Gamers today are odd creatures, the kind of people who can rage about the cost of DLC one moment, and the next minute new DLC releases for their favorite game it’s “OH! Three new costumes for this one character for the low-low price of $15?! TAKE MY MONEY!” This specific behavior got me thinking about how I spend money on games. Has the amount I spend changed over the years? Has the price of certain things gone up? What’s different about buying games in today’s market versus buying games in the yester-years of the last generation of home consoles?
I spend more money on things that have gotten more expensive. Which, you know… whatever. Things cost money, markets fluctuate, and prices go up and down. But what I spend money on has changed. Publishers have figured out that they can charge money for things that used to be part of a complete, finished game.
Charging people money to extend the amount of time they can play your game is a rather insidious practice that has gained popularity among many mobile developers. Candy Crush Saga is a very good example of a game that only allows you to play for a specific period of time. Once you hit the time limit, or run out of lives, you have the option of spending money to increase the number of lives you have or decrease the amount of the time you are locked out of the game.
I’d like to be able to say that the console and PC market is immune to this kind of skullduggery, but the release of The WarZ proved that that wasn’t the case. Still, it remains something of a rarity outside of the mobile gaming market. Hopefully, it stays that way.
Gone are the days when having collectibles in your game meant jumping on a Goomba’s head and watching a coin pop out of its ass. Yes, most of today’s games contain collectibles. But, the games that focus on collectibles, like the Assassin’s Creed franchise or Sleeping Dogs, also use the design principle to target the completionist gamer. You know, the one that won’t consider a game to be complete until every castle and house has been thoroughly searched, every weapon procured, and every NPC talked to.
Today’s DLC tends to have new castles and homes to ransack, new weapons to procure, and plenty of new NPCs to talk to. So, of course the completionist gamer is going to have a field day. The recent release of the Assassin’s Creed III DLC is a good example. Not only is the story of The Tyranny of King Washington told through three separate DLC packs, but each has its own collectibles. And believe me, fans of the Assassin’s Creed series go absolutely bat-shit crazy for collectibles. And who can forget the now infamous Horse Armor DLC for Oblivion, which was nothing more than a glorified collectible?
Again, there was a time when games would ship with all the characters on the disc (or cartridge, as the case may be). Any unlockable characters the game included were unlocked by performing feats of a seemingly impossible nature, à la Super Smash Bros. Melee. For the most part, this practice only applies to fighting games. Let me be clear: I have absolutely no problem paying money for characters that are in development after the original game ships to retail stores. That’s extra content that you aren’t entitled to just because you bought the game on release day.
What I have a problem with is DLC characters being finished before the game ships, and being locked in the on-disc code, where the only way to unlock the already complete code is to pay money. Capcom tried this with Street Fighter X Tekken, including the DLC code for a bunch of DLC characters on-disc when the game shipped. The only reason anyone ever found out about Capcom’s poor business practices was because someone decided to comb through the on-disc code.
I’m making a list and checking it twice, and Capcom, you’re naughty and not very nice. The situation with Capcom makes me wonder how many other fighting games have done the same thing, but haven’t been caught because no-one decided to investigate the matter.
Two words: Online passes. The hay-days of couch multiplayer are far behind us. Now, multiplayer has moved firmly into the online sphere. Which is great! I play more multiplayer today than I ever did before, and for the most part it’s a fun experience. But, the method of charging players who buy a used game money to play online with their friends is like car dealers charging you by the kilometer for every extra person you have in your car beside yourself. It just seems unreasonable.
NetherRealm Studios learned their lesson after 2011’s Mortal Kombat fiasco, and thankfully Injustice: Gods Among Us required no online pass. But, the likes of EA and Ubisoft are still championing the use of the online pass as a viable way to make up for the lost revenue incurred from the sale of a used game—lost revenue that is entirely a myth, by the way.
I don’t like DLC that is in any way connected to the story presented in the original game, because odds are that DLC contains storyline that probably should have been included in the retail version. I like the sort of DLC that was recently released for Far Cry 3 and Dishonored, things that put the player in the shoes of another character before or after the timeline presented in the original game, as is the case with the DLC for Dishonored; or, absolutely crazy and entirely unrelated DLC, like the DLC for Far Cry 3. The From Ashes DLC for Mass Effect 3 is a good example of the kind of DLC I hate.
It contains information so relevant and pertinent to the rest of the game, and the previous two games in the franchise, that it’s hardly justifiable as separate content. You also get things like the DLC for Asura’s Wrath and Assassin’s Creed II. In the case of Asura’s Wrath, the DLC included major parts of the story that were left unexplained and unexplored. We aren’t talking ancillary plot here either, we are talking primary plot. Then you have things like the DLC for Assassin’s Creed II. Never mind the fact that the two missing memory strains the DLC gave you access to were staring you in the face, taunting you throughout your entire playthrough, every time you opened the pause menu.
Ubisoft might as well programmed Ezio to turn around, give me the finger, and say, “You know you’re going to buy it”, every time I hit the pause button on my controller. And who wasn’t going to buy that DLC? It was the only hope anyone had of making any sense of whatever the fuck it was that was going on in that game’s story. Yes, it’s hard to write stories for videogames. I understand that. But, if you’re having to complete your story with DLC, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Nickeled and dimed, I tell you! Nickeled and dimed! Do you spend more or less money on games now than you used you to? Can you think of anything else that never used to cost money? Let us know in the comments below!