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DLC – Downloadable Con…

March 17th, 2010 by

Modern Warfare 2’s DLC has been making waves this week before it’s even released. The first map pack arrives on Live Marketplace on March 30th. The bad news? It’ll set you back 1200 points. That’s a tenner, two quid per map. The icing on the cake here is that of the five maps in the “Stimulus Package”, only three of them are entirely original, the other two being modified versions of maps from the original Modern Warfare. No-one should be surprised Activision are milking MW2 for all it’s worth. First the RRP for the game was £55 (£10 over the usual), now they’re setting record prices for maps.

What I find really depressing is that so many people will pay over the odds for this DLC. Some will get their money’s worth out of it because they’re dedicated to the game, but that’s no justification for the price of entry.

Bioshock 2’s “Sinclair Solutions” pack (released shortly after the launch of the game) came under scrutiny when the size of the download was supiciously small. 2K games later confirmed that the content it contained was already on the disc and users were paying to unlock it. Their excuse was that this was they had to do that, otherwise those who didn’t have the DLC wouldn’t be able to play with those who did. The obvious point they didn’t address is that people paid for the DLC content on the disc when they bought the game, but couldn’t access it unless they paid extra.

DLC released day and date with the release of a game has become a contentious issue. In some cases it’s a pre-order bonus or an extra incentive to buy the game new instead of pre-owned. Fair enough. Extra content that couldn’t be included because the disc had gone to press? Well… maybe it happens. But asking people to pay through the nose because you’ve restricted them from using finished content they already own, that’s just sleazy.

It’s even starting to have an knock-on effect on the main game. Assassin’s Creed 2 has become notorious for having large gaps in it’s story, which were later sold as DLC. Patrice Desilets, the game’s lead designer, has admitted that those sections were originally part of the main story, but were cut because they needed to drop some pieces in order to “reduce some stress on the team”. That’s a bit rich. Epic released DLC with a chapter of Gears of War 2 they had dropped, but they smoothed out the (admittedly thin) story in the finished game to cover the gap. Instead re-working their story or pushing the game’s release back to incorporate everything, Ubisoft released a product with the equivalent of a “Scene Missing” card in two places and charged for the missing reels.

I’m fine with paid DLC, particularly when it adds to the single-player experience (Fallout 3’s extra side-missions are a great example). But with free DLC becoming an increasingly endangered species, it’s time to vote with our wallets, people. Who’s with me?

9 Responses to “DLC – Downloadable Con…”
  1. I’m with you in spirit my friend!
    There is an issue with players who want to vote with their wallets when others don’t.
    Game lobbies are keen to point out which user hasn’t purchased the new content, applying pressure to keep up with the rest of the user base.
    In the past I’ve felt that I’ve needed to buy DLC (Gears 2 for me) just because my regular gears crew didn’t want me in their game…. or maybe it was because I was just crap!

  2. avatar Pat Jennings says:

    What an excellent article which hits the nail on the head. DLC is a great idea for additional content, but it should be just that.
    Map packs released a fair bit after the release date are fine. If they are too expensive (à la MW2) then just don’t buy them.
    Additional quests, or bonus areas, are also fine after the release date as it adds to a game and extends its play life.
    Extra stuff that comes free for genuine new owners is also fine, and I have bought games new for this in the past.
    I just despise the notion that it is now acceptable to cut your game and sell the extra bits for more money. It’s not to ease pressure on the developers: it’s so that the publisher can charge more money for stuff that should have been in the game in the first place. Yes, content which is on the disc falls into this category – it was ready at release time, so put it in the game as part of the original selling price.
    If the industry wants to do include unlockable content on a disc, then they need to sell the disc at a low cost (like the episodic model) and the user can choose to unlock more bits at a cost each time. What is currently happening is utterly despicable and possibly illegal (DRM like this is on dodgy ground; owning the content on a disc should mean you have the right to access it, if you wish to do so).
    The game industry is currently driven entirely by profit, and while this does lead to better, more polished, games in some respects, it also means that once there is “enough there to charge RRP for” the publishers go to press. This will kill the industry. All it needs is for people to start thinking “oh I may as well wait for the Game of The Year edition” (or the compilation edition), or give it a few months and pick it up at half price in a sale, or even “I’ll just pirate it and get what I want”.
    Imagine if movies went down the same route: “pay another few quid to see these missing scenes that make the plot make sense” – no one would accept it. I am surprised that developers accept this. A big name director would never allow such “artistic control” of his or her creation, unless they are called Alan Smithee. It’s time for publishers and developers to start giving the fans what they want or the industry as a whole will suffer.

