Mass Effect 3 is due out on March 6, and some recent news has gamers on edge. Specifically, that Bioware will release DLC on the game’s launch date.
DLC has become something of a running joke in the gaming industry. When executed right, it can be both effective and fun. Left 4 Dead added a couple of campaigns that were well worth the money. Rock Band has one of the most successful models around with a huge collection of music from a variety of artists. Red Dead Redemption added an entire new chapter to the game, bringing John Marston into a world of zombies.
But when companies put together a DLC plan with only their own interests in mind, that’s when the whole thing starts to go downhill.
One of the developers for Gears of War 3 had a quote a couple of months back that got my attention.
“It’s less about shipping what’s left over. It’s not about, ‘Oh, we had this map left over’… it’s keeping the disc in the tray. In a used game culture that you have to actively fight against, I think DLC is one of the ways that you do that.”
Look, I get it. Game developers are increasingly annoyed by the GameStops of the world, who resell their product without the developers seeing a penny of that money. It’s an understandable gripe.
I don’t have a problem with DLC — when it’s an added experience, I’ll happily pay money to download something from a developer who’s putting in the effort. But when I’m paying money to unlock content that already exists on the disc, or to download a piece of the game that could have been ready in time for launch, that’s when I start to wonder.
For me, when I purchase something, I’m not interested in it being a piece of the whole. I’m not going to buy a couch if I know one of the cushions is going to cost me an additional $10. I’m also not going to buy that couch if I can’t decide to sell it down the road, or let one of my neighbors borrow it. Think the analogy is going too far? Think again: one of the rumors about the new Xbox 720 is that it will lock down discs so that they can only be used by the original owner.
I think the whole thing is ridiculous. What I don’t get is where we draw the line. It’s annoying enough to have bonus costumes, missions and other content on a disc that regular players can’t access despite having paid full price for a game. But to taunt gamers with it on the day a game comes out…that’s just absurd. “Thanks for shelling out $60 for a product that isn’t always complete!” Screw that.
Let’s do a quick rundown of some of the shenanigans we’ve seen:
- Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came out 10 years after its predecessors. Within nine months, we had Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with 12 new characters, a bunch of new stages — and a $40 pricepoint that was a full retail disc masquerading as DLC.
- Tales of Vesperia came to the states on the Xbox almost three years after it was released in Japan. Unfortunately, a year before that it was re-released on the PS3 with new playable characters, additional story, extra bosses and more. U.S. gamers never got that release or any DLC for the 360.
- Soul Calibur IV made a big stink about Vader and Yoda being playable. Of course, while each was an exclusive for one of the consoles, you could unlock them as DLC for the right price.
- Gears of War 3 had an entire mode already on the disc with the exception of 1.42 MB worth of download to make it work (consider that some DLC runs in the GB range, not piddly amounts of MB).
That last bullet makes the quote I mentioned above all the more ironic — if DLC is about “keeping the disc in the system,” why the hell are you releasing it right after the game’s launch? Is it too much to ask to wait even one week before being so kind as to allow us to play more of what we paid for?
This rant could go on for a long time, but I’ll spare you the longwindedness. Suffice to say that if you’re also against these practices, you should avoid rewarding developers with your hard-earned money. By all means, pick up DLC that is worth it. But if it smells like a ripoff and looks like a ripoff…