Editorial: It’s Downloadable But I’m Not Content

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I did something recently that I haven’t done in a long, long time. I went into a high-street store and purchased a game. This is something I used to do quite a lot (too much, in fact) and that this retailer still stocked games, and other merchandise like CD’s, suggested other people are still doing it – and it can’t just be people like me who were too late to order online for next day delivery.

As I left the shop I was reminded of how it used to feel to buy games, back when you literally got what you paid for. There was no extra downloadable content, no micro-transactions to worry about, no patches to install before getting the game started, nothing but a disc (or a disk, a cartridge or a tape) with the game contained on it. The only additional extra you got was a manual, and that was included in the price of the game. Now that’s value!

borderlands2-dlc1-2kgmktbl2dlc1captsc7ccThese days when you buy a game you better have a few more chips ready to cash in because you’re no longer guaranteed to experience all of the game for your initial payment. In fact, it’s extremely unlikely you will – and you’re lucky to even get a decent manual. The adoption of paying for more content on top of the ‘full’ game has been fast and widespread, it’s become the go-to publishing model and we, as gamers, can’t seem to give our money away fast enough. How did we transition from the notion that our payment was good enough for the entirety of a game to one where it’s now only good enough for the ‘core’ experience?

You might hear, or argue, that it helps developers or publishers pay for increasing overheads and costs. That not everyone is Rockstar. It’s a semi convincing argument but we rarely get to see just how much profit developers or publishers make or even if they manage their businesses effectively.

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Ultimately, I’m tired of seeing additional paid for content for every game I buy. Looking through the listings on the PlayStation store is a depressing trudge through endless icons for credits, season passes, credits, costumes, unlocks and more credits. Sure, you don’t have to buy any of it, but when you can’t play on the same maps as everyone else or you haven’t seen the event everyone is talking about it becomes an annoyingly fractured experience.

skyrimdawnguard530I do think that some additional content has been good – for example the Dragonborn, Dawnguard and Hearthfire content for Skyrim – but when a game has sold upwards of 20 million units I’m not sure I could argue that it wasn’t content that could have been released for free for those who’d already paid full price for the game (there was a time limited price reduction for PS3 players of course…). I’m hopeful that ‘Left Behind‘ will expand on the great storytelling of The Last of Us, but Bioshock’s ‘Burial at Sea’ has me slightly wary about more content for a game I really liked. I didn’t hate ‘Burial at Sea’, but it just didn’t feel like it was necessary.

There’s a balance to be had between providing consumers with value for money and a company making profit. Unfortunately, at the moment, the system is skewed towards milking every last available cent out of our pockets whether the content adds anything tangible or not.

Incidentally the game I bought at the retail store was FIFA 14 and I really should have known better.

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