There was a time when you could buy a video game, take it home and play through all there was to offer without spending any more pocket money. Dreaded downloadable content has destroyed that dream.
Buying a video game is simple. If I want my Call of Duty fix I just have to go to the store, buy it at full price, take it home and slot it into my console or PC. Right?
Well, modern gaming isn’t quite that simple. There are installations and updates to look forward to, as well as another beast – downloadable content (DLC).
In theory, DLC is a positive. You’re getting extra content, whether it’s more levels, maps or guns. And most of the time you want to pay for it. But it seems to have taken a sinister turn.
Do you want fries with that?
Video game publishers appear to be seizing content that’s been developed for a game, and then asking us to pay another five quid for it. It’s like going to one of those pretentious restaurants, ordering a £15 steak and then being asked ‘do you want fries with that?’ Of course I do, I don’t just want a slab of meat on a warm plate! ‘I’m sorry sir, fries are extra.’ ಠ_ಠ
This very topic recently came to a head, with the behemoth publisher Electronic Arts (EA) announcing exclusive DLC for pre-ordering (or buying the limited edition) of Battlefield 3. If you don’t want to do either of these things, this booty will cost extra.
Over 3,000 have voted that this is a ‘bad idea’ on EA’s official forums, with the social news site Reddit using its influence to boycott the game. Fans are not only upset about having to pay more for content that’s available on day one of the game’s release, but also that it could give others an unfair advantage when playing online.
Bombarded by emails, EA responded that the DLC ‘will not give you a significant advantage on the battlefield’. That as it may be, day one DLC still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Can DLC be a good thing?
There are a number of ways DLC can be done right. Giving it away for free is obviously the best option. Burnout Paradise is a great example – Criterion Games pumped out multiple updates, without gamers having to dig into their funds.
The gaming industry will no doubt argue that making video games is expensive. And, of course, it is, reaching budgets in the tens of millions of pounds. They’ll also argue that DLC works – gamers buy it and are willing to spend more on games they love.
I’m with them on that – I spent extra dosh on Uncharted 2, simply because I loved the game. But Naughty Dog’s ethics felt much more honest. The developer finished making the game, gave it to us for £40 and then started work on DLC. Our gaming expert Jack Turner adds:
‘DLC has a part to play in games, and seems an unstoppable force. However, consumers need to be reassured that the content they are paying extra for is actually additional content, rather than a cynical way to milk an existing product.’
I’m willing to pay extra money for extra content if developers put in extra work. But creating it all, holding it back and then seeping it out for more cash feels so very wrong. Making games might be expensive, but buying them is costly too – why should we be a cash cow?