DLC and micro-transactions have become the Zeitgeist of video games in the last few years. They have become one of the prime methods by which we judge publishing houses and developers alike: are they consumer friendly or are they going to nickel and dime you to death?
The consumer friendly nod goes mostly to Indy developers: not bound by the shackles of big publishers they are free to sell their game for as much as they like, the same goes for any DLC. I have to tip my cap to the folks over at Humble Bundle particularly. The lofty realms of triple A are not completely devoid of charitable souls: Bethesda and CD Projekt spring to mind instantly.
Despite Bethesda shooting itself in the foot with horse armour for Oblivion, I’ve always found their DLC to be much more like full expansion packs. Shivering Isles for Oblivion; most of the DLC for Fallout 3; Dragonborn for Skyrim were all fantastic and gave you as much content as some full priced standalone games. Despite this the gold medal for pleasing consumers with DLC has to go to CD Projekt. After updating their first highly acclaimed fantasy RPG – The Witcher – for free, adding hours more content as well as better voice acting, they went and did it again with the sequel. When asked why they wanted to update The Witcher 2 for free, level designer Ziemark Marek said that “it wouldn’t be fair” to charge players as “it’s improving the game… not delivering something new.”
That was the good, now comes the bad and the ugly. Although they seem to be getting a little better, EA are probably the baddest and ugliest of the lot. We got a taste of their money grubbing antics in Mass Effect 3. Not only was From Ashes day one DLC for Mass Effect 3, it was also an on-disc piece of DLC. This is a brilliant example of DLC done poorly because it’s asking you to pay for something that you have essentially already bought for – plus it’s asking you to pay extra for something that is integral to the universe in this case. Unlocking DLC that is already present on the disc is a cardinal sin and a big reason that gamers view DLC as they do. Take Street Fighter X Tekken as another example.
Micro-transactions are another aspect of DLC that are slowly spiralling out of control. You’d expect micro-transactions to be small, going by the name: small in content yes, but small in price? Not necessarily. In the recently released Forza Motorsport 5, you can spend a staggering £32.50 on a single digital car. It’s a very nice digital car but that price is nothing short of extortionate.
My worry is that people will continue to buy DLC that is ridiculously priced. This shows developers and publishers that it’s okay to charge highly for very small amounts on content. If you disagree with the way a publisher is going about releasing DLC then the answer is simple: vote with your wallet.
Do you think DLC is going to far? Any particular examples? Please leave any comments below.
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In my next instalment I will specially look at micro-transactions in Guild Wars 2 and ask whether it’s the right path for the game.