Going Gold: To Your Heart's (Downloadable) Content

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Going Gold: To Your Heart's (Downloadable) Content

On the disc or not, cut from the game or not, DLC is a necessary evil and it's not going away.

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Yeah, I saw this coming...
To be honest I don't really care for all these "Triple A" games, I tend to stick to older games and rarely ever purchase anything beyond that..
For example, I've yet to purchase Modern Warfare two, Dragon Age Origins or many of the other "Must haves" mostly because I'm a tight bastard and I'd rather wait for the all inclusive collectors edition and also because.. No, wait that's the only reason..
I dislike DLC and micro transactions and all that.. But hey, I'm not going to do anything about it.

But if something is really worth it, I'll buy it..
But I feel that $15 a map pack and crap like that is just a rip-off..

If it's on the disc, but unfinished I don't mind paying. But if it's on the disc or it was simply cut from the game, then I'm not too sure about that(I've never had the problem though). $15 for a map pack is stupid, but that's Activision for you. I only buy DLCs I know I'll use, so I really don't care too much about price.

Yeah. Things are changing.

be it good or bad yet is stil on the horizon but I can see it now...no one will buy full games, just parts that they want...

Its a sad fact that, I have to agree. But, I jusr hope in the way of things it dosnt go too badly

It's a very good write-up, but I think games are always going to be around whether or not these big publishers choose to nickle and dime us over content, and it is leading to a slippery slope. I guess I just miss the days of paying for a game and that was it. For example, my passion is making music. Even with albums being downloaded left and right, and it not being as easy to make money in the field as it possibly once was, I'm still going to do it. I don't think people are just going to stop making games because the profit margin isn't as great as it once was.

$15 for Fluff DLC (Map packs, alternate skins for clothes, weapons, etc) is a huge waste of time and money. They don't add anything new to the game.

Its a hard call for some people to get DLC, especially when the whole thing is on the disc and your just paying for an unlock code, on one hand it feels like the company is thankful you bought the game, but being forced to buy locked content is like a knife between the ribs.

The argument carries weight, but the idea of all games moving to download only and not on disc isn't going to happen.
For the simple reason, people aren't going to pay 50 for something they don't have a physical copy of.
While the company is trading, this isn't such a problem as you can always re-download it. but if the company goes under (and no company is too big to fail, whatever the governments would have you believe three off the top of my head Bearings Bank, Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley) and your copy is wiped or if they just stop selling it, then you've lost it forever - at least with a hard copy you can come back to the game in 30yrs and still play it.

Perhaps they should stop spending so much on the graphics side of things. Thats sure to save a few million. Then again I don't know how much it costs, but I'm pretty damn sure its a large chunk.

How about they stop making super realistic grass and concentrate on the actual gameplay? How about that instead of something that's a complete negative for the consumer?

I usually don't mind DLC prices, but I usually want about 2 hours for the $5/6 equivalent. I understand we have to start paying to support the company that produces our games, and I'm okay with that.

Dudeakoff:
How about they stop making super realistic grass and concentrate on the actual gameplay? How about that instead of something that's a complete negative for the consumer?

Simple reason: Because the masses want realistic grass to drool over and brag about it.

OT:
Really well written and to the point text. Especially the last part:

You know when everyone used to say that the music industry needed to adapt and find alternative revenue streams instead of blaming pirates when Napster got started? That's what the games industry is doing right now. Just accept that there will be lots of stupid steps along the way.

This is essentially what we are seeing here and i wholeheartedly welcome the process because, looking at the music industry example i believe it will turn out fine in the end. Despite all thebumps and cracks on the road.

To suggest that releasing this content is a matter of copy-and-pasting a few hundred lines of code is simply wrong - if for no other reason than the fact that anything that is released as DLC costs money separate to the main game's development.

One thing hasn't been mentioned that is precisely "copy-and-pasting a few hundred lines of code" and is a common enough practice that it should be mentioned: 140kb unlocks. But then again, there's absolutely no defense for those.