  3. avatar Martyn Hackett says:

    Excellent point, there, you do have to wonder how much of this is being driven by the publishers instead of the developers.

    I really like what Capcom did with the RE5 story chapters. They added a little to the periphery of the story, an hour or two of gameplay and a cheap price.
    I rented Red Faction: Guerilla, enjoyed the campaign and bought the prequel chapter, so they still got a little money out of me even though I hadn’t bought the game. It was still optional, though.

  4. avatar xeroxeroxero says:

    Pat, can I ask which titles you’ve played recently that had ‘missing scenes that make the plot make sense’? I would postulate the answer to be ‘none’. In addition, your comment that the ‘game industry is currently driven entirely by profit’ is a little illogical, it’s an industry, it’s always been driven by profit.

    Though I do agree with you, it’s an excellent article, and waiting for compilation editions is absolutely spot on, I would say I definitely wait for DLC to come included.

  5. avatar Pat Jennings says:

    I can actually answer this off the top of my head. Missing bits of plot: Assassin’s Creed 2, Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, Heavy Rain (may just be bad plot holes that will never get fixed). None are game breakers, but if they could have been there from the start it is disappointing and detracting to remove them.

    As for the “driven entirely by profit” issue, my point focuses on the key word “entirely”. Ideas which have artistic merit or would make a better game are removed or converted to DLC just to let developers maximise their profit. In the ideal world, we would get to buy the whole package up front. Yes, it might make less profit per unit, but it would also make a better overall game. In reality, we all know some games offer better value for money, and games like FFXIII offer 50 hours of gameplay where a God of War III offers only a dozen. I know that length doth not a great game make, but I am just offering a simple comparison. I suppose to the developers the ultimate goal is a standard amount of content that is in a game for RRP, but it would be to the detriment of the industry as a whole. I don’t object to the free market economy that drives the standard higher overall, but I do fear for any industry that is solely exists for short-term profit gain. In the long term the golden eggs laying goose gets slaughtered: we have seen it time and again, from automobiles to the banking sector.

    I think we all just want our games to provide what has been developed and resent paying extra for stuff that’s been held back just for such a purpose.

  6. avatar xeroxeroxero says:

    I utterly agree, especially content on disc for example. Some excellent counter points.

  7. avatar Pat Jennings says:

    xero, I need to stop quoting you to everyone I know or I will get accused of plagiarism. Seriously, you are always spot on, offering a considered view and you always bring up topics about which others hadn’t even thought.
    [/end of dodgy 50p loving]

  8. avatar Chris Mohan says:

    When the advent of DLC on consoles was first really adopted it seemed like a win win for everyone.

    The developers and publishers would be more likely to take a risk on new IP, as the opportunities to monetize and extend the platform would be greatly appreciated by DLC.

    Consumers would get more of the same if they liked a game. So no more buying the game on day of release and being done with it a week later.

    Heck, even Microsoft would get a cut.

    The reality is much different. The biggest issue for developers is that if you wait until the game is finished before committing to DLC, you are missing your window (which shows that your first DLC should hit 4 to 6 weeks after launch). This isnt enough time. So, a developer has a couple of choices
    1) Hold stuff back from the main game and release as DLC (Assassins Creed, Resident Evil 5 etc), 2) release stuff you had already deemed not good enough to make the game in the first place (GOW2, Tomb Raider), 3) release sub standard material because of lack of time (too numerous to mention) or 4) put a seperate team in charge of DLCand develop a strategy.

    Obviously 4) is the best option and its no surprise it has yielded the best results. But the problem still remains. Most DLC is at worst really poor, too short / small or severely overpriced.

    There are examples of good DLC enhancing a game. For me Borderlands, Grand Theft Auto and Fallout 3 are the standout and obvious examples that spring to mind. Map packs for Halo and Gears of War have also worked well but are were very very dear for what they are until released as part of bigger pack.

    Its a good idea but it still has a long way to go.

  9. avatar xeroxeroxero says:

    Pat, I love you man *air high five*.

    Chris, good point. I think most companies haven’t yet understood what makes DLC so appealing to the enthusiast gamer.

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