Written by Ryan Johnson (RyanDJ) Tuesday, 13 March 2012 06:00
BioWare has received a lot of flak lately due to the From Ashes Mass Effect 3 DLC. From what I understand, a bit of the flak is just, as they are alleged to flat-out lie about the timing of development, but there is another side claiming it wasn't 100% complete. Regardless, I have a few cents worth of opinion on the whole issue of DLC in general and how it is dealt with in sales in general.
First, I suppose I don't understand the idea of a "stock" new price. Why "must" games run $59.99? A few break the mold, but usually in the cheaper direction. I for one do NOT want games increasing in price, but there is something to be said for increasing price if the need is there to make up for the game content. Why does a fighting game with 12 characters, deep multiplayer, and a very short campaign cost the same day-one retail as an epic 80-hour RPG, or an open-sandbox, do-what-you-will super-detailed real-world-map game? That's like saying a Civic and a Lamborghini should be the same price because they're both cars and they both get you down the road. It is possible BioWare was out to shaft the world with Day 1 DLC, but it's also possible the end of a massive choose-your-own adventure trilogy needed a bit more funding to create. In either of the past two sentences, I'm not making any judgements on BioWare or which game genre is worth more. But games should simply be priced what they are worth, not some default stock price.
My second point primarily surrounds updates. From what I understand, games that come glitchy tend to stay glitchy, at least on-disc. I have bought/traded on Goozex for games knowing they are a newer press, be it a different box or what have you. Yet, the game still requests an update. If you clear a cache, it can kill all your updates. As games are developed, there is a place in the manufacturing process where the disc is coded. When an error, especially an exceptionally egregious one, is fixed, later presses of the disc should have them, and I also feel that the data for DLC (even if it is still locked until purchase) should be burned on as well if the disc has room (and from what I understand, most PS3 discs should have more than enough). Why? The future. One day, Xbox Live will die, as will the PSN. You can't get any more updates for the original Xbox, so why would you expect this generation to be different? I would love to see a dedicated server left at each respective site holding the last updates for all games, but I doubt that will happen. No, updates will be lost, people will hack together fake import machines that'll play everything like those boxes today that run every cartridge ever, and nobody will be able to play certain classic games from this period direct from disc without it ending like this:
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We already see a bit of this future with certain games that act fine from Xbox on a 360 until halfway through then they crash out. And no official company really cares about backwards compatibility; they'd rather sell you the old game again on the new console! If the data was available on-disc, then it'd at least be accessible somehow. At least on-disc patches would fix things like...that.
Lastly, hard drive space. When I bought Phoenix Wright on WiiWare, there was an extra case put out weeks later that ended up being only one block of Wii memory. The extra case was almost as detailed (if not more) than the other cases in the game. Obviously, that was...well, I guess it was On-DLC-DLC. But this was prior to me buying a memory card for my Wii, so I was thankful for the small hard drive take-up. Nintendo either needed more time or more funding (or yes, wanted to milk people), but it was there, and as in the first point, if I wanted it and it was worth it to me, I would buy it. I did, and it was. No regrets. This is why I love Game of the Year Editions. I have the original Red Dead and LA Noire, but the GOTY editions have all of the DLC, and none of the hard drive space is needed. Spread a gig or two here or there across all the games you own in DLC, your hard drive fills up fast. Putting existing DLC on disc would open up a lot of space on your hard drive if implemented right.
So, to summarize: I'd rather have the data on a disc I own (or as some say, Microsoft owns the disc, game company owns the right, I merely have a license to use the software). I'd like to see a company decide on a price based on the value of the game, not the entitled gamer deciding a new game must simply be $59.99. Take time to make an entire game, and let it feel complete as is. Put any DLC that comes out on all future presses of the disc.
Another thing I feel would up sales: It seems mere weeks after a game releases, the new price drops $10-$20. Part of the market dictates that a game drops in price after people have heard semi-bad reviews and then they need to drum up interest from folks who didn't buy it day one. Why not start pressing new copies of the disc with the DLC available and unlocked back at the original retail price? Give reason for the market to thrive with the new sales THERE instead of these locked sections of brand-new games (the Catwoman Arkham City data is the one that still gets me).
Lastly, would you pay for a bare-bones fighter at a bare-bones price if you paid per character? Or RPGs if you paid per "chapter?" What if games went the "freemium" model: all data is on the disc, but you can use the fighting game engine and two characters in demo mode for free, but it's truly the "whole game." Want to unlock the whole game? $59.99. Just want pieces? Pick 5 characters for $10. Options like that, working opposite of what people are complaining about on Mass Effect, would allow you to buy what you want of a game for the price you're willing to pay.
DLC is being taken advantage of regularly. Unlocking via real-world cash may be a sadly true future for all of us. But implemented right, it could also save us money, reach out to people less willing to blow $60 on something untested, and in the end, preserve the data that will be lost otherwise once the online servers go dark.