The Duality of DLC

I hear it brought up all the time when talking about the landscape of video games. “This DLC is such a rip off, why can’t it just be included in the game,” or “Developers are selling us half-finished games, just so they can gouge us later for content.”

Don’t even get them started on Pay-to-Play games.

And sometimes it’s hard to argue with the cynics. “Star Wars: Battlefront” is adding more maps through DLC than were shipped with the initial game through a $50 Season Pass. “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege” seems to almost push players to buy the in-game currency with real money in order to expedite the grind of its leveling system.

Gamers are mad because their perception is that they seem to be getting less and less game for more and more money. I see that side for sure. I‘m not thrilled that I will have to pay around the full price of another game just to get more maps in “Battlefront.”

Unfortunately though, the DLC-clad landscape we currently live in is a product of the market, fans and development costs.

In the beginning when the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were just names and hype, the worry around the gaming community was how much are the prices of games going to go up? But then, publishers surprised everyone and announced that the games were going to stay at the $60 price point introduced in the last generation.

Gamers and their wallets rejoiced.

Little did they know how much of a negative impact it would actually have.

Keeping the games at $60 is a nice gesture to consumers, but now the big companies are making a lot less on initial releases. Inflation is a fact of life and a $60 game released in 2007 now costs $68.82. While eight dollars does not seem like that much, multiply that by the millions of copies sold and publishers are missing out on a lot of extra cash.

Another huge factor is that development costs are rising even higher in the current generation of consoles and it isn’t even close. According to research done by “Kotaku,” a Triple-A game such as “Gears of War 2” or the original “Bioshock” cost their developers around $12-15 million to develop. Today, a “cheap” AAA game gets developed for around $30 million and that is on the low side. “Watch Dogs” cost Ubisoft over $68 million to produce, while Bungie’s baby, “Destiny,” cost the company around $140 million.

The scary thing is that these hefty price tags for development don’t even factor in marketing or other non-development costs.

Making games is pretty damn expensive.

“So Alex, where the hell does this tie into all this DLC crap?”

Well, I was just getting to that.

Publishers are simply not making the same kind of money that they were when games initially released back in the early-to-mid 2000’s. When it comes to the big hitters like “Halo” and “Fallout”, it is safe to assume that these games make back their development costs in the first few weeks, but where the profit is being made is on the backend with DLC and season passes.

More extra major content, players are usually paying around $15 per release or $50 for the new trend of season passes, which actually does save gamers in the long run. This extra source of revenue makes up for the expenses of current gen game development and fis a no brainer for publishers.

These packs are relatively cheap to create (compared to the original games), easy to distribute and can potentially bring in an exorbitant amount of money. For example, say a game sells 15 million copies but only a million of those people buy the season pass. While only 6.67% of the player base is buying these passes, the company still pulls in $50 million without even breaking a sweat.

Now to be clear, I am not justifying the current trend, but putting it into perspective. As much as gamers want to view gaming as an art form, publishers are still companies in a free market system and last time I checked, the goal is to make as much money from a product as possible.

DLC in most cases is content that is just extra add-ons that are not integral to the core game and there are games that do handle it very well such as “The Witcher 3” and “Fallout 4’s” extra story content. These are/will be great extra experiences that could not have been ready at launch but at the same time are not needed to have a full experience with the game.

But in today’s day and age, it does appear at times that some content seems to be held back or is placed behind a paywall when it would have been included in a game at launch even five years ago.

So now that we know the problem, what can we do to solve it?

Well, nothing overnight. When a successful trend in business takes hold, it is hard to stop.

Luckily though, gamers live in a time where they have a direct line to developers. Tweet, email and message people who work at EA, Activision, etc. and express your displeasure with the current system. If you feel it, advocate for a higher initial price point if that is what it takes to get fuller games again.

Remember to keep it respectful because yelling at people isn’t going to get anything constructive done and most times, the person you’re calling a piece of shit didn’t set the price point for that DLC you begrudgingly bought.

While reaching out is a great way to create change, the loudest way people can speak is through their wallets. If you don’t support the idea of $50 season passes, do not buy them. If a company loses money on their product, chances are they are going to rethink their strategy.

Whether gamers like it or not, DLC is a product of the current gaming environment that isn’t going away any time soon, which it shouldn’t. At best, it’s a great new extra experience on top of an already rewarding experience and at worst, it’s a gouging pay-to-play monstrosity. Gamers do have a voice in all this though and can fight back with their voices and their wallets.

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