Mad Mack: Is DLC Greed Bleeding Us Dry?
DLC. What are we going to do about it? On the one hand (the hand you masturbate with), it is a way for developers to extend the life of our beloved games by delivering new content, without forcing us to wait and pay full price for a sequel. On the other hand (the one you wipe yourself with), it can be used as a cynical ploy to extract more cash out of the gaming public, by forcing us to pay for additional content that should really already be part of the game on release.
There is also the issue of using DLC as a way to rip us off by selling cosmetic ‘upgrades’ to the game, but that is more down to individual choice and subject to traditional free market forces than necessary content. So if you want to buy a character skins pack, or horse armour, please knock yourself out. No, I mean that literally: knock yourself out because you are of far more value to this planet unconscious than conscious, even if that is just based on the fact that you steal less oxygen when you are asleep.
So, DLC. I for one don’t have a massive problem with extra content that is well managed and executed. Extra mission packs for Mass Effect every couple of months? Yep, count me in. Extra multiplayer maps and some extra guns? Sure, if that’s your thing. You go to town on that shit. Hell, if game designers want to ensure that piracy and pre-owned game use is kept to a minimum, then by all means include some DLC or access-based incentives to encourage fresh purchases. Take the Catwoman mission pack in Arkham City for example. Even if the content is a Day One download, as long as it is freely included with the standard version of the game, then who can complain? Pirates, that’s who, and they don’t have much of a compelling argument to make.
For those who believe pirates are some sort of internet freedom fighter, just remember that it does take a lot of money away from games developers, forcing the smaller development houses to close and concentrating all of the dev teams into large monolithic organisations like EA or Activision. Don’t believe me? Crysis 2 was the most pirated game of 2011 with nearly 4million pirated copies distributed online. I don’t want to get into a political debate here, but the fact is that we all hate that games are going the way of films and appealing to the lowest common denominator, and one of the reasons for this is that only large corporations have the resilience to withstand game piracy on a large scale. And seriously – Fuck EA. Shitcunts.
What can eat a dick however, is Day One DLC not included in the standard version of the game. DLC that you either have to pay separately for, on top of the £40/$50 cost of the game, or that you get for ‘free’ in a special edition along with a tin box and a special avatar item. That kind of DLC is the worst kind. You see, in order to adequately incentivise the gamer into paying for the DLC or the special edition, then it has to have fairly substantial content, which in the case of Day 1 DLC, will mean that it is content that is important to the game, which will mean that not owning it will noticeably reduce the amount of fun you will have while playing. I could cite several examples of games omitting crucial content for the sake of extra dollars, but we all know there is one game that really typifies this sort of approach.
Yes, Mass Effect 3 – you are the King of Shitty DLC. Now come up to the front and accept your award. Stand on your pedestal, so we can put a rope around your neck and kick it out from under you, you exploitative fuck.
However, I love Mass Effect, and have harped on about this before, so let’s not dwell (oh and FYI, the official FMV Magazine stance on the extended cut ending is ‘Better. But Still Shit’ – which isn’t likely to be quoted on any promotional material any time soon, but there we are).
There is another DLC strategy that appears to be emergent among new release games. It is something that as far as I can tell was pioneered by Activision, those self-serving fucks that have given us the same Modern Warfare game three times. I am of course talking about subscription-based purchasing. What is that you say? For those lucky few that have not had their minds blown by this new concept, it basically means that you pay a fixed amount up front (going price is about £40/$50 right now – yep, that’s correct, it is the full cost of a whole other game!) and for that you get access to ‘premium’ content such as map packs, mission packs, exclusive events and additional in game goodies. Treat yourself. Of course you could just choose to pay for all of the added content on a rolling basis, but they cleverly make sure that to do so would cost you much more than the cost of the subscription (yes, more than £40/$50 – more than the cost of the original game).
So I can see how this might work in games with a core multiplayer or competitive component – Modern Warfare or Battlefield are two notable examples – but now I see that for the upcoming Darksiders 2 release they are offering a premium subscription service that will give you ‘free’ access to planned DLC. Are you fucking kidding me THQ? A single player RPG (don’t give me anything about how they have planned multiplayer horde mode or something – Mass Effect tried that shit and it was OK at best) does not have any ongoing online element. Why the fuck would we want to subscribe to be part of a free goodies club? We don’t even know if the game is going to be any good. Darksiders was ok for an emo Zelda clone, but you have to seriously up your game if you think I am doing anything other than getting you rental off LoveFilm. Especially after you have tried this shit.
