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.

Written by John Davidson

John Davidson

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  • killerseyton

    Whrfr I live, I get very good internet for the price I would have to pay, so I dont have internet right now. Gaming without it is crazy. I do not patch games or get dlc. My cars in GTA still disappear, AC4 is still in a lower resolution, and when I got my PS4 it was only capable of playing Games. It is kind of nice though, cause I dont worry about anything othet than the game.

    Also, with MGS Ground Zeroes, a new experiment is taking place. They arent able to release MGS5 in a timely manner, so they are going to sell its fans a 2 hour long “prologue/demo”,because they know we will pay.

    • DarthDiggler

      Do you not have any access locally to internet (in your city or town)?

      You should be able to use a USB key and get patches on the internet. It’s not the best solution, but for reasons I explained in my previous comment game updates are here to stay.

      MGS5 Ground Zeros won’t be selling as a full priced game and will get a $10 digital discount per platform (I know that doesn’t help you). The game is going for nearly half price of a full game. In terms of the time it takes to complete the game the 2 hour time point that has been bantered about is just the main story without any of the side missions and I can’t imagine someone completed it in 2 hours in stealth mode. Also no one has pointed out which difficulty level they completed it in.

      Sony did GTA 5 Prologue on PS3 and that was a fairly successful model, for games that have extended dev cycles sometimes a developer has to get creative with how he pays the bills. Releasing a prologue allows the developer to get the game in the hands of players early albeit a more bite sized variety. These games are usually more targeted at the core fan-base of the series and generally don’t have tons of advertising dollars tied up in them.

      MGS5 Ground Zeros will cost me $30 if I only get 10 hours of game play out of it that is $3 a hour. Much higher than the Skyrim value offered but still not very expensive when you break it down.

  • Keith Dunn

    Great article!

  • Faku

    I know that feel, bro.
    In 2012 I handle it to get an old copy of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. The manuals and everything inside the box was great and beautiful, explaining a lot of mechanics of how the game worked.
    But then, a few weeks ago I grabbed a copy of A Link Between two Worlds, the content of the box was lame and really dissapointing. A “manual” with only two pages on black and white, that was all almost.

    I don’t understand how we reached this point of only providing an incomplete game that doesn’t even comes with a proper manualbook.

    • DarthDiggler

      Who are these proper manuals made for?

      Gamers generally read the documentation last. :) Also the control options have developed to the point that you kind of know which button will do what in a particular game you are playing. If unsure experimentation for 2 mins will reveal what each button does or you can hit pause and see the controls.

      Largely manuals got ignored and I think GameStop can attest to this fact because so few of their used games seemed to include the original manuals. Not saying they aren’t nice, but they are largely unnecessary and add more cost to an already costly enterprise.

      In a few years (maybe more) the news paper will go the same way as the user manual.

      • Makai

        Manuals are for kids who are too excited, but they can’t play the game, so they have to just read the manual and see if there’s some hidden clue in there or maybe choose the character they identify the most with.

  • DarthDiggler

    Let me be the voice of a contrary opinion.

    This author harkens back to a period of gaming that is now a relic. Once upon a time you used to buy a game and put it in your console and you were done. Games were everything they were going to be right out of the box.

    Even prior to that period consoles didn’t have the ability to change games and you were basically stuck playing a very rudimentary version of tennis called Pong.

    Games have innovated, we have gone from a single programmer manipulating 8-bit sprites on a screen to large studios that really do not have the ability to weather much downtime that isn’t an investment into the next title.

    The gamers appetite is much greater than the PS1 / PS2 era. Just as the PS1 gamers’ appetite out grew the Atari and NES days. That doesn’t mean people don’t still like those systems but clearly the market gravitated to bigger ambitions.

    Gaming consoles being connected to the internet is going to have an affect. Of course there are going to be updates to your games, the scope of development now makes it very difficult to QC as thoroughly as previous generations. Updates are going to be the nature of the beast.

    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

    I would suggest to the author that those days still haven’t left us to some degree. You buy a game get it home and play it as long as there is a campaign element to the game there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to play it day 1. Admittedly there are day 1 bugs with software, but few of these are game breakers. DLC is optional so are microtransactions, you get what you pay for because you have opted to part with your money in trade for a game. If that game has extra content you are by no means being left out. Unless that content is absolutely required to play the game there is really nothing wrong with this business model.

    You can argue that games are getting too bare bones and function more as a marketplace than a game, but that argument wouldn’t be very powerful in a general sense. Specific examples of games that exploit users would make for much more interesting reading. I think you would find far better examples of this with Mobile Gaming. Even with Mobile Gaming at some point you have to point the finger at the user.

    Are we gamers really some morons who are hapless and just waiting for corporate gaming entities to take advantage of us? Or are we savvy consumers who understand what is best for our dollar and like having options even if it is a new hat for our avatar?

    DLC has many positives but if you are focused only on cost that is only 1 half of the value equation. I had friends complain about the cost of Skyrim DLC, yet put hundreds of hours into the DLC alone, when you add up all the time they spent with the game often you get down to a ratio that is mere cents to the hour. You can’t replicate that level of cost efficiency vs time of entertainment anywhere. In comparison most people pay more per hour for movies (including rentals).

  • Makai

    Then buy the game of the year editions. Games are expensive to make and they become more expensive as they require higher detail and fidelity. A lot of companies are going belly under making games. There’s amazing games you can get on PS Plus for free, amazing games you can get for $3.00-$20.00, if you wait long enough great games with all DLC content can be the same price as 1 content back. Playstation Now will let you play some games cheaper than buying it.

    If you want a company to make more than 1 or 2 games at a time they have to make enough money to not go out of business. You can get coupons at Target every so often for Buy 2 get 1 free or Buy 2 get 30% off. Sometimes you even get to combine Buy 2 and get 30% off with Buy 2 get 1 free. That’s why I have Skylanders Swap Force, Disney infinity, and Rayman Legends for the price of $80.00.

    I reserved Skyrim for $60, but I got a $5 Gift Card. They had a promotion where you get a $10 dollar giftcard if you bought Skyrim release week or something along those lines. So I got it for $45 dollars release week before tax essentially.

    I think DLC should be about half the price it typically is. Season Passes help a bit… My frustration is more along the lines of games not being Cross-Buy often enough. If a game is Cross-buy it’s hard to resist buying it. I mean obviously they care about delivering a good experience, otherwise they’d charge you twice. There’s a couple Cross-Buy titles that aren’t that great I’m sure, but most of them are great and amazing.

    So why would I buy a $15 dollar game on 1 platform if I can pay $10-15 for the game on both platforms? This is why I didn’t buy Dustforce no matter how much fun I had on the Demo. Do I want multiplayer, or portability? Well… Why can’t I have both? They lost a sale hoping for 2. Are there really so many Vita users that they can afford to have people decide neither? Either the Vita is doomed or it’s worth trying to get double dips… Make up your mind Developers.