This Just-Published Dark Souls Insider Design Guide Looks Incredible

Further perspective on the Dark Souls phenomenon.

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Udon Entertainment
Udon Entertainment

One of the things I appreciate about gaming from a hobbyist’s standpoint (and occasionally even as a collector’s sport) is that most of the products billed as “limited” aren’t. Not in the sense most mean when talking about the ridiculously small first-run printing of J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or my signed and numbered copy of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, of which specialty publisher Donald M. Grant printed just 1,250.

With games, by contrast, publishers slap the labels limited or collector on anything to jazz it up: you can’t buy some games without the label.

Search completed eBay auctions for “collector’s” or “limited” editions sorted by “video games” and you’ll find a landfill’s worth of products selling well below their original price tags. There’s a copy of the Final Fantasy XII steelbook edition that went for $13, a copy of the Mass Effect 3 collector’s edition that went for under $16, a copy of the limited collector’s edition of Halo 2 for Xbox that sold for $20 and any number of Call of Duty collector’s editions going for under $10 a pop.

That’s not always the case. Newer products enjoy demand bubbles (see Bravely Default or Tales of Symphonia Chronicles). Scarcity drives prices up. The standard version of Xenoblade Chronicles — there was no collector’s or limited edition — goes for close to $100 brand new. Limited editions that really were limited tend to go for more. The limited edition of Ni No Kuni, for instance — for which I paid over $200 myself — still goes for $250 and up.

Older Nintendo and Blizzard products also do better. The Metroid Prime Trilogy sells at near $100, as do well-preserved copies of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64. Still-sealed copies of early World of Warcraft collector’s edition expansions sometimes reach the $200-$300 range. And if you follow along the obscure margins of the hobby, you might pay as much as $20,000 for a copy of a game that was never commercially sold.

But chances are that if you’re buying a collector’s edition of a video game today, where the labels “limited” or “collector” flow as easy and cheap as water, you’re doing so because you’re a bona fide collector, not a short term eBay opportunist, or someone who slugs this stuff away for years just to pull it out again and sell like a comic book or stamp or baseball card that’s accrued sufficient cachet in whatever collector’s circle. You’re a utilitarian collector, in other words.

That pretty much describes me. I bought the collector’s edition of Demon’s Souls so I could explore Shunsuke Kida’s soundtrack and have a copy of the strategy guide for completist purposes (it’s only available with the collector’s edition). I bought the collector’s edition of Dark Souls for the same reasons. I bought the collector’s edition of Ni No Kuni for the lavishly illustrated guidebook and selection of Joe Hisaishi tunes. I collect to make use of the collectibles, not just drop them on a shelf, in a bin or behind glass.

I mention any of this because I noticed something unexpected on Amazon this morning while checking out the Dark Souls 2 strategy guide (Dark Souls 2 is out in a few weeks, so my mind’s on the series) and collector’s edition — something called Dark Souls: Design Works, published a few weeks ago.

It’s a 128-page book — hardcover, with “pearlized silver dust jacket” and “ultra high-gloss black and silver treatments” – published by Udon Entertainment, an English translation of a Japanese version (I’m not sure when the latter came out). And it’s not merely an art book, it includes an interview with Dark Souls‘ director Hidetaka Miyazaki and some of the design team’s artists. Collectible, to be sure.

My interest in media-related art books begins and ends with artist Hayao Miyazaki’s films, but for Dark Souls, I’m making an exception: I just ordered a copy.