Getting a video game printed in a physical format is expensive. You have to pay for disks/cartridges, covers, and cases. If the game is multiplatform then it’s even MORE expensive. Hence why many developers love digital sales and sometimes skip a physical release. Yet for us collectors who like physical copies, we may not get said physical copies of our favorite retro-inspired Indie games. Enter Limited Run Games, a company that does believe in physical copies of games and delivers on that promise. Not only do games get a physical release, but they also get Collectors or Special Editions with tons of physical extras. They have Indie games, retro games, and even reproduction cartridges that work on older consoles. With all of this, you would think this company is a savior to collectors everywhere. While they do deliver on certain promises, there is a dark side to being limited.
For those who don’t know, Limited Run Games (LRG) is a game company that releases limited physical copies of games. These games range from Indies to retro collections. Sometimes they even make reproduction carts of certain games like Star Wars Episode 1 Racer or put the Turok games on a physical disc/cart for current consoles. They are no stranger to nostalgia as some of the games they released come in boxes that resemble Game Boy boxes or N64 boxes (like Shantae and Doom 64). Their attention to detail is quite commendable, I bought Racer for a friend and it came in a package resembling that of a Star Wars toy from the late 90s. Just like the name suggests when they say ‘limited’ they mean it. Games are only in production for a certain amount of time and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Miss the preorder window or wake up too late for a limited preorder window and you’re plum out of luck. If you were hoping they would possibly reprint popular titles then I have bad news. According to LRG’s FAQ page, numbered games won’t get reprinted but they may order more than they need for cons and sell those off later.
So why is buying from LRG a conundrum? Well for starters you have to ask yourself this question first. How long are you willing to wait to get your games? People who have preordered certain games have waited 8 months to nearly a year AFTER they preordered to get their games and Collector’s Editions. If you were to look up reviews about LRG at TrustPilot they are not kind. Most reviews talk about how long it took for customers to get their products, and I have first-hand experience with the wait time. In May of 2021, I preordered DOOM: The Classics Collection Special Edition. I bought it the first day the preorder window opened and started waiting. LRG does plainly state that this is a preorder and explains that production will begin once the preorder window is closed.
After the window is closed the estimated time to get our order is 4-5 months. All of this is clearly explained, but what bothered customers (myself included) was that no clear end date for the preorders was given. The lack of communication from LRG was also a thorn in many customers’ sides. Months went by when I finally got an email in November of 2021. Now, this was amid the pandemic and global shipping was a mess so extra time was needed which was understandable. The email said they hope to be getting the last piece of my order after Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t receive another update until December making sure to finalize my address. Come February 1st I would finally get an email with the tracking information. I ordered in May and got my game in February, a 10-month wait.
Supply chain issues can be forgiven, especially in 2021, but it seems that said problems are still the go-to explanation from LRG for long wait times. If the reviews are to be believed, people are still waiting months, if not a year or two to get their items, and that’s only in the United States. A friend of mine in Australia (who goes by @The_Top_Loader on Twitter) ordered some games back in August of 2021 and just got them a few days ago. Waited nearly 8 months for his games and is STILL waiting for his Castlevania game. The snapshot was taken the day this article was written. What I didn’t mention in my story earlier was that I also ordered 2 more games from LRG in a flash sale and both of those games came in the next week after I ordered them. These games were already produced, hence the shorter wait time, but it still bothered me that a product I ordered months ago was still a ways off.
The conundrum continues when it comes to buying games from them. Especially when it comes to limited preorders which seem to sell out almost instantly. Just recently another sale was announced with special editions of Shantae and Scott Pilgrim up for grabs. While these are great games, the true prize was a physical copy of River City Girls. This game was available in past sales but sold out quickly, and now there was another chance to not only get the game but a special convention cover as well. LRG sales go live on their website at 10 AM Eastern time, so I had to set an alarm before 7 AM to try and snag a copy. Well, when 7 AM hit, I clicked the link to add the game to my cart and the website glitched. The website thought I wanted 3 copies of the game. It gave me a warning message to lower the quantity down to 1. The button to reduce the number of copies I wanted wasn’t responsive and I was essentially stuck. I had the game(s) in my cart but I couldn’t check out due to the quantity limit. I finally clicked “Fix Amount” and when I got to the checkout page it informed me that the game was sold out. I was fighting the website for 5 minutes to get the right amount of copies I wanted (which was 1 by the way) and ended up with nothing. In my sleep-deprived state, I went to Twitter to vent and saw other would-be buyers furious. According to the Twitter thread, River City Girls sold out in mere seconds once 7 AM hit. While LRG did say “Limited Quantities” they didn’t say how limited they were. To me, the fact that this game was sold out in seconds means that either bots were used by scalpers, or they had less than 50 copies of the game to sell.
One more glaring issue that has come up with LRG is their customer service or lack thereof. Mostly this is dealing with customers who are trying to get updates on their orders and not getting a response. A friend of mine from Europe has dealt with this first hand. According to her, she has contacted LRG multiple times to no avail. So the conundrum lies with this, do we deal with all of that, or just buy them digitally so we can play the games now? To an outsider looking in the obvious answer is just to buy the game digitally. That way you wouldn’t have to wait for nearly a year to get your game. Yet there is one more caveat we have to talk about. A lot of games are announced with no physical release date in mind. Meaning some games are out for weeks, sometimes months, before LRG could announce a physical version. It happened to me with Panzer Paladin and Castlevania Requiem. While I eventually double dipped with Panzer Paladin, I skipped the Castlevania one out of impatience. So for some who were dead set on getting a physical copy not only had to wait for their games to come in but wait for an official announcement from LRG as well.
While I’ve been very critical of LRG, I must point out that I do believe they are trying to do something good. So how can LRG improve? For starters, they can improve their line of communication with customers. Make sure buyers know how long exactly they will have to wait once they put in their preorder. Also, send out regular updates on said orders to customers so they know what’s going on. It would’ve put my mind at ease if I knew when exactly production was going to start instead of constantly wondering where my order was. Besides better communication, the website could also use some debugging. I understand in this day and age we retro collectors have to constantly fight with scalpers and resellers. So seeing a title that we want get sold out instantly is a tad heartbreaking, especially when we west coasters have to wake up at 7 AM.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you, the consumer, are OK with. If you are OK with a long wait for your item then go for it. When I finally got my copy of DOOM everything was in the box as promised when I preordered it. It should also be said that LRG does have deals with other developers and distributes their games. It was announced through Twitter that they will be the distributor for the upcoming Shredder’s Revenge game. Even sometimes they’ll have special variant covers of older games for retailers like Best Buy or Amazon. That’s how I got my copies of Shantae and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (pictured right). You will have to either jump through hoops or wait a very long time to get what you want, but I will say the result was mostly worth it. I want to buy more games from LRG, but if they can improve the issues most people have then we can breathe easy, knowing some of our favorite games will be available physically.