The Day One DLC Trap

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The Day One DLC Trap

Shamus discusses the muddy waters of DLC.

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I'm fine with DLC, but Day one DLC disgusts me.

Personally I wouldn't really lump the Saboteur DLC in with stuff like Dragon Age or Mass Effect 2, since "naked breasts" aren't cut content per se - the DLC itself cuts out content (the pasties), and okay fine it added a few other insignificant bonuses but one could hardly claim that they are selling you back missing parts of the game like you could with the Shale example.

Also it's a clever way to exploit your target audience's predilections and also avoid having to advertise the product features nudity out of the box, since that's the optional extra.

Shamus Young:
How deep does the developer cut into the base game? And how much do they charge for it if you've acquired the game second-hand or simply lost the account info? What parts of the game should be DLC? Perhaps some small unlockables? A side-quest or two? The final boss fight? The entire second half of the game?

In Mass Effect 2, the "free with a new game" feature is the Cerberus Network, which includes free content but also happens to be how you download any DLC. So, for example, a used copy of the game wouldn't be able to download the free Dr. Pepper helmets, and possibly paid expansions in the future (depending on how they get implemented).

On the other hand, color me apathetic. I rarely buy used games, as I know the developers get nothing for them, so this doesn't really impact me in any way other than academically.

Day 1 DLC isn't the worst thing ever if it is free. Of course developers would charge for the DLC if you don't buy the game new. If you buy it used form gamestop, THE DEVELOPERS GET NOTHING. This way, they will get a small proportion of the sales of the game from a percentage of the population that get it used. And some money is always better than no money.

Now, stuff being cut from the game, and forcing everyone to pay for it? It can get very muddy. Rock Band did it, but the argument is that you can pick and choose what songs you want, and you don't have to have anything forced on you. Plus, none of the songs were "essential" for the game, it was only for your own enjoyment. Plus, it wasn't a case of a 1-time DLC, we still get Rock Band DLC each week. Assassins Creed 2 does this where

*SPOILERS*

Two whole chapters are literally cut out of the main story as a plot event. Paid, yet still somewhat cheap, DLC will fill those two chapters in.

*END SPOILERS*

Mass Effect 2 did it as well. You got a new mission and a new character, that while interesting and really cool, did not overall affect the story. This is a good way to do it.

I was going to disagree with you until I remembered to make the distinction between day one DLC and pre-order DLC. In most cases, pre-order DLC is nothing but a buying incentive, like the extra in-game items they give to players of Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2. The game isn't really any worse for it without having Bergen's Honor or Terminus Assault armor, it's just a lure for people to buy the game in advance and give it a good head start.

Original purchase DLC, however, is a different story. I'm gonna take Bioware's games as an example again, because they seem very keen on it. In Dragon Age, as you mentioned, you get Shale as a party member, and in Mass Effect 2, you get the Cerberus Network. Both are substantially bigger additions than just another in-game item. So yes, you're right to ask where the line between goodie and game feature lies. I suspect this distinction between pre-order and original purchase is indeed to counteract piracy, but that is for another time.

It was within the last decade that DLC used to be FREE as incentive for people to by the game. When LIVE first came out on the XBOX, it was awesome.. I bought games and months later I got free content to add onto the games. For PC games it was free long before that if it wasn't part of a full expansion pack.

Then just as people predicted, once they got their customer base, MS started sayin "OK, Time to pay up suckers!".

I thought "Wait a minute, I paid for the system, the game, the 50 bucks a year for the online service, and NOW I have to start paying for little fiddly bits?" That was when I canceled my account and I switched mostly to PC where I don't have to put up with that nonsense if I don't want to.

