Back before all video game distributions went digital, budget re-releases were a thing. Months, sometimes years after the original retail releases, you could find your favorite games on the shelf again, this time in a modest CD/DVD case, at a fraction of the original price. It would not include any extras that may have come with the original package (paper manuals, maps, collectibles), but the game itself would not be compromised in any way.
Most B and C tier games would only ever be released in those “budget” retail channels, but almost every A and even AAA game would eventually get distributed this way as well. It is a win-win-win situation: the publisher gets some extra sales after the initial retail dries up, the distributor takes its cut, and the patient gamers get a good bang for their buck.
In this write-up I talk about a few of these budget PC game distributors and some of their games I happened to own at one point or another.
Xtreme (DVD keep cases, Israel)
Xtreme was a budget PC game brand by the Israeli game publisher Hed Arzi Multimedia, which, for whatever reason mimicked the design of the much more known Xplosiv brand by UK-based Empire Interactive. Xplosiv games were released all over Europe, Xtreme, as far as I know, only in Israel. Both series ran around the same time (late 90s, early 2000s), and funnily, Hed Arzi also published and sold Xplosiv-branded games in Israel. Typically just the box art and the instructions printed on the inner side of the DVD cover would be in Hebrew; the games were the usual European / international releases.
The Prince of Persia 3D copy in the above release is identical to the original retail version. Mortal Kombat 4 is the Sold Out Software release (a well-established UK value brand in itself). It is a build from 2001, contains the latest “patch 3”, and PDF manuals in 6 European languages along with Acrobat Reader to open the files.
Focus / Revival Multimedia (DVD keep cases, UK)
Another prominent UK-based budget brand, Focus Multimedia was publishing games (and other software) both under its own name and one of few sub-brands, such as Revival. Each CD/DVD would have a catalog number printed starting with “REV” (Revival) or “ESS” (Essential), maybe others.
Most discs had a simple black-and-silver design, but there are exceptions like the Rayman 3 Print Studio in the image above (which was part of the 10th Anniversary Collection release). The Rayman Gold published in this line is a buggy release with no audio tracks, and, unfortunately, is the most common version in many second hand markets, such as eBay UK. Avoid.
Dice Computer Games (DVD keep cases, The Netherlands)
Dice Computer Games, later renamed to Dice Multimedia, was publishing value games in the Netherlands through most of the 90s and the first half of 00s. Lemmings, Star Trek and various SIM games were among the titles. Not to be confused with Digital Illusions CE, later renamed DICE – a Swedish game development company, responsible, among others – for Battlefield and several Star Wars games.
I ran up three different games released by Dice Computer Games, and only noticed that all three are from the same line because of subtle similarities in the DVD cover art. This is funny, because their releases did not generally follow any consistent design. The description on the box is multi-lingual, but the games themselves are the English versions (Lost Vikings 2 is English/French/German). “On disk manual” is mentioned on all three, and PDF manuals are, in fact, included, in multiple languages.
Encore (Cardboard CD sleeves, USA)
Encore at some point started developing original content, in parallel to re-publishing existing titles. Many of their titles were computerized of card/board games, and they are also responsible for some North American re-releases of big publishing houses, most notably Ubisoft (e.g., Might and Magic: Heroes V – Epic Collection, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Trilogy).
Many of Encore’s releases came in compact, CD-sized cardboard sleeves with inner cardboard shells and paper sleeves to hold the discs. Cheap, lightweight and eco-friendly. You could find, side-by-side, value packs of obscure card / hidden object / mystery point-n-click titles, as well as republished AAA games.
I stumbled upon a couple of those accidentally, and then looked up a few others, just to see what famous titles were available in this series. Once again, Ubisoft games are prominently featured – with a Rayman 2 + Rayman 3 bundle, the 2008 Prince of Persia reboot, and Assassin’s Creed I&II collection. At least two other games in the franchise were published in this format as well. The only non-Ubisoft game from this series I own is The Witcher Enhanced Edition. It is a very nice copy, fully updated to patch 1.5 and thus DRM-free, and can be installed both on PC and on Mac from the same DVD.
Although there is no limit to what people may want to collect, budget PC game editions are probably not very high on anyone’s list, even if they are fans of physical copies. For some games, though, original big box editions have become very rare, and very expensive, if you can get them at all. The value bundles are more available and more affordable. Other possible advantages include: digital versions of manuals, integrated updates and patches and sometimes extra content or even multiple games bundled in a single release.