Monday, March 17, 2014

Diamond Trust of London Limited Edition Number One on eBay

Doesn't look like much but this manila envelope is one of the most interesting and fascinating and convoluted limited releases of a video game of all time. Only 6,000 copies of this game, Diamond Trust of London, were ever made and only 2,123 sold. Around 1,000 of that number were converted into limited editions. That is an EXTREMELY limited release. Like, I honestly cannot think of a game with a more limited release. Actually 6k is the lowest amount of physical copies you can have published when developing for the Nintendo DS.

Up for sale on eBay right now is #1 of the limited editions by the creator himself. The limited editions were put together by hand at home by the creator, Jason Rohrer. Each limited edition contained four stamps, a coin, four diamonds (industrial-quality), and a copy of the game itself.
The diamonds came in the little envelopes.
Each limited edition was also signed by the Jason Rohrer and the music creator, Tim Bailey. Due to the DIY nature of these editions, the stamps and coins contained in each copy are unique with no two copies containing the same items. The same can surely be said about the contents of #1.

The exact story of this game is pretty crazy and inspiring. Jason Rohrer really wanted this game to come out. His initial working with Majesco in 2009 fuzzled out after numerous game design changes from a game about "divorce investigations" to a game about "blood diamond markets" but the nail in the coffin was the game's failure to reach preorder expectations. The initial Majesco-backed title received only 23 of the required 1,000 preorders for a physical release to be published by the company. From there Jason bounced around eventually working under Zoo Publishing's indiePub label. This worked well but in the seven months that Nintendo took to approve the game, the markets had shifted and Zoo Publishing did not have the finances to actually manufacture the game. Jason, not stymied by this major setback, opted to create the first Kickstarter-funded Nintendo title. With 1,305 (I'm one of them) backers, Jason managed to raise $90,118 and successfully financed the manufacturing of the game.

The game itself is hard to describe. It is a deception-based strategy game that uses agents and bribes to smuggle blood diamonds out of Africa before the conflict diamond trade is shut down. The game also got ESRB rated as "E for everyone" and has no content descriptors. Apparently the ESRB does seem to think the blood diamond trade is subversive. Also of note is that this game uses a unique music generator, ensuring that you never hear the same song twice. It is fun to play but wasn't received too well by critics.

What is interesting about this game is that it is a collector's game. Normal gamers have never heard of this game and even the niche, indie gamers are hard-pressed to recollect this game's existence. It was a blip on the release radar and while it did receive a lot of press coverage, only 2,123 copies of the game sold. This is the definition of a rare game. It can sell for around $100 new on eBay, despite the fact that the remaining 3,877 copies are still available for sale for $30 each on the game's official site and the game's code was made available for free online by Jason himself. Back in 2012, I shot Jason a few emails and he said that he didn't appreciate this game being only a collectible and that he just hoped people would play it. 

In my opinion, this game deserves more. It deserves more attention, more notoriety, more players, and more love. It just fell flat and I feel terrible for Jason. He spent years of his life getting this out there and it just fell flat. It was a mixture of the market shifting to the 3DS, the decline in interest in strategy games, the strange and possibly offensive premise, the limited release, and the timing of it all that really conceded this game to the dustbin of gaming history but it has a great story behind it that I won't soon be forgetting.


Anonymous said...

I bought a pair of games and tried it out with my brother. Its fairly short but stratedgy wise its top in class. I only wish the difficulty setting was simplified to ten levels or less.

Anonymous said...

So this the rarest ds game on the system. According to the numbers, this is the first time a game is rarer than NFR carts on a system.

Anonymous said...

So is this an unlicensed game?

Evan Butler said...

Rarest commercial release. NFR carts wouldn't count towards a complete set if you were collection DS games.

This is an actual licensed game.

Jason Rohrer said...

Hey folks, Jason here.

Yes, this game is an officially-approved-by-Nintendo game, with the gold seal on the back and everything. Getting it approved by Nintendo (particularly the names on the front of the box, and the diamonds and other stuff inside) almost didn't happen. We had to thread loopholes through loopholes to get it approved.

Every Limited Edition envelope has different stuff in it. All have diamonds, stamps, and coins, but some have other stuff as well.... more special and rare stuff (some has been described elsewhere, but I won't give it away). And, not all diamonds are created equal.... there are some VERY cool diamonds in some of them. They are all real rough diamonds from Africa... if you've never seen a rough diamond, they're pretty cool looking.

I actually wrote a piece of compute software to help us package them and spread everything out randomly and evenly in the 1000 envelopes. We'd git space bar, and it would show pictures of what to put in the next envelope.

That said, I have no idea what's actually inside the #1 envelope that is up for auction (well, besides a #1 signed and numbered game box, and some mixture of special items).

But I'm guessing that the person who wins the auction won't ever open it to find out...

Evan Butler said...

I'm totally gonna win that auction and open it to find out.

Anonymous said...

Jason Rohrer thanks for all you did to get it out. Its amazing you are on this blog. Is it true that you are jesus?

Anonymous said...

Well I just snagged one of these. No where near #1 but I'm still excited to have one.

Anonymous said...

Wow that went high!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Rohrer said...


What you are buying for $30 is a REGULAR edition, which is what is pictured on the website next to the BUY NOW button. You click BUY NOW, and you receive the regular edition game as pictured on that page. You are NOT getting the Limited Edition for $30. No Limited Editions are left for sale (except second hand on eBay). They were only available through Kickstarter, as this article explains.

Also, about the postage:

Priority mail used to be $5.15 flat rate, so back in the day, we bought loads of $5.15 stamps. We're still using those, but the price went up to $5.60, which means that we have to buy $0.45 extra postage at the post office. If you look closely at your package, you will see TWO stamps (one for $5.15 and one for $0.45). We are not overcharging for postage.

Anonymous said...

I like to think the regular edition as the silver edition. Only 5000 made of the regular edition so its still a limited edition in its own right.

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