Shale is definatly a part of the core game.
He was featured in the first trailers of the game and if you insert him in your party via console commands you will see that every party member has a number.
For example to ad Zevran you will gave to type in something along the lines of
Ad partymember 7
Shale has the number 5.
So if you dont have the dlc, the party designed before they had the dlc in mind
was numbered:
1 - Alistair
2 - Dog
3 - Morrigan
4 - Wynne
5 - none without dlc
6 - Sten
7 - Zevran
8 - Oghren
9 - Leliana
10 - Spoiler, wont tell you who he is ;)

They wouldnt have numbered the 5th character in the dlc free game Nr 6 unless they were planning to include Shale from the very beginning.

Source: http://dragonage.wikia.com/wiki/Console

So yeah Shale was at one point part of the original game and was later removed to make him dlc content.

Metalteeth9:

*SPOILERS*

Two whole chapters are literally cut out of the main story as a plot event. Paid, yet still somewhat cheap, DLC will fill those two chapters in.

*END SPOILERS*

Only kinda-sorta. Ubisoft wanted to make their announced release date, so they abandoned the material that wasn't essential to the game's narrative. After they were done with the game, they revisited this material and polished it up for later.

Unlike w/ Dragon Age and Mass Effect, where I am thoroughly convinced that BioWare started planning DLC at the same time they started the game proper, and really did *cut* material that was already in the game proper to re-market as DLC.

With that being said, I don't mind DLC as an incentive, but I think Shamus does a fine job of explaining why gamers can't just accept it as such; there is indeed a fine line between being shown appreciation and being taken advantage of, and I BioWare has been doing the latter for their past couple of releases. You don't release 3 expansions within a month of the game's release date without some kind of prior planning.

Furthermore, I don't mind paying for any DLC that actually improves or expands the core game play experience--not COMPLETES it.

i have always been bothered with DLC that adds to the main quest, it just seems like they left out a chunk of the story, which is especially clear in asscreeds dlc, but while i of cause prefer the valve or stardock method, its just not going to happen, i would also prefer if they would drop GFWL, the new 60 euro price-tag, supported dedicated servers and LAN, but its never going to happen.

great article as usual though.

edit: i had a ton of problems with my ea dragon age account so i got shale about 1-2 hours before i finished the game, but wasn't "it" a he?.

DLC should be available after a game is released and consumers have had a chance to enjoy it. That way a dev team can use the in-between time to fix problems and put out fun new add-ins. Day One DLC pretty much says "out initial game stinks so try this right away"

Two thumbs up, well written and insightful, accurate and articulate.

Thank you Shamus.

Reminds me of the XBox 360 TF2 debacle - Valve has always released updates to the PC version that refine the gameplay and add extra items for the player base's enjoyment, but Microsoft refuses to allow distribution of these updates without charging x-amount of MS Points for them. So console players have a worse position: either accept DLC as the way things work, or be stuck with the Day One version of the game (which in TF2's case is very bad news.)

Wait... "Shale and her quest"? her quest? Have I missed on of the subtleties of the English language or does Shale turn out to be ...?

"So the Stardock system rewards you for buying new. The day one DLC system punishes you for not buying new. "

I see the opposite. With the Stardock system, your boxed game is forever locked at 1.00 with no updates or extra content. You can never play online, and you dont even have the option. That's punishing people for buying used: The used copy is forever out of date and lacks major in-the-box features.

With the Dragon Age model, you are still allowed to get any free content they release, you're still given the opportunity to purchase expansion packs and DLC: You just get one bit of DLC free for buying new. That's a reward.

I don't like the ME2 DLC, you had to d'l the 500mb free Cerberus pack in order to be able to use any DLC you wanted.

Do companies like EA and Bioware assume everyone has high speed internet and a virtually unlimited download limit? It would have been easier if they put it on an extra disc inside the package.

There are only 2 things I hate about ME2, this is one of them.

I don't mind Mass Effect 2's DLC, since its just a few add-ons that don't have a large impact on the story.

I was expecting the Bounty Hunter guy to be like Shale in terms of his personal story. In the end he ended up being pretty shallow compared to the other characters, which I would normally complain about but since it was free, I can't really say anything bad about it.

IgneusMaeror:
Wait... "Shale and her quest"? her quest? Have I missed on of the subtleties of the English language or does Shale turn out to be ...?

