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nekobun avatar 11:53 AM on 03.06.2012  (server time)
Now is the winter of on-disc content

The recent kerfluffle over the discovery of locked-away content on the Xbox 360 version of Street Fighter X Tekken has re-animated the debate over how far is too far when it comes to on-disc DLC.
Previously called into question by games like Gears Of War 3's weapon skins and Beautiful Katamari's "pay the rest of the full game price later to get the rest of the game" scheme, on-disc and day-one downloads are becoming more and more prevalent, despite being called out time and time again for being cash-grabs that are unfair to their consumers.

Since it's unlikely we'll be seeing an end to this sort of nonsense very soon, we as a consumer base could at least hope for, or even try to push towards, less obnoxious implementation of such practices by game publishers. Please note that I don't advocate these cash grabs in the first place, and would be just as happy as the next guy if they went away entirely, but the following are ways I think they could suck a little bit less.

Time unlocks all wounds

This is partly to address the whole Street Fighter X Tekken on 360 issue, and also inspired by how Soul Calibur IV handled its system exclusivity with Darth Vader and Yoda, among other things. I can understand wanting to keep exclusives on one console or the other due to certain deals or what have you, but if it's in-game content that's clearly got a place on the opposite console (or on more than one other, for things not limited to PS3 and 360), such as Vader's and Yoda's character slots being obviously meant for someone on their non-native consoles, don't go and make people pay for it. Having something on a given console first is still going to drive sales towards that version.

Having the exclusives as a free download a month or two later keeps you from disenfranchising players who only have one console, who may either still buy the game early and be willing to wait if their system of choice doesn't have the exclusives, or will not be deterred by an additional buy-in fee on top of the new game price if it hasn't lowered any by the time the DLC drops.

Save a buck or two

While I was kind of pissed at how Beautiful Katamari was released at $40 but then charged another $20 for a whole bunch of locked-away content, I've got to admit, there've been worse ways of going about things. While it was a bit of a hassle, you still got a fair amount of game for the $40 price point, in case you couldn't afford the extra bits or didn't have an internet connection. That, and the gamerscore count went to a full 1250 for just $60 worth of content, when normally, a new, $60 title tops out at 1000 points.

It's a bait and switch, to be certain, but at least you're still getting your money's worth based on
however much you decide to pay.

Two methods, one cup

I feel as if the whole Gears Of War 3 weapon skin stink could've been partially avoided, had they thought to make the skins unlockable through in-game means as well as paying for them. It's an established model that's worked before, from innumerable Facebook games and most successful free-to-plays, like Team Fortress 2, There'd still be room for exclusivity in some of the items, such as for pre-order, beta tester, and limited edition purposes, but having the choice to play one's way to little rewards or to shell out money if one is impatient is as good a way as any to keep most of your player base happy.

And, as an aside, if you're going to base a game on the free-to-play model, keep it free-to-play or at as low an introductory price point as you can. I'm looking at you, Gotham City Impostors. There's a great amount of stuff you start the game off with for $15, but the absurd pile of optional DLC that rolled out right after the game's release would seem to justify a lower buy-in, like $10 or even $5. If anything, slashing the price of the core game would get even more people playing (and therefore, buying DLC for) your game.

Giveth, rather than taking away

This is a point that's been harped upon time and time again, by myself, other cbloggers, full-fledged Dtoid editors, and plenty of other people, but seriously, this online pass thing needs to stop, or at least see better employment. Locking used game purchasers out of in-game content or online play, both of which are already on the disc, is heinous and self-defeating, as well as insulting to the customer. However, while it had an online pass of its own, Saints Row The Third did something interesting that I think may be steps toward an easier pass to swallow.

Debate over whether THQ withheld content from the game proper to use as DLC mission packs later on aside, players who pre-ordered the game from THQ directly were entitled to an extra season pass for the first few mission DLC packs, completely free. GameStop also offerred the pass, to pre-orders and early, post-release purchasers alike, at a reasonable discount from buying the packs individually, but what I'm saying is that these sorts of passes should be the new online pass.

Not only does it reward early adopters rather than punishing them, but it also gives companies a little more leeway when it comes to their development cycles. If more resources need to be pushed to the main game's content in order to get it out the door on time, side missions and extra modes that are in partial development don't have to be completely cut; just leave some of the resources that are finished on disc, polish the core product, and having that free pass to the first few add-ons buys you some extra time to finish what you couldn't quite get to finishing. Someone finds that partial content on the disc before the DLC packs are officially announced? It's a lot easier to say, "Yeah, we couldn't get that done in time, it's incomplete and the dlc pack you get for free if you buy the game new finishes/employs it," than, "Yeah, we're going to make you pay for all that soon enough."

Granted, some publishers and/or developers are bound to take such a thing as a free pass to slack off a bit, but even a few outlets using such methods in a more legit fashion would clear the stormy skies over the matter of on-disc dlc quite a bit.

So there you go, just throwing some ideas out there. In a world where almost every other industry on Earth has figured out serving their customers goes a much longer way towards making money than screwing said customers over, it's some sort of twisted miracle that the gaming industry still manages to stand on such abusive, short-sighted practices.

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