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Often times, many games have an additional variant named "Game X: Game of the Year edition" or "Game X: GOTY edition". Within the same year, there are multiple games that seemingly have GOTY versions.

Obviously there seems to be some discrepancies. On the Steam Store search page for GOTY there are games missing on the Wikipedia List of the GOTY awards. Examples of games that are listed on the Steam Store page that are GOTY editions, yet are not referenced anywhere on the Wikipedia page:

And of course, games that seemingly make fun of this:

  • Saint's Row IV: GOTC (Game of the Century)

What I would like to know if this is just a marketing gimmick, or does the name Game of The Year actually mean something for the games themselves. Has the game had to been awarded a GOTY award to be able to do so (such as a gaming website that rates the best games of that year)?. Or is just a meaningless title that anyone could slap on to the end of the name of the game?

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    Mostly, the more scrupulous companies use it when they actually win at least 1 GOTY award. For example, Fallout: New Vegas never won GOTY with anyone but Fallout 3 did. Therefore, the Game + All DLC version of Fallout 3 is called the GOTY Edition, but the Game + All DLC version of FNV is the Ultimate Edition. – SGR Oct 25 '16 at 8:27
  • Generally it means about the same as "ultimate", "gold" or any number of other qualifiers. Usually a GOTY might come bundle with some or all of the available DLC for the game. It might mean it was awarded GOTY by somebody, somewhere at some time, but with so many potential outlets, magazines, websites, YouTubers random dudes on twitter - it means not very much at all as an indication of quality. If you want to know if a game is any good - read some reviews. – Wjousts Oct 25 '16 at 20:16
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    The entire reason "Game of the Year" awards exist is marketing. – RemcoGerlich Oct 26 '16 at 10:01
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    It means they want to make more money with an existing game. – Kevin Oct 27 '16 at 11:29
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Short answer:

If you look hard enough, many games have been called "Game of the Year" by some people and sometimes these people come together and agree on this opinion and declare these games their collective Game of the Year. Regardless of how important these people are or aren't, that game can rightfully say it has been called Game of the Year in some way or another.


Longer explanation:

Before Googling Game of the Year for the first time, I assumed that GOTY simply meant "Game + all of the DLC," but it looks like MOST of these games actually won Game of the Year awards from some institution or another.

According to the list of Game of the Year awards on Wikipedia, there are actually a number of GOTY award-givers for a given year (52 to be exact).

Thanks to some steam searching by jojo, it looks like Deus Ex Machina and Rising Storm are not on this list, yet do have GOTY editions. Thus, it may be just a marketing gimmick. However, I was surprised by a number of games that I did not expect to see on the above list, so GOTY may have more credibility than I'd thought.

After doing some careful Googling, I found that all but one of the exceptions to the GOTY recipient idea mentioned in the updated question as well as the other answers actually did receive Game of the Year awards from at least one place, though some are relatively obscure.

Question:

Deus Ex Machina Game of the Year: CTA Game of the Year award (1985)

Rising Storm: PC Gamer Multiplayer Game of the Year (2013)

Project Cars: Techly's Game of the Year Award for Best Graphics (2015)

Badland: App Store iPad Game of the Year (2014)


Answer:

Two Worlds II: Bestes Rollenspiel & Bestes Spiel (translated: Best Role-Playing Game and Best Game) (2011)

L.A. Noire: BAFTA Game of the Year for Best Original Score (2012)

Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns: Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Best Computer Strategy Game of the Year & PC Gamer, Computer Gaming World, and Computer Games Magazine Strategy Game of the Year (2001)

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare:

  • Game Critics Awards: Best Action Game
  • GameSpot: Best Graphics, Best Shooter, Best Xbox 360 Game, Best PS3 Game
  • GameTrailers: Best Graphics, Best PS3 Game
  • GamePro: Best Overall Game of the Year
  • IGN: Best Xbox 360 Game, Best Shooter of 2007
  • GameSpy: Best PS3 Game, Best Xbox 360 Game, Best PC Game, Game of the Year
  • X-Play: Best Shooter, Best Sound Design
  • Spike Video Game Awards: Best Shooter, Best Military Game
  • Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences: Action Game of the Year, Console Game of the Year, Overall Game of the Year
  • Golden Joystick Awards: Game of the Year

In Memoriam/Missing Since January: Computer Gaming World's Adventure Game of the Year (2004)

Plants Vs. Zombies: Golden Joystick Awards for Download Game of the Year & Strategy Game of the Year (2010)

Worms: Reloaded: This one is a bit difficult to prove, as the franchise has been awarded multiple "Best Game"-type awards and many are foreign, but due to the fact that there is only one Game of the Year Edition of any game in the Worms franchise, it is very likely that Worms: Reloaded was the recipient of at least one of these Game of the Year awards.

The one and only game listed in the question and answer that I cannot find a definitive award for is Men of War: Assault Squad.

Due to this being the sole exception that I have found, releasing a GOTY version of a game should not be seen as a simple marketing gimmick. That is not to say that the intent of releasing such a version is not to generate more revenue, however, there is definite credibility behind releasing a Game of the Year edition.