In fact, Darksiders is a perfect example of all of the worst DLC strategies at play. Let’s run through the list and see what we got:
Day One DLC
Ho ho. What’s this? Well it looks like there is Day 1 DLC called ‘Argul’s Tomb’ that is being offered for free if you purchase the limited edition. Now the site is somewhat ambiguous about this, as it could be that Argul’s Tomb is just a strategy to discourage second hand and pirates and that the ‘Limited Edition’ might be the standard edition (really THQ? Really?), but the THQ website suggests that the DLC is free as a reward for pre-ordering. So for the sake of this argument we can assume that if you buy your game in the shop any day after launch, well, fuck you pal, you are paying for that shit. Cheers THQ. You fucks.
Offered for ‘free’ if you buy the £70 Collectors Edition (along with a life size plastic Death mask that costs all of 50p to injection-mould in China), but charged at a cost to everyone else who is not completely retarded. This season pass gives you access to Argul’s Tomb as well as the next two DLC packs planned for launch. You know what is wrong with this set up (apart from the fact that a season pass for a single-player RPG makes no sense – when it comes to every single-player game ever you already get a season pass when you buy the game: it’s called the FUCKING GAME DISC!)? I will tell you what is wrong – you are paying for content that may not even exist yet, for a game you have never played.
Darksiders 2 could be utter shit. Remember Deus Ex 2? Yeah, now imagine that based on some clever marketing and how good the first game was, you decided to pay for a season pass for that steaming shitpile. Yeah. Not such a good idea now is it?
On top of that you are paying for content up-front based on absolutely nothing. If the next two DLC packs had just one single level, and all you did in that level was walk around a dungeon and looked at pictures of the development team’s balls, well what are you going to do? The Terms and Conditions for that sort of downloaded content are firmly in the favour of the developers. You can’t get your money back just because either the core game or the DLC is shit. Hell, I rented Captain America on Zune a few months ago, and I swear that they should have paid me all the money they made on that movie back, such was the level of balls I was forced to endure. But did they owe me anything just because I had paid for something terrible? No, they didn’t owe me shit.
I would offer one caveat to the above comments though. If it is a game that you know you love, and believe that the development team will deliver top level content to the point where you would likely be paying for all the DLC anyway and the season pass offers a genuine value for money saving, then it may be worth it. However, bear in mind that the season pass may only be value for money because the game publishers have artificially inflated the price of the DLC to purchase separately.
For example, I will probably pay for all of the Mass Effect 3 DLC mission packs, but I would not pay more than say £5 for the content. Now the same can be said for Battlefield 3: I would probably pay for all of the DLC if it is priced at £5. But it isn’t – it’s about £10 for the Close Quarters or Karkand packs, and will be the same for the next 3 packs. But the premium service is only £35, which gets you all 5! Bargain! Saving of £15! Well not really, because for me the objective value of a map pack is only £5. This is an example of the DLC price being artificially inflated in order to generate more money from a season pass by dressing it up as a bargain.
The publishers win twice with a season pass. I can say now that I will probably pay for the BF3 or ME3 DLC as it comes out. But there is a chance I will have moved on by the time the DLC comes out, so I might not want another map pack or might not consider it value for money. So EA would have lost out. By incentivising me to pay for the premium service, they don’t really give a shit if I am still playing in 6 months, because they have got all the money out of me they are going to get. Basically, fuck EA. Again.
Bonus Kit for Pre-Order/Special Editions/future purchase
Great. I get a free bit of in-game kit if I pre-order or pay for the premium edition. And no doubt there will be future weapon or armour packs for sale, even if they are just the ones available as bonuses at launch. We have all fallen for it once. You play through the game and develop your strategy based on the best weapon you can find that works for you. Then you pay for a weapon pack and realise that every weapon is just not as good as the ones you already like, so you fuck them off back to the rusting pile of other weapons you have collected along the way. I did it in Mass Effect 2 – I will never do it again.
There you go. Day 1 DLC, Season Pass and extra kit. Bad. And it looks like all of these cash-milking ploys are here to stay – Halo 4 is already making rumblings about similar season passes or premium subscriptions, and no doubt Blizzard and other exploitative fucks are looking at moving to a more subscription-based service.
Just to recap, because I know there are some mouth breathers out there that will read a few lines of this and then jump to the comments section:
Additional Content as DLC: Good
DLC as a way to encourage new purchases and discourage pirates: Good
Day One DLC just because: Bad
Season Pass: Bad
Additional Kit: Bad
David ‘Mad_Mack’ bought a Premium membership to Battlefield 3 and is no stranger to hypocrisy. In his defence he hated himself for it but really loves Battlefield 3 and would be paying for the additional DLC anyway. But yeah, fuck that guy and this article.
You can follow Dave on his new Twitter – @Mad_Mack_fmv
He has 5 followers. Popular guy.