My opinion is simply that the game industry is getting greedier and the price of developing games is increasing mostly due to greed more than anything, with employees demanding bigger and bigger fees and paydays, along with a lot of perks. There have been numerous articles over the years by both developers and publishers explaining how the industry works to one degree or another, which makes things fairly transparent if you happen to follow it enough.

I look back to say Itigaki's fight with "Team Ninja" and the kind of payday he was expecting for game development. This kind of thing doesn't seem to be all that uncommon. Then you've got an article here where The Escapist interviewed the guy in charge of Russia's 1C company about digital distribution and how he could more than triple his current profit margin by going digital, with of course no suggestion of the game prices being lowered or any real benefits to the consumer for giving up their discs and such.

The basic problem with DLC is that there is no way to justify a lot of what is done with it as being anything but an attempt to wring money out of consumers. There just isn't. I understand the perspective of "The Escapist" in such matters (on a number of levels) however.

The thing is that DLC is increasingly paying people to unlock features that would have been considered part of a game a few years ago. Alternate costumes for fighting game characters, multi-player modes, etc. In many cases stuff they already completed as part of the main project but figure "ahh well, we can get more money out of people for this".

As far as actual expansions and such go, the original "promise" of DLC was that by going digital, expansion pakcs could be produced faster, and much cheaper to the consumer. Rather than seeing full fledged expansion packs we see people charging $10-$15 for tiny additions to the game in most cases. What few REAL expansion packs we see, stuff on the level of Ultima 7's "Silver Seed" or "Forge Of Virtue" now continues to sell for almost as much as an entire game. What's more the price of digitally downloading such an expansion is identical to purchusing it on disc.

This of course gets into one of my biggest criticisms of the industry: Cartel type behavior. Previously nobody came up with the idea of trying to sell features of a game seperatly because it was both impractical, and since everyone was producing complete packages and adding in more and more stuff to sell their product, nobody wanted to get nailed by irritating gamers by nickel and diming them. However with the entire industry going towards digital distribution, and everyone agreeing to nickel an dime customers, noone stands out as being paticularly villainous usually because everyone is doing it. Digital Distribution has made it practical to charge someone an extra $10 for something on a disc already.

The problem is that the competition in the industry isn't quite like it should be. The very existance of things like "Game developers conferances" and such are the anti-thesis of the kind of competition that should be happening, becuse it leads to the industry as a whole setting policy, being able to coordinate price hikes, and determining how everyone will be able to get the most money out of the consumers at any given moment. Exactly the opposite of the way it should be with game companies going toe to toe for the same market, and trying to undercut each other's prices while producing the highest quality they can.

Such are my thoughts (though there is nothing here I haven't rambled about before).

Basically DLC as it exists now is a giant money grab, it's not "nessicary for the industry to survive". Given that gamers have yet to coordinate any kind of meaningful opposition, we're basically viewed with total disrespect. The idea being that while we will whine, we'll still fork over the money on whatever terms they demand. The most they are ever likely to see is an "internet petition" which can generate a few boardroom lulz (if it even gets that far) while the same people who signed it run out to throw their money at the people they are trying to persuade to change their policies. I would be VERY surprised if anyone who signed the petition over the lack of dedicated Modern Warfare 2 servers actually chose to go without the game.

Well, I won't stand for it or pay for it... and in the long run if they continue like this (with DRM and DLC and pay-for Betas and Demos, Subscriptions to (Non-MMO) Online Games, Map/Itemshops and whatever the fuck they think of next) they won't get more money out of me but none at all cause I'll spend it on something else instead, and I'm proud to say I didn't spend a single Cent on any "DLC content".

It worked before and it works in other industries without trying to rip people off with those heavily imaginative "price models". What they're (trying) to do isn't as much adapting as trying to force people to pay a lot more money for the same thing... and in the long run it'll (hopefully) only bite em in the arse and return to normality while other less bureaucratic companies take over. Hell they have a MUCH bigger market nowadays than ever before with that many households having and using consoles and they're also complaining like never before.

