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LONG BLOG

In defense of: DLC

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It's no secret that DLC carries a lot weight in today's gaming landscape. It's almost guaranteed that a AAA game with get post launch support by means of paid DLC. It's become odd to see a one off release without something being added. For a time it bothered me, I thought: why do developers have to be so greedy? Why can't they just release a game and be done with it? To answer that question, it's basically a financial decision.

Some like to reminisce about the "good old days" when $50 would buy a complete game, and I too wax nostalgic about certain aspects of previous generations, but there's so much more that goes into a modern day AAA release, that the old model is no longer viable for sustaining a developer. One of the things we saw change was games going up from $50 to $60 in the last generation. Simply put, to develop HD games too more than the previous generation. Games not only needed to run on these higher end engines, but also had to have online functionality, even single player games needed to be "online aware" for things like patches. Add in things like servers for online mulitplayer functionality, more demanding features like ragdoll physics and 5.1 surround sound, and it's no wonder development costs skyrocketed. In fact, I would say that outside of the jump from 2D to 3D, the HD generation was the biggest leap in fidelity that gaming has ever seen. 

So what is a developer to do? Suddenly costs for this equipment and people to utilize it have jumped and even the extra $10 per game still isn't keeping pace? The answer (in highsight) is obvious, find a new way in order to get people to pay more for content. With the PS3 and Xbox 360 already having internal hard drives and and access to high speed internet, the solution of DLC was born. This was a great solution because it didn't force people to pay more than the initial price if they didn't want to, gave developers a steady stream of income without physically producing more product. Digital content was sold at a higher price, and could potentially keep people interested in a game for much longer hence hindering used sales.

One of the earlier examples of DLC.

But we all know the story, developers saw this as a free for all, and they abused the system. DLC packs went from full on expansions (kin to how PC gamers were accustomed to) all the way down to microtransactions which add nothing but convenience to the game. It's easy to see how the community was soured on the idea of DLC when we're being pestered to pay a few bucks for easy fatalities in Mortal Kombat X. Add things like preorder bonuses, on disc DLC, and season passes to the mix and gaming has just gone to shit, or has it?

Let's back up. What if I said that some of these things might actually be okay when you look at it from another perpective? I mean, I've already explained why DLC as a concept works, would it be so hard to believe some of the others are more reasonable as well? Well I'm going to play the devil's advocate and try to take a balanced approach to the issue and see where we come out. If you see where I'm coming from, great; if not there is always the comments section, I just ask that you hear me out when I defend the likes of EA and Activision (but not Konami, because fuck Konami)

If you look at the cost of gaming over the years, you can see that consoles have been up and down, but have mostly stayed within that $300-$400 price range. But the cost of a AAA game has remained rather constant. It's been around $50-$60 for the past 20 years, but you younger gamers might not realize that software has actually gone down in price compared to when cartridge based systems were around. Adjusted for inflation it's kind of crazy how expensive things were. So when you complain about games plus DLC costing $100 or more (even though prices falll rapidly) bear in mind how much better it is now. 

Okay, so I've made my point about the necessity of DLC, what about the rest of it? What about things like day 1 DLC, on disc DLC and microtransactions? I feel like each practice needs to be addressed individually. 

Day 1 DLC:

As far as the gaming populace is concerned day 1 DLC is content that was chopped up and sold piecemeal to turn an additional profit, and while this certainly isn't something I would put past some of the more grimey companies, I don't feel that was necessarily always the case. See, gamers have this idea that just because content was developed for a game before the release of the game, that they are entitled to it for free. That's simply not a fair request. 

Did you know that both the second and third Matrix movies were filmed at the same time? Does that mean you should get both movies for the price of one? This can be a slippery slope if people start expecting that just because they own a game, that they are entitled to all the content associated with it. 

Now I'll totally grant you that there are instances where the content was clearly intended for the original game and was omitted, and if that is indeed the case, then you have a right to be angry but more often than not, it's simply a matter of they planned the content ahead of time and it wasn't part of the core experence.

On disc DLC:

To me this is more of a shaky ground kind of topic, but the same principals do apply. The idea is that developers lock certain aspects of the game off and charge you to access them. Again, I can see the frustration of seemingly being charged to access the conent that you paid for. Beautiful Katamari (360) is an interesting case because it was sold for half price but had the rest of the game unlockable though DLC. Sure, in principal you have the conent already, but you really didn't pay for all of it, did you? A more famous example is Street Fighter X Tekken where the 16 expansion characters were found on disc. The content was incomplete but all it required was simple $20 patch to "unlock" them. Capcom's reasoning was that they wanted to save space on hard drives.

Again I have to refer back the movie example, just because it was developed at the same time does not mean the content is yours. At the end of the day, you are still paying for the same content at the same price, but that being said, it does cause some needless hostility and for that reason alone, it should stop. 

Microtransactions:

In my mind microtranactions are either bonuses that help you progress in the game or tiny bits of DLC that only offer aesthetic improvements like weapon skins and costumes. In a free to play game, they are necessary, the developers have to keep the lights on and the only other way they can make money is ads. I don't like them but I never pay for them either, and I enjoy what little I play of mobile games without paying a dime. But in my opion they have no place in a AAA game. You paid full price for the game, and microtransactions don't work without the game being designed around it. It hurts the overall experience and are completely unnecessary.

I'm more lienent on skins and the other bits of cosmetic DLC, this is largley because they can be more easily ignored (most of the time). I would rather they be sold as part of the season pass as a bonus, but honestly, it doesn't bother me to have to scroll past them on a list. And the best part about skins is that they have been implemented in lieu of an online pass which I feel is completely anti-consumer and can't be ignored. 

Pre-order bonuses

I think these suck, not in princial, but because they are usually poorly implemented. Back when I preorded Banjo Kazooie (N64) I got a Nintendo shirt and the soundtrack, for Ocarina of Time I got a special box and a gold cartridge. Today, they give you a useless costume or worse yet an actual part of the game that people who bought the game later didn't get. It may be a small part, but it does effect the experience. And on top of all that, they change the pre-order bonuses depending on where you bought it, that shit has got to stop. Give us access to a beta if it has to be digital but I'd much rather physical goods, even a collectors tin would go a long way if you want us to pony up for a game sight unseen. 

Season Pass:

Finally we get to the season pass. I'm actually a huge fan of the season pass. Instead of buying everything piecemeal you can get all the content for less and sometimes get it early and/or a special bonus. What is anti-consumer about that? Okay, yes, there have been some poor implementations and bad post release conent, but in principal it's well handled. I also like that when a game is sold new after the content comes out, the whole package is sold for a reduced price. I can tell you there are games that are out now that I'm wating on an ultimate edition of. It lets me support a developer instead of Gamestop, and gives the game a second chance on the shelf or digital storefront. 

Sorry to ramble on but that's where I stand. Maybe I've got too much business savvy get too upset when developers do these things, but I honestly don't think most of the practices are that bad. But what do you guys think? Am I crazy? Sound off below. 

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About sonic429one of us since 9:00 AM on 02.26.2013

Hey, I'm sonic429, just call me sonic. I've been gaming since the 8 bit days, my first system was the Atari 7800. I try to play as many different types of games as possible, but my favorite genres are platformers, adventure, and fighters. I grew up with Nintendo and Sega so they will always be special to me, but I also have love for Sony and Microsoft.

Being fair and balanced is always my goal when forming my opinions, and I'm a very opinionated gamer. So if you don't agree with me I have no problems hearing the other side of the argument provided you can back it up. That's the way we all grow in knowledge and gain maturity. But most of all I'm here to have fun and interact with the community.

Happy gaming.