Its...
well...

Its complicated. Play through Orzamaar with Shale in your party at all times and it will be revealed.

You can tell if DLC was taken out of the game and added later because the amount of data you download is different. If its in the game already its usually only around 500kb or less. If its brand new it can be over 5mb

To those who asked about the "she" thing:

Do Shale's personal quest. It explains everything.

IgneusMaeror:
Wait... "Shale and her quest"? her quest? Have I missed on of the subtleties of the English language or does Shale turn out to be ...?

...if so, I am SO glad I have missed that part...

With all the money Microsoft is raking in, perhaps the best move for them is to open stores like Apple did.

Then then could not only sell computers and phones with their OS's, but they could also buy used games from people and sell them second hand so publishers and developers can still make money. Plus, it'll give good competition to Gamestop not only in the used games department, but also in the peripheral department. Heck, they could even make money off of third party equipment that way.

It wouldn't have to be a lot of stores as they would probably lose money that way, but a few in highly populated areas would definately be beneficial in the ways I described above.

I don't think Sony is in a position to do such a thing, but they have a much wider scope of products, and they sell just fine in places like Best Buy. Maybe they and Microsoft could cut a deal so MS could skim a little off the top and give some of the second hand sales of PS3 games back to Sony as well.

Honestly, anything is better than DRM. And I don't care what kind of DLC is included when bought new. If the game is shit, I don't buy it. Besides, what about the people who buy games new after they have dropped in price? I can't imagine publishers and developers make a whole lot of money that way.

Virgil:

Shamus Young:
How deep does the developer cut into the base game? And how much do they charge for it if you've acquired the game second-hand or simply lost the account info? What parts of the game should be DLC? Perhaps some small unlockables? A side-quest or two? The final boss fight? The entire second half of the game?

In Mass Effect 2, the "free with a new game" feature is the Cerberus Network, which includes free content but also happens to be how you download any DLC. So, for example, a used copy of the game wouldn't be able to download the free Dr. Pepper helmets, and possibly paid expansions in the future (depending on how they get implemented).

On the other hand, color me apathetic. I rarely buy used games, as I know the developers get nothing for them, so this doesn't really impact me in any way other than academically.

The second the prices are fair I'll gladly buy new...in fact I almost demand it. I can't stand other people touching my stuff (I'm not greedy I'm just kind of like Adrian Monk...I have a thing with people touching my stuff...hard to explain).

My biggest problem is when companies ignore the fact that living is expensive. I understand businesses need money, employees need to get paid, and so on and so forth. But don't treat your customers like a paycheck, once you just start looking at numbers everything gets really ugly.

60 bucks probably isn't over the top for a really good game, Considering how much I've played borderlands it might be a fair price.

But I just can't afford that. If multiple companies come out with games at that price I'll be choosing only one and the rest lose out. However if they all cut their costs they'd get that sale from me. If there are 3 games, and 3 people, and each person can only afford the full cost of one game. cutting the cost to a third of what it is means (theoretically) all three would buy it.

Now sure you only make the same amount of money either way 60 bucks, but now you've got a larger demographic. So your expansions are more likely to sell as well. You've also got happier people because they get a good deal which helps them feel good about their purchase which makes them look less critically at your end product. I am MUCH more friendly about bad game design when the game is inexpensive. I've bought some fairly bad stuff off the playstation network but then I think "Well damn it was 5 bucks I can't be too mad." :P

The Pokemon Platinum Game Guide for instance is something like 600 pages, I got it for 13 dollars. Everytime I look at it I get a warm feeling in my tummy. Had it been a 40 dollar guide I'd probably just scoff at it.

Good deals and fair prices make people feel really really good. I'm even open for DLC if the pricing is fair or if the original game was awesome sauce. I very nearly bought the DLC for Borderlands (very very nearly).

Shamus Young:
To those who asked about the "she" thing:

Do Shale's personal quest. It explains everything.

