Thursday, September 24, 2009

Old article on DLC.

Gaming is an expensive hobby. Paying from 30-60 dollars per game can take a toll on the wallet. A casual gamer who picks up only three or four games a year spends close to 400 dollars, not to mention Xbox Live, extra controllers, batteries, and DLC.

Yes, DLC, the brave new frontier in video gaming. For publishers, DLC is the golden goose. It cuts down on game development time, has zero overheard, and generates an extra revenue stream. Yet, when hearing the letters DLC, fear creeps up the back. The fear of men in suits sitting around a conference room asking lowly over worked (and underpaid) game developers how they can strip content out of the main game so they can make more money by releasing it as a separate DLC add-on. Think paying 60 dollars for a 7 hour Resident Evil 5 single player campaign, then being told about two weeks later it's an extra five bucks for the multiplayer part of the game.

Wonder if all those extra planets they charged extra for in Mass Effect (Or Mass Effect 2) would have been free if the developers hadn't been pressured to release on time and have some extra content in the tank? What about the second half of Fallout 3? Gears of War "lost" levels? Halo 3's multiplayer maps? Me too.

Halo 3 made tens of millions of dollars primarily on the promise of it's in depth multiplayer component. Imagine the shock of gamers who were forced to spend an extra 10-15 dollars for map packs in order to play ranked multiplayer a scant few months after release. Players who didn't download this content were relegated to playing a few select unranked playlists, or worse, attempting the single player campaign.

Eventually after some time Bungie opted to make the ranked playlists only for the free maps once more. So now that must-have-in-order-to-play-game-fully-content is relegated to it's own segregated playlists with all the other dopes who thought they needed it to play the game.

Admittedly, huge Halo fans wouldn't have a problem with this. In fact, huge Halo fans would have learned about how to get the maps free, or that the maps wouldn't be part of the main rotation forever. But casual games didn't know this, and this information was no where to be found in game. If Bungie had been more clear, more gamers would have their hard earned money. Though this discontent probably worries Bungie about as much as a "Haze" sequel would.

DLC's annoying red headed cousin is the microtransaction. Microtransactions reek of profit whoring at the expense of the die hard gamer. Remember playing all the way through a game with the hope of a special bonus? Maybe a costume, a gun, a cheat code, a secret playable character, the super secret Mario Statue in Sim City for the SNES? It's no more. Look at the game content that's been turned into these 40-120 point items; Extra costumes, hats, clothing, horse armor, and extra characters to name a few.

Worse than paying for extra content that used to typically be a special reward for beating the game you payed for in the first place, is the microtransaction that eliminates the need to play the game at all. Racing games like Need for Speed and PGR, are perfectly fine allowing those with a credit card access the best cars and tracks right away if the price is right. it completely confuddles the ecnonomy of the game. All for the bottom line.

For all the negatives associated with DLC and microtransactions, being nickel and dimed, subpar value for the dollar, etc etc, there are some great DLC options on the Marketplace.
Worms Armgededdon and both Penny Arcade Adventures RPGs are great games that would never be released on a console if it weren't for this new distribution option. Some releases that have recieved quite a deal of hype such as Shadow Complex, Bionic Commando re-armed, Braid, and The remake of Monkey Island are all quality gaming expierences that deserve a hard earned dollar.

The jury still appears to be out when it comes to DLC, though. While sales figures for video games are public knowledge, and a general barometer for public opinion on a particular platform or game, sales for DLC are typically limited to talk from mid level executives, "Strong sales" "Better than expected" "And profitable for sure" are the euphemisms used to keep their company stock up and gamers in the dark about how gamers are reacting to this nickel and diming. Even lists of top selling DLC posted to Bestheda and Harmonix's websites rarely state actualy dollar amounts. Though EA admits the DLC reliant Rock Band was not profitable in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

A recent market survey of 800 gamers suggests that only 10-15 percent of people download content, and a whopping 43 percent have no idea what DLC is in the first place.

quality DLC is under performing. The highest profile DLC thus far have been the two GTA IV expansions. Microsoft and Rockstar admit the titles haven't reached the expect goals. Perhaps this is due to the economy, perhaps because GTAIV wasn't as much of a "game" played for "fun" as these companies thought, or the simple fact that people aren't willing to drop bunches of money on virtual property. In a down economy, gamers are going to buy games that give them the most value. Gamers are fed up with short games that promise to "expand the game universe" via DLC.

I know I am.

other thoughts:

I hate purchasing virtual property. When I buy a game I want to hold the case, possess it. Driving to the store, buying the game, driving back while reading the instruction manual at stop lights, then finally getting home and putting the disc in the drive, is much more satisfying then making a sandwhich and ovaltine while your new game downloads.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed is on my "next" list. As in it's the game I'll play next when I'm looking for some variety in my standard rotation of Madden, an RPG, and a Shooter. Sadly, I have never made it to the "next" game on my list, as envitably another shooter or RPG will be released. Example: Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy 13 are coming out soon and are on my must buy list. With those two triple A releases, when is little bionic commando going to find time to kill pseudo hitler?

it seems like the 360 Arcade would be the perfect location for tons of remakes (not ports) of old school RPGS, Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, All the other RPGs that have some combination of Oddesye, Fantasy, Quest, or Star.* Some people assume that this could be due to a problem with Nintendo and old Final Fantasy titles, but a lot of those titles appeared on the PS1 in various compliations.

*This also counts for Abe's Oddesyey. Love it.

Why doesn't microsoft team up with hulu for on demand video ala netflix. Is there some law preventing this? If not I see only good things for both companies.

Why does microsoft bother selling movies on the XBOX video market place, anyway? I doubt anyone uses an Xbox as their primary video source, and if they do, they surely have netflix.

I am all for in game advertisements if it makes the DLC free, ala Burnout Paradise, the best DLC supported game on the 360.

Deion Sanders is the black Howie Mandell.

Game you should be playing (That I am):

On the subject of DLC, Madden 2010 recently released a "Free" new mode called Ultimate Team which manages to combine football with a magic the gathering type Collectible Card Game. As it stands right now the game is broken as hell, but it's on the right track. The concept of collecting cards that represent players, that you then use in the game, is novel and thoroughly addicting. Hoping to open that next booster and find a limited edition 2007 Tom Brady is the kind of expierence that keeps you coming back for more. While this sounds neat in and of itself, it gets the balance between micro transaction cheating, and doing it the old fashioned way, just right. While you can purchase packs with ease using Microsoft points (A mid-level "Silver" pack is about 40 points) you also earn coins you can use to purchase packs by performing well in game.

If you got Madden, for sure check it out. If pro football normally isn't your thing, think of it as a more complicated version of blood bowl.


Game You shouldn't be playing (That I am)

I'm a little behind the curb here, but I've been playing Modern Warfare 2 and have yet to be blown away. I dislike a plot that is told in loading screens, a single player mode that mistakes intensity for lots of enemies and the fact that they killed what would have been an interesting plot line three missions in. Though I haven't journeyed into what I'm told is a broken multiplayer, and the promise of pay DLC does not exactly increase my modest satiation with the title.

Next Time

Free to play games: Rare gems and gyps.
Game you should be playing, but aren't: Saints Row 2