The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, August 13, 2021 – Limited Bustastaffroll

Hello dear readers, and welcome, once again, to the one and only Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, where you have the opportunity to speak your brains like you’ve never spoken them before! Or, well, I mean, you know, if you’ve written a letter before or spoken to someone on the Internet, you probably have spoken your brains like you’ve spoken them here, but still. You know. Dramatic hyperbole and all that.

As always, remember that you can send us letters at any point during the week — simply click over onto the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right-hand side of any page (click the black arrow if you can’t see it) and leave us a note. We like it when you do that, because it gives us things to do on Fridays.

Anyway, we’ve had a few letters this week as always, some more substantial than others, so let’s get to ’em!

A simple question

Dear Rice,

Who works on Rice Digital?

Hanno


Hello Hanno, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. There have actually been a lot of different people who have worked on Rice Digital throughout the ages — this site has been around for a good few years at this point and isn’t going away any time soon! At least I hope not, I mean, it’s my job and all.

With that in mind, I can tell you who works on the site right now. Remember that you can see each author’s bio at the end of each article they write, and those have social links where they’ve chosen to include them.

First up, obviously, you have me, Pete Davison. I’m the editor of the site and I run things around here. I joined the site in January of 2021 after some previous work on other sites around the web, including USgamer, Nintendo Life, IGN, GOG.com and GamePro.

Hopefully you’ve all been enjoying what I’ve been doing with the place since then! We’re all working hard to provide you with an interesting and varied mix of things related to Asian popular culture and video games, and I’m super proud of the work the team as a whole has been doing. That said, if there’s anything you’d like to see more of, or anything we haven’t covered, I’m all ears — you fine folks are who we’re writing this site for, after all, so if you don’t tell us what you want to see, we don’t know!

Bustafellows letters page
Not the Rice Digital writing team, yesterday.

We have a regular team of writers who contribute to the site, too. The one you’ll most likely see every single day is our intrepid Isaac, who does the Lord’s work by acting as our newshound. He sniffs out the most interesting stories each day and provides us with a nicely curated feed of things that are going on in the world of video games, anime, manga, VTubers and all manner of other fields. He also often contributes to our regular features and reviews.

Then we’ve got Trent, who, among other things, is our resident JRock expert. When he’s not appreciating fine waifus or calling Akira Toriyama’s work ethic into question (a perfectly valid question to ask, I’d say) you can typically find him providing our monthly updates on the JRock scene — and we have a handy-dandy Spotify playlist to enjoy alongside those, too, so if you’re signed up to that service you can listen along with us.

Next up is Lilia, who knows her stuff about otome games like no other. Lilia’s an analytical, deep thinking sort, so you can expect her pieces to provide deep reads of visual novels — not exclusively otome titles, either — that explore characterisation, character motivation, narrative themes and all manner of other exciting things. If you like your visual novels, Lilia’s got plenty of insights for you to enjoy!

Finally, and last but absolutely not least, we have Conor, who has a broad range of interests including One Piece, Final Fantasy, fighting games and the VTubing community. Every so often we have to throw him a rope so he can pull himself out of the Nijisanji rabbit hole for long enough to actually write us an article, but he seems happy down there so we leave him to it for the rest of the time. He does keep saying he’s Pomu, though, and I’m not entirely sure that’s correct.

We also very occasionally have guest writers and as we grow and expand — and if any of our crack team decides they want to move on, of course — we’ll doubtless need to add some new blood to the fold, if that’s not mixing metaphors too much. But that’s who’s on the team right now — and a very lovely team they are too; one that I appreciate having around very much.

Teuting your own horn

Dear Rice,

You gonna write any more on BUSTAFELLOWS any time soon?

Toota


Hi Toota, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. The short answer is yes, we’d love to write some more about BUSTAFELLOWS, but the developer Extend has made it quite clear that, at least in the period immediately following the game’s English release, they want to keep online spoilers to a minimum. Since the game is a visual novel, its whole reason for existing is the story, so I can absolutely understand their hesitance in this regard — and as such, we’re holding fire on any sort of “deeper reading” of the game for now so we can respect their wishes.