I assume Shale was a she from the moment Shale kept giving me shit. I figured it was a reasonable assumption ;).

"Jeeze I'm trying to be nice and you are just stomping on my feelings...OH you must be female." :P

Yes console players: Online activation can happen to you. Whenever I bring up online activation, some people will respond, "This is why I'm glad to be a console player."

Geez, was this directed at me? Because I said that exact same thing on a post to last week's article? Because if so, I'll let you know I'm a 360 player in Brazil, and there is no Xbox Live support in Brazil, so I can't have a Live account at all (there are some shenaningans to get an American or European account, but I don't do shenaningans). Therefore, any DLC content is off limits for me, even if it's a free download with a game I were to buy new, so thanks for rubbing it in my face, jerk.

If not, great article! Love your comics! Love you!

And your even more fucked if your like me and don't have your consoles connected to the internet, thus removing ANY possibility for DLC.

Just to add real quick, Playstation downloads play just fine when not hooked up to the Internet, so far anyway.

Otherwise, great points you make, and I wish I had read this article before buying Dragon Age Origins, which might have saved me from a role-player that is mediocre in every way except for its superficial veneer.

I think mass effect 2 handled it better the dragon age, shale seemed cut but zeed and the normandy crash site both seem added and not really that great on thier own, just like you would expect form dlc.

Really tho what Ive always hoped would happen was companies would reward early purchasers, like say dlc comes out, an early buyer would get a code to access it for free or the game would identify when you first booted it up so you would have free access too it or something, day one dlc always just seemed like its a punishment like the article mentioned

My view on what's acceptable for DLC is pretty damn simple. If a player plays the game, with no DLC, no downloads, no whatever, would that experience be worth the $60 purchase? As far as I'm concerned, if the product in the box is worth $60, they can cut as much as they want. Who cares if they cut 30 hours and made it DLC... As long as what's left is still worth the purchase.

I like how Valve release a lot of TF2 updates for the PC version. I have the console version, but I'm going to buy the PC version as well because of this.

I was listening to an interview with one of the developers of Mass Effect 2 on IGN's Game Scoop, and he said that they where hands off on the game by the end of November so it could be tested and approved, and the rest of the time until release they worked on the DLC.

This is a tough one. I do think that developers should be getting something from those used retailers, and if the way to do it is content that is free on a new copy of something and paid for on a used copy, then it seems on the surface a good thing. As said though, it really does depend on where the line is drawn.

Would I have been happy with DA:O without Shale? Sure, but Shale really does add a lot to the game (assuming you like the character, of course). I think the Shale DLC is what I would call a great place to draw the line. A real tangible bonus for buying a new copy of a game, but nothing that really breaks the game or makes it overly less enjoyable if you buy used and don't buy the DLC.

I love how Stardock releases DLC that actually improves upon the game. Great article!

Hmm. I personally quite like day-one DLC. If it is from a developer that I trust, such as Bioware, then I have no problem with day-one DLC. (Though it is part of EA now, so maybe I shouldn't.)

And DLC has always been rather cheap. I make money, I can spare a few dollars for some extra content for my game.

The problem comes in when content is cut from the original game on purpose, then we have to pay extra for it no matter what. I can't think of any companies that have done this right off the top of my head, but if I were to find out about it I'd be enraged.

I mean, I suppose it's perfectly fair of them, but it's still completely backhanded. They are supposed to be making games because they love games and want us to have an excellent experience with one, not because they want to make as much money as possible!

So, maybe I am just a sucker. I dunno'. I want to believe the developers of some of my favorite games do these evil things, but I realize it would be naive to believe it unconditionally. I think I will wait for some serious proof before I decide to start getting enraged over this whole DLC issue.

Does anybody know how much game developers "lose" to second hand sales? I am curious as to the numbers, because unless second hand sales are more than the first hand sales the developers get I find this kind of behavior completely inexcusable, and wonder why customers tolerate it. Imagine if car companies only sold cars on the condition that you and you alone would ride in it, and would only accept massive amounts of your money if you jumped through a bunch of hoops and gave them all sorts of personal information to let them control who could ride in your car. And if you ever did carpool or give someone else a lift, they retained the right to kill your car and render it inoperable, or hamstring it so that you couldn't drive it more than 10 miles in a day. This is basically the arrangement game developers have established.

