Every now and again I like to think that, on the whole, mankind hasn’t done too badly for itself. We may not be plumbing the depths of deep space just yet, but the amount of our own we’ve killed in the name of some unseen deity or profitability is a record we can be doubly proud of. Doubly, because any creature wishing to challenge us for the record must first climb its way up to the top of the food chain – and last time I looked, there was no space beside me for an ocelot. And secondly; that number just keeps on getting higher, yet there’s somehow an overpopulation problem. 1-0 MonkeyMan.
Yet for all our aspiring simian shenanigans and the desire to strive forward and answer questions that keep us high and mighty in our glass towers of crapulence, we seem deadly skilled at undermining the very thing we seek to achieve with our understanding; our humanity. And proof can be found in the latest hype engorged poison chalice of DLC.
When consoles first became more than just a thing to make the smiles happen and grew up a bit I foresaw the future and felt afeared. If consoles take the route of PC gaming with on-line play, communities, maybe even add-ons to download, then what was to stop developers treating console games with the same disregard as their PC titles? For years the notion of buying a full game, everything on the disc with no extra expenditure, was one held true to every console. True, add-on packs did get a small showing back then - like GTA London, for lone, shining example. And, if we ignore the Gameboy/Nintendo console cross overs in games like Harvest Moon, these titles were never sold under the idea that by having them it would release further things from your original game other than extended gameplay at less than the full price of a game and maybe some nuns to run over.
Fast forward a few years, and the dystopian car crash of DLC has bought everyone in gaming onto an equal broken-footing at last. No longer can console gamers defend the ‘graphics aren’t as good’ argument with the faithful rest assured smile of one not having his rear end plundered in the name of System Requirements. Surrounded by a canopy of all new spangly next gen eye candy, ankle grabbing has taken the console gaming scene by storm as gamers are being forced to find positions to adopt that might make the subtle hammerings of DLC a little less eye-watering.
Anything that increases the life-span of a game in new and interesting ways is always to be commended, and those unlockable extras normally found within a game are a reward for having found the patience to sit there and discover that the cake is a lie but nevermind ‘cos heres’ some extra stuff for you to fling around and gawp at and maybe even sneak in a few things we really wanted in the game but someone high up said no to.
But what we are seeing now is an increasing tendency for rumour to spread of stories of developers deliberately with-holding game content for the add-on market of DLC after launch. How easy is this to believe as true and without question when, according to Microsoft’s IEB manager Kevin Salcedo, ‘…games with downloadable content sell $21 million more at retail…’ This is on games that have DLC released within 30 days of the game hitting the shelves, so it’s fairly easy to see why developers are tearing the arse out of the so called ‘sweet spot’ of after market add-ons.
Here I’m forced to wind my neck back in again, though, for it’s unfair to be tarring all developers with the same Fagin-brand brush of shame. Rockstar have only just recently released The Lost And Damned for GTA4, a one-third sized game at one third of a price. Considering these boys have past experience of understanding what people want in their add-ons and have pretty much nailed it this time around as well, many could think of it as ‘the norm’ for DLC and unwittingly become scornful and jaded once fully understanding, turning into one of the many who spend their days scouring internet pages looking for people who feel the same way they do, so they can sit all day and agree with each other by IM over and over again.
It’s such an unproductive waste when there is one company who deserves their tireless rants of self-righteous indignation. A company that has become like the family dog thats got just too old and too feeble and is starting to smell funny. I call you, NAMCO, and point to the damp spot on the floor before whacking your nose with the newspaper. NO, Namco, we do NOT piss on our own doorstep! Taking Star Wars and Soul Calibur and destroying what was barely a plot built on the shakiest of grounds is not an issue – it’s a fighting game, not Shakespeare, after all. Taking an unlockable character away until someone buys a code to unlock what is already on the disc, however…
When an ideas time has come it’s not too hard to see its effects in abundance, but for some it seems they like their abundance in piles of the folding stuff. Want to hear every song on Ridge Racer 6? Well, sir, for an extra £25, we can give you a code to unlock the bit on the disc that’s not letting you hear them yet. Sorry, sir? More, sir? Well, do you own My Beautiful Katamari?
You do? Why, yes, it was more affordable than most other titles. Until you buy the rest of the game from us by…yes, that’s right, sir, buying an unlock code that lets you get to the data already on the disc, letting you complete the game. Yes, sir, I know, sir, it’s amazing what wonders we weave, sir, now if you could just grab your ankles…
You are paying for something that you have ALREADY BOUGHT; you ALREADY OWN them! And don’t get this confused with the argument of ‘no-one’s making you buy it’ because I’m not into arguing who chooses my thoughts for me; I’m trying to establish why a developer thinks it is ok to charge for what you already own and try to pass it off under the banner of DLC.
If you went to pick up a car you bought and instead of seats and seat-belts there were orange boxes and string, only God or Jenna Jameson would be able to sell the original interior back to you. The same grey, faux leather interior that smells odd in summer and cracks in the winter though; nothing new or better. And it would only be after you’d finished staring at the glory before you that you would notice the seats were always there only hidden from view under an old blanket covered in stains and spit.
Adding something to an existing game increases customer loyalty and perceived value in the product itself, as well as ensuring a good run of sales. Trying to claw back some of the costs for developing on the new consoles by cynical and ham fisted brutality with DLC has yet to convince me of its winning formula status. If anything, it feels like an exclusion almost, an unspoken judgement on me as a gamer for not being the type of gamer who is genuinely bothered by not having every song in the list.
And it’s confusing when you factor in the ‘do they think I’m stupid’ portion of this equation, because Namco don’t really have a history of add-on packages so maybe they just don’t quite understand what people expect. But don’t these companies have people who see what goes on in these areas and make reports and have meetings and panel testing and then go and rip-off whatever the last successful thing was?
Having no real markers as to what consists of genuine DLC-worthy-content makes it hard to see anything being changed anytime soon, though. When people will pay the price, regardless of the product, nobody sells it cheaper, and the sounds of all those MS Points and PS3 key codes are obviously more than enough to drown out the sounds of dissention in the clamouring crowds of the DLC eager many, because for every company that offers some nourishing extra tid-bits for their games, many more are picking up rabbit droppings to sell a raisins outside the local health club. Only their customers don’t smile as much, obviously…
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