DLC and Compromise

You bastards. You know who you are. Peddlers. Charlatans. Vendors of 20$/hour DLC. Whatever happened to REAL expansions?

It was one thing back in the day to sell expansions as smaller-than-the-original-game pieces of content that extended a story out with new areas, gameplay, mechanics, and all that other good stuff. Sometimes they would cost upwards of 40$, but generally people considered expansions to be a “good thing”. If a game was successful, it was far faster and easier to work on a smaller expansion using the same game engine and tools than it was to create a sequel on upgraded technology that would take much longer to finish. Now we’re subjected to much smaller pieces of content, and they’re coming packaged separately from the main game at launch for reasons that don’t quite make sense to me. It’s a money grab, and people pay for it time and time again because they’re fans of the content, but why? Why subject ourselves to this?

It’s difficult to pin down exactly how things have spiraled out of control to a point where DLC is a skin of an existing model, or a short story segment that barely takes an hour to finish. Retail forces like to blame the used game shops while ignoring the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine putting up the defense that games are licensed, not sold. Even though there have been court cases stating very clearly that you get retail money for the initial sale, and defensible “licensing” comes with a specific end date to the license. Used game shops generally sell cheaper than retail and keep the profits in their pockets, but that shouldn’t be a concern to the retail market anyway. Their job is to get the first sale which should have rendered the entire concern bunk, but there’s money to be had here somewhere.

The mobile and indie game industries are also getting much more prevalence than in years past which means a lot of really cheap addicting games that do all kinds of pyschological manipulation to continue putting quarters in the machine, as it were. As a big retail publisher it’s easy to look over and see the little guys making tons of money on a business model you haven’t even considered. There’s also Facebook with a vast line of games and if you’re familiar with Newgrounds there’s an nigh endless amount of free or ad-supported flash games that could be played. Microtransactions are a term that comes to mind, even when we’ve strayed further and further away from the “micro” part of the transaction. It’s the same thing now, microtransactions have evolved into the modern-day DLC.

If you pay attention to me (yeah, that’s not a cry for help, I swear) you’ll know one of the big companies I like to pick on is EA. Not that other big guys like Activision :horksparklepony: :coughmappack: aren’t hard to fling mud at by any means, but I’m more familiar with the likes of Warhammer and the various Bioware titles. WAR at launch didn’t have any silly ass DLC, but by the time they started going underwater you can bet EA got on top of them to show there’s money to be made. Enter the pets! WAR had this whole thing where you could by a progression pack and a vanity pack for 10$ each or 15$ together. The progression pack was practically a requirement as it unlocked RR ranks about 100 (which over time became the current reality of the game). At the time there was a fair amount of distaste, but hey! It was development! The game was going to raise a boatload of cash and DO something with it! :hackWrathofHeroes:

 

Go down this list of what Bioware has released since 2008 and tell me that’s what you want the gaming future to look like. Dragon Age was the first with Wardens Keep. Remember that? It was literally a 7 room keep and a courtyard that you paid money for. The playtime on that piece of DLC was well under an hour, some people getting it done in 20 minutes. 20 minutes of gameplay. What is that worth to you? Are you an MMO gamer? 20 minutes of gameplay might be worth pennies if you’re someone like me that pays 15$ a month for 150 hours of gameplay. My point is, these games have been getting shorter and the amount of DLC isn’t slowing down any time soon. EA isn’t the only guy at the party, as I alluded to earlier, so where are we going with all of this? Here’s another giant of the gaming industry, 2009, doing exactly the same thing. What used to be expansions are now simply DLC, short irritating pieces of lowly rated garbage that are vastly overpriced for what is put into them.

Are people really going to continue paying for DLC that more and more frequently just isn’t worth the time? Are companies really going to continue to put out low quality bits of filler that just shred any credibility they might have had? The answer to both of these questions is unfortunately, yes. People are rabid for content that comes from trusted faces, and they’ll pay out the nose if they think it’s going to be worth it. Take a look at Apple stock sometime. I can assure you, they’re not out there making technological leaps and bounds, people simply trust them. That’s all. Companies exist to make money. They don’t give a fuck about you. If they take feedback into consideration, it’s because you’ve said something that will make them more money (or lose less). Or at least, that’s the answer that’s been given to me. Why should companies give up these sources of revenue that people obviously go out of their way for?

Because it’s breeding people like me. Lots of them. You do NOT want to piss off the people that love your games. We’re very bitter when crossed. Most of us are more than happy to walk away, sometimes however we get into this habit of just throwing rocks through windows. You might have a huge fanbase that is willing to sit there and pay for any bits of garbage you dribble down to them, but eventually your reputation will start to sink in, and if you look at what Microsoft went through with Vista, it’s not an easy thing to recover from.

 

So lets compromise.

I propose that DLC be treated as a time-limited monetary goal. What needs to happen is this DLC be given a window of time that it can be purchased after it becomes available. The driving factor of that window would be based on the sales goal they have in mind. Basically once a piece of DLC is released, it’s sold at a set amount until it reaches it’s goal, then it gets taken off the market for a period of time before being added to the base game for any customers that have already purchased it. This is market responsibility in action, and it does a handful of things all at the same time.

– First and foremost, it gives the finacial team a goal they can provide investors. A target if you will. When we hit this number, success happens. Your investment becomes paid off, investors are generally happy with what they dropped some money on, and the company puts a bit in their pocket as a win.
– Second, it gives the developers a reason to jam pack this piece of DLC to the gills with content that is engaging and interesting. Adding value to every product drives customer approval, and when approval is high, sales come quick. It lays accountability to the product on the line.
-Third, it gives an option to those of us on the periphery whether or not to engage in the early experience of the content, or take our bets that it will sell quick and we c
an pick it up for free afterwards. This concept of time = money applies for so many other things, gamers are intimately familiar with it.
There’s probably a bunch of other things that a strategy like this does, but I’m going to stick with these for now.

You stop breeding contempt at some point when you go outside the despicable norm and start doing things that make sense beyond a fiscal level. Trion for example may be the first AAA MMO that hasn’t laid off hundreds of it’s staff post-launch in many years. That resonates HARD, not only among players that appreciate that sort of sentiment, but in the industry where people get bounced in and out of companies like pinballs.

 

I just don’t see how companies are going to be able to keep up the status quo of 30 minute pieces of DLC. Something’s gotta give.

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One thought on “DLC and Compromise

  1. Just like I have to explain what a vinyl record is to my daughter, it will be the same for expansion packs.I like many EA games, just not their company philosophy of nickle and dimming me to death.

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