One of the great things about the current generation of games consoles is how well they’ve integrated with online features; the Xbox 360, PS3 and (to a certain extent) Wii all have their own marketplace where one can download anything from video clips to demos to full games, all of which are great perks. Personally I love being able to download demos for absolutely free. I haven’t bought a games magazine in ages because of that very fact.
One of the most popular uses the marketplaces have for both users and developers is downloadable content (DLC), which often comes in the form of additional levels, challenges, new modes, expansion packs, multiplayer maps, etc. Since the release of the current generation of consoles dozens of DLC have been released allowing gamers to expand upon their playing experience, meaning that their games don’t simply gather dust months after completion and breathe life into a product that was otherwise finished.
Before I go on any further, allow me to say that I like DLC, that the concept behind it is excellent and a true signifier that gaming has evolved from its quaint beginnings. I myself have downloaded various DLC; one of my favourite games this year Fallout 3 has had five expansions released for it and I downloaded every one of them. Whilst admittedly they weren’t all brilliant, it gave me the opportunity to re-live the sensation of playing a game which I knew I liked, but without having to repeat the process again (if you’ve been reading my previous posts you’ll know I don’t particularly care for ‘moral choice’ games). I got them, finished them, got new items, weapons, armour, got the level cap removed and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the Broken Steel add on actually gave you a prologue to the original ending.
Upon finishing the final add-on pack Mothership Zeta, I took a moment and thought to myself “I’ve pretty much spent around £80 on one game” and whilst it was a worthy experience and one which took over a hundred hours of my life (believe it or not I have a job as well…) it made me think how much money other people will have spent on one game for downloadable content.
Two particular games come to mind when you think of DLC; Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I have played both these games and rarely went anywhere beyond the single-player experience, so perhaps I’m a little unjustified in saying that I wasn’t very impressed by either of these games, and though I am aware that some gamers would be willing to bludgeon me to death with collectible Master Chief helmets for saying such a thing, I found Halo 3 to be an underwhelming and short lived experience, and CoD4 to be no more than a carbon copy of its World War 2 based predecessors, albeit with shinier guns.
Basically what I’m trying to say is, I’m not a huge online gamer, and even if I was there are far superior online games that have been and are still out there, such as the Battlefield series, CounterStrike and Team Fortress 2. One major leg up these games have over Halo 3 and CoD4 is that they never charged for additional maps, and that factor alone leads me to believe that game developers may be taking advantage of their fans.
What I’m trying to get at here, is what about us gamers who want to add life to our games but don’t play multiplayer. To me, the multiplayer side of a first-person shooter has always felt like an additional part to the game, unless it’s a game like the aforementioned Battlefield where the experience has been designed for multiplayer. A lot of people upon purchasing Call of Duty 4 will have probably ignored the single-player side for the first few months and maybe tried them after failing to find any functional servers, but I got it to play a game where I could get involved in a crafted experience, one that would unfold with progression and require skills and reactions to develop. I don’t really find the multiplayer experience of CoD4 rewarding, rather frustrating; I don’t think getting constantly killed and having 14 year old American boys with barely broken voices shouting through my TV speakers constitutes as a gaming experience, more like an excercise in tolerance.
First person shooters aren’t the only guilty parties in the great DLC rip-off experience; Grand Theft Auto IV charged gamers £20 for their recent add-on pack ‘The Lost and the Damned’ and will be charging a further £20 upon the release of ‘The Ballad of Big Gay Tony’ in October. Street Fighter IV charged gamers an additional £2.39 PER costume pack, this meant that you wouldn’t get a one-off charge for unlocking all the costumes, just SOME of them. Not only that, but that fact that these downloads were no more than a few Kilobytes suggests that the content was already in the game, therefore you’re paying for something that’s already there (remember the days when you played a fighting game and actually completing it opened new costumes? How about that Capcom you f*cking thieves?). Little Big Planet for the PS3 is also guilty of such a crime, whilst there are a few (emphasis on the ‘few’) free costumes out there for you to download for the lovable-but-thank-god-you-can’t-smell-him Sackboy, the majority of them will cost you £1.39, and there are a lot of costumes for him now. These are COSTUMES, they don’t expand the gameplay experience, they don’t add to anything or open up new features, so why charge?
Don’t we get ripped off enough in this society as it is? I mean we pay so much in taxes, in insurance, in utilities, you even have to pay to park your car, yes, you pay money just so your car can BE somewhere, and it may or may not be stolen. In some places you even have to pay to take a PISS! Why should video games be the same? They’re one of the last great refuges in the world and it’s slowly being overcome by useless frivolities and additional costs which come from nowhere and can’t be justified.
I’m not so naive as to say that additional content doesn’t require extra money or manpower to create, but when PC gaming still had some relevance, developers released patches, maps and additional content for free, so why not now?
As a side note, I’d like to give Microsoft a big ‘F*ck you’, since I repaired my own Xbox 360 after it got the Red Ring of Death. If you think I’m gonna pay £78 to repair something that’s a couple of weeks out of warranty from its previous repair, then you can kiss my balls.