Octopath Traveler proves physical media is more alive than ever.
Octopath Traveler is the little RPG that could.
No one knew just how successful this old school RPG would be. Its demo generated a ton of hype, and its Nintendo Switch exclusivity turned it into one of the few third-party killer apps for the system. After its July 13th release date came and went, the market responded by buying all the copies.
That’s right, the game completely sold out in Japan multiple times, and Amazon at one point had the game backordered for two months. Collectors normally hate shortages, but in this case, there should be much rejoicing.
Every day, we get closer to a future where digital media could completely overtakes physical media. Subscription services like Netflix have become the norm, and brick and mortar retailers are having a hard time staying alive. The last Blockbuster is hanging in as a novelty, and GameStop has especially had trouble competing against the digital marketplace. These are just a few examples that might lead someone to believe that the market for physical media is dwindling. And honestly, a lot of publishers are eager to pocket the costs of shipping and manufacturing CDs and cartridges.
Octopath Traveler isn’t the first video game to prove this trend wrong, but it might be the most striking. For starters, it’s an entirely new intellectual property. Though it’s a homage to classic role playing games of the 90s, it’s not a clear imitation of any established franchise. In other words, fans are ready to love (and collect!) quality titles that earn their confidence, even if they veer from genre conventions and take a few risks.
More importantly, the demand for physical copies of Octopath Traveler may very well be driven by how gorgeous its box is. Not only is the cover art beautiful, the inside cover art is elaborately decorated as well. What’s more, the inner cover art actually differs depending on which region you buy it in! And even beyond that, Nintendo is offering 8 printable alternate covers that correspond with each of the game’s 8 protagonists. That’s a lot of love for just a box, but it all comes together to turn Octopath Traveler into a collector’s dream. No matter what region you’re in or what alternate cover you chose, you’re going to have a gorgeous looking case to put on your shelf.
This isn’t even touching on the actual Collector’s Edition of Octopath Traveler, which is one of the most original video game collector’s editions in recent history. The game is encased in a book-shaped box, which actually includes a pop-up book, a cloth map, and a replica coin from the game. The pop-up book is a clever way to bring the game’s 2D art to life, and it almost feels like a homage to Paper Mario. Again, we’d normally see these types of collectibles with established brands, but not so much for a new intellectual property. It’s no surprise, then, that this collector’s edition is also sold out at a number of retailers after launch.
As a cherry on top, the developers of Octopath Traveler have confirmed that the game has no planned DLC. What’s in the game is everything they wanted to put into it. This, too, is great for collectors. Part of the fun of collecting physical media is sharing your collection with friends, but there’s no way to borrow DLC. Even if Octopath Traveler still has the mandatory updates you’d see in any other video game, it’s still refreshing to see a $60 game be all-inclusive with its content out of the box.
In all fairness, it should be noted that the original story of the game “selling out” might have been a bit overboard. The game is actually available at a number of retailers as of writing. Still, from what we know of the game’s success so far, we can see it’s doing very well. While I can’t say for sure that it’s selling because it’s great to own a physical copy, its success still sends a strong message that this is how to do a physical release right.
If high quality physical releases continue to be this profitable in the future, then it’s clear that the all-digital dystopia might not be arriving as close as we think. No matter what you collect, that’s cause for celebration.