Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ryan's Rants (tentative title) 001 - Introductions and DLC

Right, so here's how it is, nerds- This is my first contribution to the blog, so I'll go ahead and get introductions out of the way first. The name's Ryan, and I've been a friend of Frankie's for quite some time now, next meeting his brother Dillon and eventually the rest of the bunch in this collective of people that he has put together. Interests are video games, cartoons, and sometimes music. I'm currently working on a comic that I'll be posting when I get the whole thing finished, since it seems all the kids are doing it these days, among a myriad of other things, but those are not what I'm here typing this shit out for on this brisk January morning of the year two-thousand eleven. I'll be writing my own columns for the site on various things I take interest in, but don't expect the weekly revue like you'll get from Darris, or anything. And with that, I suppose I'll segue into the main article:

DLC and the role it's playing in the destruction of the video game industry.
Goddamnit, they're releasing ANOTHER map pack?!

With the advent of the internet and the current rise of the digital marketplace, more and more video game companies are starting to realize the potential of digitally distributing add-ons, updates, and expansions to their products, released as downloadable content, or DLC. And why wouldn't they? Players get more content for their favorite titles, support for the game can continue even years after first release, and most of all, they can make money doing it. It's easy to see why developers and publishers are pushing towards releasing more and more DLC these days. But, is this big move towards DLC really a good thing for the industry?

The problem is, developers have gotten so eager to release DLC, that some games are severely gimped and designed around selling DLC. Capcom, for example, with its recent releases of Megaman 9 and 10 are particularly bad about this- selling the basic game and then releasing DLC "packs" later, which are actually just unlockers to content that's already IN the game. The content provides many extra features such as whole new game modes, playable characters, and even the extra difficulties. What should be a fun ten dollar game turns into a ten dollar demo with the rest of the game being held for ransom. There are even some companies that are allowing you to PRE-ORDER downloadable content, before the game is even released.

In a lot of ways, downloadable content has become something of a subscription fee for multiple games. In particular, the Halo series, (the Battlefield series has been doing this for quite a while), MAG, and the
Call of Duty franchise. Subscription fees meaning the seemingly rapid-fire release of map-packs and other content packs that are used solely for multiplayer. In a scant 3 months after the release of Halo: Reach, Bungie has already released a ten dollar map pack, which itself only contains three extra maps (or an infinite amount if you count forge maps, but honestly, why wouldn't you just use forge world instead? Maybe the space map or something might be neat, but, eh). To the individual that eats, sleeps, and breathes Halo, it'd be easy to justify such a purchase, but for those who just enjoy playing the game with their friends now and then, they're suddenly struck with two choices: Either they bite the bullet and purchase the pack because everyone else is doing it, or they don't buy it and then get to be the odd man out when everyone wants to play the new maps.

But, just because a few companies will take advantage of the system, doesn't mean that the system itself is bad. Some examples of how to not be greedy assholes with downloadable content would be games like Rock Band, and LittleBigPlanet. With those two games, it's entirely unnecessary to purchase the extra content available, being that all players are going to have the same experience with the game, anyway. With Rock Band, the reasoning for purchasing songs is obvious, however it's important to note that (aside from the Beatles edition of Rock Band) ALL dlc is backwards AND forwards compatible with all editions of the game. (Guitar Hero, the competitor, doesn't come with that option.) It also helps that the songs aren't completely unreasonably priced, with free songs and discounts to songs being offered frequently. LittleBigPlanet also offers a favorable method of releasing downloadable content, being what amounts to a cash shop, selling only extra costume pieces and stickers. They also sell maps/levels, much like some other games might sell maps, but the difference with this is that you don't NEED to buy the maps in order to play on them. You can play on other user made levels created with the extra maps just fine without spending a single dime. The only reason one would buy a map would be if they wanted to make their own levels to submit. Also, much like Rock Band, dlc is forwards compatible with LBP2, so you can still use the stuff you buy from LBP1.

I'd also like to talk about single-player DLC that gets released, like with Rockstar's Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption, and Bioware's Lair of the Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2, but I don't particularly want to drag this article out more than I already have. I'm not directly opposed to DLC for single-player games, but sometimes have issue with the pricing for said content, but often, companies will offer discounts and bundles (Game of the Year editions that include a lot of the DLC as well) that kind of helps with that issue. Putting a price on purely extra digital content such as that will often come down to the consumer and is difficult to make a stand on. I kinda wish some companies would wait a while before releasing that kind of dlc, but often, one can just wait and get a discount anyway, so /shrug.

So, in closing, DLC isn't necessarily destroying the industry, but some companies will abuse the system simply to take more of your money, and the real problem is in the way that many consumers are just peachy about that. But, that's just business, I guess, and it'll continue to be that way until it gets completely out of hand. I just wish that day would come sooner, rather than later. In any case, that'll wrap up my first article for the site (and it only took me about a month!), so in my next article, I'll talk about... Well, I don't know what I'll talk about, but I'll talk about it, damnit! Maybe it'll be out before ANOTHER month passes. I guess we'll see, won't we?

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