Also what EA is doing is trying to lay business decisions that had them spend 300 million $ on a Facebook game developer like "Playfish" in 2009 or Bioware/Pandemic for 900 million $ back in 2008 (just to close Pandemic even before its first game release) on the customer. Although the deal was most likely just about the new Star Wars MMO they hope will rake in record cash revenue in no time.

What about the success story of Stardock: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/sins_of_a_solar_empire/

Or Valve, by finding out that by making stuff cheaper you actually make more money and in some cases even beat "launch": http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/57308

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell announced during a DICE keynote today that last weekend's half-price sale of Left 4 Dead resulted in a 3000% increase in sales of the game, posting overall sales that beat the title's original launch performance.

Newell also mentioned that new Steam customers jumped 1600% over the same weekend, according to G4TV. Retail sales remained constant.

Sales of Team Fortress 2 went up 106% following a free update to the game. Retail wasn't left out in this case, with sales jumping 28%.

The massive Steam holiday sale was also a big win for Valve and its partners. The following holiday sales data was released, showing the sales breakdown organized by price reduction:

10% sale = 35% increase in sales (real dollars, not units shipped)
25% sale = 245% increase in sales
50% sale = 320% increase in sales
75% sale = 1470% increase in sales
Furthermore, Valve has hired an experimental psychologist to maximize the excitement of Steam sales and other marketing opportunities. According to Newell, one suggestion by the psychologist was to provide one free copy of a Valve game to every 25th buyer of Left 4 Dead.

Also the bit about games being a "one-sale-pony" is not entirely true, sure as with movies it'll probably make the most money in the first week or two after it gets out but there's also deals like digital distribution, sales, gamepacks, game collections, gold/game of the year editions, remakes and re-releases (Monkey Island SE or Serious Sam HD for instance), gaming magazines with full versions of older games that pay licensing and all that stuff...
Also games that are three-parters or similar will probably see an increased sale while the sequel(s) roll out and can also be sold as a package afterwards.

Therumancer:
My opinion is simply that the game industry is getting greedier and the price of developing games is increasing mostly due to greed more than anything, with employees demanding bigger and bigger fees and paydays, along with a lot of perks. There have been numerous articles over the years by both developers and publishers explaining how the industry works to one degree or another, which makes things fairly transparent if you happen to follow it enough.

The days of the Ion Storm "rockstar developer" are over, and have been for decades.

Completely agree with previous posts. Paying for DLC is not a "necessary evil", it's greed. There's also too many companies now that are focusing on stellar graphics and ignoring gameplay and enough depth of content to give the game replayability (Bioware, I'm looking at you). They are the ones driving up costs, not us, nor the economy.

With more shallow, incomplete games coming out, DLC that should have been part of the game anyway, and ever more draconian DRM's . . . . . I dunno. I'm looking at getting other hobbies.

I'll honestly never buy DLC for any game. And if the future of gaming forces me to subscribe or pay 100s in overpowered cash shop crap I'll simply stop buying new games and go back to old ones. At least back then the games were actually fun and challenging.

These losses are REVENUE losses correct?
So they're still making money but just not as much.

That's something I never got about the business world. If last year I made 50 million dollars in revenue and this year I made 40 million, it counts as a 10 million dollar loss, despite the fact that I've still made 40 million dollars.

I like this article. You start off talking about dic locked content then go onto all these reasons why DLC is not a scam none of which applies to the disc locked content.

I agree with the above comments too. It's all about greed and not about pride in their product/service. Of course, the sad thing is that this applies to 99% of companies in the western world, whose only interest is that of the 'shareholders' and nothing else. It's a sad time...

I don't have much of a problem with Day 1 DLC, in fact in some cases I like it, and I recognise that they might have developed it after the game was "finished", hell I didn't even mind paying for the DLC that was free for the collectors edition in Dragon Age. However one thing I will not tolerate is if the game has the content on the disc and expects me to pay extra for it.

If it's on the disc when I buy it's mine, simple as that, you don't get to double dip me for on disc content.