While finding awards for the games listed in the question and other answers, I have come to the realization that due to the rising popularity and diversity of games, a singular "Game of the Year" no longer works. One person's Game of the Year may not be another person's Game of the Year. In fact, it most likely won't be.

  • From the Steam Store page, which lists games with the GOTY edition, some games like Deus Ex Machina: GOTY and Rising Storm: GOTY are not listed anywhere on the Wikipedia page. I'm still looking but I get this feeling it could be just a marketing gimmick – senpai Oct 24 '16 at 21:30
  • @jojo Ah, it may be then, but it looks like GOTY is more legit than I had originally thought, at least. – Vemonus Oct 24 '16 at 21:31
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    @jojo In the list of GOTY awards linked in the answer, the British Academy Games Awards section lists Deus Ex as the winner for 1999/2000 PC. No mention of Rising Storm though. Ah, my bad. Deus Ex Machina is not the same as Deus Ex. – muru Oct 25 '16 at 4:53
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    I found "Deus Ex Machina, Game of the Year, 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition" on steam, and in the description it reads: "Hailed as a breakthrough in the development of video games, Deus Ex Machina won Game Of The Year, and is currently the subject of movies, books, exhibitions and even university courses". Doesn't say "which" GOTY it won though :) – Pete Oct 25 '16 at 14:42
  • 2016 minus 30 years = 1986 or earlier release. 1984 apparently. Keep in mind that the internet didn't start to become widespread until the early 1990s. – stannius Oct 25 '16 at 15:43
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GOTY edition simply means that this version of their game is intended to be applicable for a GOTY award - which may mean anything, from fully updated with all patches, enhanced graphics, bundled copies of earlier games in the series, bundled DLC and expansions, in-box physical merchandise, or whatever else the developer and publisher could think up to make it stand out (and thus in the running for an award).

If you're really cynical, like Giant Bomb user Turambar, then you'll say that it's just a cheap trick by publishers to try selling more copies:

They receive GOTY editions because the publisher decided the game needs another print cycle to sell more copies, but with something to differentiate it from the original version.

It may also mean that the game actually won a GOTY award, but as others have pointed out, that isn't necessarily the case (and would usually say something like "GOTY Award Winner" to be explicit about it). Games Radar has a fascinating article which looks into the history of the term and how it's since been abused:

And as games have become more mainstream themselves, and the ‘net-driven boost in games-talk has made gamers more genre-savvy, annual GotY awards have become much more eclectic in their categories. All of that combined, along with the fact that you only need one GotY award from anywhere in order to legitimise putting the magic phrase onyour box, means that saying your game is the game of the year is now about as difficult as boiling hot water in Hell.

There's an article from Lifewire which examines some GOTY editions that were actually worse than the original releases, and the same Giant Bomb article linked to by Sir Adelaide notes that:

because there is no actual rule or law about what publishers call their re-releases, it isn't entirely unheard of for games that were never actually named "Game of the Year" by any publication or website to release a Game of the Year Edition

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    "GOTY edition simply means that this version of their game is intended to be applicable for a GOTY award" I never heard any such thing. If anything, back when GOTY meant anything it would be slapped on a game after it was awarded GOTY by somebody and typically bundled extra content (like DLC). Now it means less than nothing since with so many possible media outlets you can always claim that somebody called you GOTY. Or not even worry about it all. – Wjousts Oct 25 '16 at 20:07
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There is IGN game of the year, Gamestop game of the year, VGX game of the year, The Game game of the year, Armor Games game of the year etc ad nauseum. That list was just the first page of Google results.

Giant Bomb defines the term as

A Game of the Year Edition is any video game that has been repackaged and advertised as having earned either one or many Game of the Year awards from any number of recognized publications or websites

Given that there are no absolute arbiters, and anyone can create a new game mag overnight and hand out a few meaningless awards, you should trust the term as much as you trust any other advertising.

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    Quite often you will find GOTY games will display where they got the award(s) from if it is from a more reputable source - or they may say how many they won. For example, the Skyrim Legendary Edition box states "more than 200", or Witcher 3s "over 800 awards" (not all GOTY awards though). If they don't brag, they don't have anything to brag about. – SBoss Oct 25 '16 at 8:11
  • @SBoss Not sure about that. Not bragging too much is good for anybody. How many of the "over 800" awards hold any weight? That just sounds cheap. Though I guess in the case of GOTY indeed it's just mostly some marketing nonsense. – xji Oct 25 '16 at 17:52
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    "and anyone can create a new game mag overnight and hand out a few meaningless awards" more to the point, anybody can create a gaming website over lunch and hand out meaningless awards. GOTY is generally worthless as an indication of quality. It is helpful in that they are often packaged with extra content like DLC. – Wjousts Oct 25 '16 at 20:10
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    I once made a game that won GOTY. It was terrible, has no user input or visual output, and the award was sponsored, decided and awarded by my Mum. I think I was about 4 at the time. – Phill Healey Oct 26 '16 at 11:51

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