a really cool inclusion.
Next up is the Player’s Guide. This is a really nice soft cover book with more insight into the various factions in the game. There’s also a quick reference guide that’s always handy with strategy games, and the manual itself obviously. I would imagine the manual and quick guide were included in the normal release but the Player’s Guide was a collector’s edition-only item. They are all useful and the Player’s Guide is just a real quality book that adds to the documentation and again, with these games it wasn’t always so easy to find guides and whatnot on the internet, so this was likely viewed as a great addition at the time of release.
Finally, we have the art book. The truth is I love me some art books. No, not the half-assed trash they put in collector’s editions of console games these days. I’m talking a full-size hardback book of at least 100+ pages. Mythology by Alex Ross. Superheroes by Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. The upcoming The Art of Atari compiled by Tim Lapetino. These are real art books dedicated to nothing but showing off great artwork in a great coffee table format, not just some throwaway flip book. The Age of Empires III art book thankfully falls in this category. It’s the reason why I had a hard time carrying this behemoth box around. Overall it’s a great book that would probably run you $20-30 had they released it today as a standalone. You soon realize that some of the art is in the form of game engine renderings, which is somewhat unfortunate in my opinion. I’d like to see the original sketches and/or paintings throughout, but on the whole this is a fantastic addition to the game.
So what’s the one thing I haven’t mentioned yet? The game disc itself of course. Slight problem: whoever gave this away kept the actual game. Not that I’m much into hoarding game discs for my PC these days since Steam exists, but once I saw everything else was still in the box I assumed the game would be there too. I think it would be miraculous that something like the poster was still included and in good condition but for the game to be missing, so my only conclusion was that the owner donated the extras instead of simply throwing them out.
I suppose that’s an act of good charity, but thankfully this went to someone that didn’t care so much about actually playing the game. In an extremely specific situation I’d certainly be up for some Age of Empires. It’s been too long since I played the first sequel. On the other hand I have plenty of strategy games to play, so it’s not the end of the world for me. The nostalgia rush of opening some big box PC goodness in tandem with that art book I was pleasantly surprised with still justifies the relatively small price I paid. If I had my heart set on getting a cheap copy of the game with all the trimmings and I didn’t care for art books so much it’d be a different story, but all in all this was a really exciting find that goes to show that you can have a ton of enjoyment finding things in the wild even if they aren’t particularly sought after.
Do you seek out big box PC games? Do you have any that are particularly sought after, or gems you’ve already found? Let me know in the comments!