Just tell Harmonix to keep the Rock Band tracks coming, and I'll be happy...

Your argument about Day One DLC is actually completely unrelated to on-disc DLC with unlock codes. The content had to be developed, and in before content lock, and on the gold master, ready to go out to the world.

Not to say that I think on-disc DLC is wrong. I've always felt like if I buy a product, going in knowing exactly what content is available at that price point, then that transaction was fair, and it's done. If something else becomes available, regardless of the distribution source (on-disc, downloadable, expansion pack, who cares), then that's a separate financial transaction that I'm going to evaluate. People will counter with the question of "Well, it's just new plasmids right now, but what happens when they start leaving the final boss behind a pay-wall?" S'fine. I just hope to have trustworthy sources like this one that will let me know that for the game at launch, it is incomplete, and that you have to pay extra for an ending.

Think of this as a variation on market differentiation (much like ATI or nVidia gimping one of their cards to sell at a lower price point; reduced functionality versions of Windows).

AC10:
These losses are REVENUE losses correct?
So they're still making money but just not as much.

That's something I never got about the business world. If last year I made 50 million dollars in revenue and this year I made 40 million, it counts as a 10 million dollar loss, despite the fact that I've still made 40 million dollars.

Ummmm... http://www.gamespot.com/news/6209194.html

Revenue was UP 15%, but they still were in the red to the tune of 1 billion.

And... year-over-year growth tends to be pretty important. You can't go month-to-month, because almost every business is cyclical, and if you're not growing, you're dying. If you want to hold revenues steady (inflation adjusted, of course), and increase profits by lowering costs, fine. But if you take a 10% hit in revenue, even while increasing profit by 100%, you had better turn that around quickly, because eventually, 60% profits on 1% of your former revenues just isn't worth it anymore.

grrr.

But we can still bitch about it. We''re consumers. We're looking for the best deals and paying as little as possible for what we get. Companies can force up prices, but we'll be grumbling the whole way and it's our right.

Amazing that there are two posts about this in one day. I totally called this.

And yet, my half-joking naked cynicism that we should expect an awesome idea to get fucked up just because it was inevitable has been proven pretty much spot on.

I have to say I have no objection to the idea of DLC in general. It's a much more pleasant way for game companies to fight piracy and maintain revenue than, say, forcing you to be connected to the internet whilst playing single-player.

That said, content that's locked in and on the disc on day one but requires a DLC code to unlock strikes me as unpleasant and dishonest.

In the end I'll see how it goes, and purchase my DLC like I do my original games - selectively.

I agree that the age of AAA games is coming to an end. I disagree, though, that DLCs are the thing that will replace it. Rather, DLCs are the death throes of AAA gaming - which, due to the power of current consoles and computers, require much more manpower to work on graphics and physics than it could easily make with actual game sales. Eventually, the gaming industry will have to choose between taking a huge step backwards, or go bankrupt. Hopefully, it'll make the right decision and we'll be able to enjoy a tiny renaissance of the 90's style quirky games, only with a few more decades' worth of gaming design experience.

Until them, I'll be playing indie games and old games from GoG.com, which cost as much as DLC and last up to ten times as much.

Not sure why greed gets such a bad wrap. They have something, I want it, I pay for it, they make more.
Yay!

While I'm in agreement that the on disc "DLC" really has nothing to do with the main point of the article, I do believe the main point of the article is spot on. Two things covered in the column are things that I really don't understand why gamers don't get.

First, Day 1 DLC is not evil and is not necessarily something sliced out of the completed game just so it could be sold on the side. Yes, this does happen sometimes but by and large it's not the case.

Second, games need multiple revenue streams just like music, TV and movies do. An entertainment industry as expensive as the game industry just can't survive on it's profits coming solely from a month after product release... unless you like the idea of paying, say, $300 for a new game. DLC isn't the only way to do this (for example, Valve have proven that a solid policy of periodically lowering the sticker price after launch can massively re-energize sales), but it's one way and it can work.