Why do we put up with this nonsense? Big developers seem to be making it the problem of their customers to ensure that they make record profits. Personally, I don't care if EA makes another ton of money. Their financial well being is not my concern. If their games are not up to my standards, I won't buy them. If they can't offer games that are reasonable in terms of weird license agreements and ownership issues, then they can go bankrupt for all I care. If they can't make the money they want in the games industry, they should find another line of work. And in my opinion, for all the money they spend on their games, I think they produce generally crappy material. Indie developers working for nothing more than love of the craft of gamemaking produce better games. Huge budgets are not necessary. I don't think the games industry would suffer in the slightest if giants like EA died and rotted into nothingness. Small studios staffed by people who love their job produce better games than soulless multinational corporations seeking billion dollar profits.

How hard will you work for games that consistently disappoint you? Stop being sheep!

The people who try to defend day one DLC, especially on a game like DA:O, make me laugh really hard and then I want to punch them in the face for being so stupid.

Since it's the popular game to address about day one DLC, I'll go on about DA:O. The developers claim that Shale and the Storage box quest weren't ready for release when all the other stuff was. I call bullshit on this. I admit that I can't be 100% about Shale not being ready (though, I am extremely suspect about it). There's no excuse for having to remove the storage box from being next to the camp fire(which I'm reasonably sure is where it originally was) and then put it in some quest as DLC. If you've got major concerns that a storage box wont be ready in time for release, you've either got no talent hacks working on your game or you're delusional. Though, maybe, just maybe, they flat out lied about it not being ready and just yanked it out in a lame ass money grab. Oh no, Bioware would never do something like that to their fans! I should be crucified for such blasphemy, I'm sure. It's not like we're talking about a company that sold its soul to EA and promptly screwed over their fanbase with the weaksauce that was Mass Effect. For those who fail to see the sarcasm dripping from those last few sentences, you are the fools I'm making fun of.

DA:O would have probably restored my faith in Bioware, if they hadn't decided to screw over their fans with the day one DLC.

LordZ:

snip

DA:O would have probably restored my faith in Bioware, if they hadn't decided to screw over their fans with the day one DLC.

I abhore day 1 DLC just as much as the next guy but you seem to be blaming the developer which does seem to care for the fanbase when you have the bloated evil mostrosity that is EA as the publisher that holds the purse strings and gets final say in what will be DLC or not. I mean it's not as if EA have tried to nickel and dime everything the possibly can for years before DLC was even thought of (see the sims expansions) is it? I think that the bioware team would have preferred to have all those things out of the box but their evil overlords are the ones who told them no.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Day One DLC Trap

Shamus discusses the muddy waters of DLC.

Read Full Article

I think the Day One DLC that got people angry wasn't so-much Shale as it was the Warden's Keep. $15 I think it was for one very short quest and a feature that should have been in the default game. Highway robbery, that. Frankly Shale is just a character IMO. It's a side quest to unlock him and I'm sure the game is 100% beatable without him.

Over-all though, I do agree with the article. DLC is just a sign of the times. Economy is in a crunch, and the video game industry is no different. So to try and eke-out that few extra bucks from the customers developers are starting to give us less game for the same money, then they go-on to release DLC which is usually over-costed when you compare the original game's Time:Cost ratio to that of the DLC. I know for sure that was the case with Fallout 3 where all 5 DLCs doubled your cost (or nearly doubled if you were a console player), but there sure as hell isn't twice as much content across all the DLC. It's like you bought 70% of the game for full price, then had to buy it "again" for the other 30%.

Edit: Also, I would like to degree from this day forth a new term: "D1DLC", or even "D1D" would be acceptable. Spread the word, my cohorts!

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