Epic Win: The World's Most Lavish Gaming Gifts
(Contributors: Christopher Armellino and Kyle Orland)
Christmas morning. Your Xbox-obsessed brother opens a present from his aunt. "Assassin's Creed II! Thanks, Aunt Susan!" Everyone nods approval. "I saw it on your Amazon wish list," she says.
Then little brother opens your gift. "Brütal Legend. Cool, thanks, bro!" You smile. Hours later, when the festivities are winding down, you see your beloved sibling firing up his 360. And what does he put in first? Assassin's Creed II!
You have lost, my friend. You have lost at Christmas! Aunt Susan destroyed you!
The expensive, rare, outrageously decadent gifts below are designed to make sure this never happens again. Don't just show your friends and family that you love them; love the freaking hell out of them. Please note, if you celebrate Hanukkah, you will have to buy eight of these presents to guarantee wire-to-wire gift-giving domination. (Kwanzaa people, you only need seven. Lucky!)
Now get out there and win the holidays.
Guitar Hero Art Guitar
Price: $330 to $430, for PS2/PS3 only.
Why it's full of win: It's a gentle way to tell your close friend that the "No Fear" sticker she slapped on her plastic axe doesn't have quite the street cred she thinks it does. ArtGuitar's custom Guitar Hero/Rock Band guitars not only cost many times more than a regular controller, but they also have pictures of butterflies. And I guess there are other pictures, too, like band logos and skulls and whatnot. (Always with the skulls!) For an extra hundred bucks you can even put your own face on the guitar, because that's not creepy at all.
Halo 3 Master Chief "Supreme Edition" Costume
Why it's full of win: Any serious Halo fan already has a Master Chief helmet sitting on his desk. But perhaps you know someone who's been afraid to take the full cosplay plunge. Something's holding him back -- lack of cash, an ineffable shred of dignity, who knows? The point is, with this gift, you'll be the hero and allow your buddy to secure his business with the same codpiece that his beloved Master Chief uses. (He'll even be able to enjoy himself in various locations.)
UFO Catcher 7 Crane Game
Price: About $4,000.
Why it's full of win: Nothing spices up X-mas morning like a Japanese crane game, which you can acquire from any number of shady arcade importers on the Web. Before giving this gift to your very special loved one, toss everyone else's presents inside the machine. You can relax and sip your hot chocolate in peace while the rest of the family tries to coerce the claw into dropping their goodies. (Have mercy and offer them some strategy tips.) Remember, if they try to shake the machine, they are kicked out of Christmas, no exceptions.
Stern Batman or Spider-Man Pinball Machine
Why it's full of win: Everybody already has Batman: Arkham Asylum or Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2. If you try to give one of those games this year to a comic-book nerd, they'll shrug and take it straight to GameStop for a trade-in. It's pretty hard to trade in a pinball machine, though. Get Batman for the DC loyalist; Spider-Man for the Marvel geek (or for the pinball aficionado, as Spider-Man is a slightly better machine). Both games are still in production and available brand-new from a Stern distributor.
1990 Nintendo World Championships Gold Cartridge
Price: $21,000 or more.
Why it's full of win: It's the most valuable NES cartridge in the world. Produced for a 1990 tournament, the cart contains timed versions of Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer and Tetris adapted for competitive play. According to superb retro gaming site Racketboy, only 26 copies are known to exist "in the wild," as Nintendo gave one of these treasures to the winner of the championships along with 25 runners-up. The $21,000 figure comes from a two-year-old eBay auction; expect to pay even more now -- if you can find a seller.
Forza Motorsport 3 Edition Audi TT
Price: About $37,000, from a run of only 20 cars.
Why it's full of win: Well, it's a car. And it's not a Lexus with a big red bow on it, so you didn't get the idea from a treacly television commercial. The TT is reported to come with Forza Motorsport 3 and an Xbox 360 Elite, so to complete the package, you can install the 360 in the car before gifting it. That way, your friend will never be without great road-driving action, even while driving on the road! You might want to get an extra 360 for his hospital room, too, so he has something to do while his bones knit.
18-Hole Outdoor Miniature Golf Course
Price: $60,000 to $350,000.
Why it's full of win: Never again will you have to wait for the idiot kids in the group ahead of you to finish their six-putts and MOVE ON TO THE NEXT FREAKING HOLE ALREADY. As long as you have a huge backyard, the good people at Miniature Golf Construction Company will make your mini-windmill-filled dreams come true. With an outlay of $60,000, MGCC says you can get a no-frills layout with holes about 25 feet long -- in other words, the neighbor kids will laugh at your puny putt-putt course.
Up your budget to $350K, and we're talking a 50-foot cave, a volcano with a fireball, a few bridges and a bunch of "water features." What the hell is a water feature? I don't know, but you'd better get a lot of them, just in case. At that price, MGCC will probably throw in some of those colored balls, too. Everyone enjoys those.
Custom-Made Global Alternate Reality Game
Price: $1,000,000 to $3,000,000, depending on scope.
Why it's full of win: Imagine sending a friend on a real-world adventure that's a cross between the Michael Douglas film "The Game" and CBS' "The Amazing Race." It would be the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime gaming experience.
They don't sell these at your local Kay-Bee Toys, so I contacted Steve Peters of No Mimes Media. He has worked on a number of alternate reality games, such as the "Why So Serious" campaign that preceded the release of "The Dark Knight."
Though Peters is accustomed to mass-media projects, I asked him to give me a "money is no object" quote for a custom-made, world-girdling ARG to be played by only one person. I specified that the story would have an espionage theme and would include both cyberpunk and low-tech sleuthing elements. As the player followed the trail around the globe, there would be human interaction at every point, both in person and online.
Peters' interest was piqued. "I like these kinds of questions," he said before he ran the numbers. "The biggest costs are usually production (Web sites, audio, video, etc.) and then, in the case of worldwide cities, actors, travel, scouting, design, staffing..." You get the idea. There are a lot of moving parts. Peters arrived at a ballpark figure of $1-3 million, which includes everything from conceptualization through execution.
You've got a little time to scrape together the cash (Tip: Check under your car's floor mats for millions of quarters). Peters said that the game would "take six to nine months of development, at the very least," and the result would be a four-week international adventure. Yeah, that would probably get you a pretty nice thank-you note.
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