Dudeakoff:
How about they stop making super realistic grass and concentrate on the actual gameplay? How about that instead of something that's a complete negative for the consumer?

That would be great in a world where developers could make a game that didn't have to give a shit about review scores, all scored by reviewers who want super realistic grass over actual gameplay.

Sadly, we're in this world, where a sub-par game with super-realistic grass gets better review scores than a great game that looks like shit. Because that's what people want.

ramox:

Dudeakoff:
How about they stop making super realistic grass and concentrate on the actual gameplay? How about that instead of something that's a complete negative for the consumer?

Simple reason: Because the masses want realistic grass to drool over and brag about it.

This is quite wrong actually, as it is the developer that sets standard in which the fans expect. In no way does the fan have any influence in the development and creation of video games. Its the developer that says "Realistic looking grass would be so awesome in this game!" and we just assume that the next game is going to have it or needs to have it.

Down with DLC, up with expansion packs. You remember, the ones that added 30 hours of gameplay to an 80 hour game. That came on a disk in a box from the store. The ones that continued the story of the original game, rather than adding 1 hour of pointless side quests for $15. Those expansion packs.

I really don't care that Bobby Kotick's solid gold rocket car is running low on plutonium. If every single "AAA" development house went under I wouldn't shed a tear. But I would rather the bloodsucking corporate publishers all withered and died and more companies worked like Stardock with no useless stockholders or braindead Wallstreet analysts coming between the game creator and the gamer.

Your comparison between Modern Warfare and WoW just underlines how this whole DLC business really is about money. MW2 was the biggest selling game of all time, and since you claim in the article that prices haven't gone up much over time, we can't really chalk that up to inflation. So if Activision are somehow unsatisfied with all the money they must have made on this, it just proves that they really are as greedy as everyone makes them out to be. As much as I hate WoW, the concept of a subscription fee is justified because the game needs a lot more maintenance than traditional multiplayer games. Constant balancing, the cost of server maintenance, opening new servers, paying GMs, etc - that all adds up. So Blizzard doesn't actually haul in a figure that's as simple as 15 x 24 x number of players.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: every industry has a breaking point and gaming is close to reaching its own for the first time. If these big name titles are no longer viable, then they should just die a natural death and encourage studios rethink their practices. Instead of sinking squillions of dollars into graphics and physics engines, they should be going for less intensive and more artistic styles. DLC is not, as this article claims to be, the way of the future; it's evidence of people trying to keep a sinking ship alive.

The biggest thing I got out of this article was this line here that you used to justify a whole bunch of reasons why DLC is a good and/or necessary thing.

Christian Ward:
People often compare console DLC to the "good old days" of free PC content, but PC gaming is, in theory, a totally open market. In the console DLC realm, there are two powerful gatekeepers, Microsoft and Sony, and you need to get your product past them before you start earning any money on it.

This is the problem, right here. Closed systems. Monopolistic/Duopolistic tendencies displayed by the dictators and tyrants who control everything in the market. Same thing on the iPhone app store, you get lots of bullshit from Apple who exert their tyranny ruthlessly, shutting down anything they don't like, and forcing people to pay more and/or use their first party solutions instead of possibly superior third party ones.

Closed system leads to all sorts of bullshit.

And I'll also just point out that it's much easier to get something released on Steam than Xbox Live and Playstation Network. Solves a lot of problems when your closed system is run by people who aren't giant fucking tools. The only issue is when publishers bring their frustratingly discriminatory and/or greedy practices to it.

Shamanic Rhythm:
Instead of sinking squillions of dollars into graphics and physics engines, they should be going for less intensive and more artistic styles. DLC is not, as this article claims to be, the way of the future; it's evidence of people trying to keep a sinking ship alive.

I agree wholeheartedly. I don't mind developers who want to release extra content for their games, but the way a lot of publishers take advantage of that is disgusting.

More smaller, excellent games rather than stupidly expensive big ones is the way to keep the industry going. A focus on innovation and quality of gameplay trumps a focus on brand name and quality of graphics.

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