Bustafellows letters page

I know a lot of people out there have mixed feelings about these sorts of requests from developers and publishers — particularly when they take a heavy-handed approach such as outright blocking the built-in screenshot and video capture facilities on today’s consoles — but honestly, a read of our initial impressions on BUSTAFELLOWS should hopefully be enough for you to determine whether or not it’s for you, and from there you can experience its various narrative paths for yourself at your leisure.

I need to liaise with a few people behind the scenes to determine when it’s “safe” to write a bit more on the subject, but rest assured, the floodgates are just waiting to be opened when that happens — I know Lilia in particular is champing at the bit to get something substantial written on the subject! So for now, the answer is “yes, but we’re not quite sure when yet”. Sorry we can’t be more specific on that front for the immediate now!

Letter 37/500

Dear Rice,

What do you think of the various limited run companies out there? I like that a lot of cool games are getting physical editions but not the fact that if you miss out on them, you can’t get them without paying eBay scalper prices.

Magnum


Hi Magnum, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page! This is a frequent topic of discussion around the Internet, and there are lots of things to consider.

First up, I get the frustration over not being able to get hold of things that you might want to have in your collection — I’ve been there, particularly in the early days of organisations like Limited Run Games where they really hadn’t figured out an optimal way to manage preorders without eBay scalpers making off with almost the entire stock.

Thankfully, that side of things is a lot better than it once was. Yes, scalpers are still a thing — but the vast majority of limited-press houses these days operate open preorder windows rather than strictly time-limited “first come, first served” situations. That means you’re much more likely to be able to secure a copy of something you’re after, even if it won’t arrive for maybe six months or more.

I had literally five different games drop through my letterbox today, and they were all ordered at different times over the course of the last half a year or more. It was like Christmas, though I had to explain to my wife that I didn’t actually pay for them all at the exact same time!

Cotton Reboot screenshot

On the “fear of missing out” thing, I think what you have to bear in mind is that if these games were unlimited retail releases, how many copies would they actually sell? If they were just stacked on a shelf in your local Game or listed on Amazon amid the zillion other games that are currently available for current platforms, would they sell at all? Would they get any attention? Quite possibly not.

One of the big benefits of the limited-run press houses is that every physical release from them is a significant event. More often than not, they’re games that have already picked up a substantial following from a digital-only release, and as such people have been actively waiting for a physical release to happen. They’re much more likely to have eyes on them — and articles written about them — than something that simply slips out into retail stores quietly, gets ignored by everyone and promptly disappears into obscurity.

Creating artificial scarcity is a bit of a problem for some companies these days, but I honestly don’t feel a lot of the limited-press software companies are to blame for this. As noted, by the time something gets a release through one of these companies, it’s already a well-established game, and as such those who want a copy to put on their shelf already know who they are. The whole point of the pre-order process is to ensure that the people who want them actually get them — and to be fair, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been unable to preorder something from any of these limited-press houses.

Actually, I can; it was the Shantae games on PS4, but Limited Run subsequently released them on Switch, too (and now PS5 as well!) so I’ve long since forgiven them for that.

Shantae limited run release

Limited runs of games don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon — and honestly, in practice, they’re not all that different from non-limited but niche-interest games that would only get a few copies sold at retail anyway. Assuming it’s practical to do so, it’s worth picking up things you know you’ll probably be interested in at launch, even if you don’t intend to play them right away — because there’s not necessarily a guarantee you’ll still be able to nab them in a year or two!

For me personally, the benefit of limited releases that outstrips all of the inconveniences is the fact that in a good 95% of cases, the versions of games that are released through limited-press houses are the “final” versions — after they’re pressed to cart, there’s no more DLC, no updates, no bits and pieces that will evaporate into nothingness if and when their host platform’s servers go down.

For me, they’re an investment for the future as much as anything else — if I want to play Switch or PS4 games twenty years down the line (which is feasible, since I’m still playing 20-30 year old games from older platforms now!) then I know I’ll be able to do so with those complete-on-cart or complete-on-disc limited releases. I can’t say that for games that have had gigabytes of updates since their original release… and there are plenty of those around today!


That’s your lot for this week! A relatively light mailbag this week, so help us out and make our sack bulge in time for next Friday! Just hit up that widget on the right, pen us a message and you’ll see your name and letter in lights (well, 16-point Raleway) the following week.

We look forward to hearing from you — and in the meantime have a thoroughly fabulous weekend!

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Pete Davison
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