Are DLCs necessarily bad?

This:

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Earl’s article a week ago focused on Injustice: Gods among Us (“Injustice”) and the supposed unfair treatment gamers are receiving from video game capitalism. To recap, Injustice is a fighting game developed by Netherworld Studios, the same group behind the fighting game Mortal Kombat. It featured prominent DC superheroes and villains such as Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor and The Joker among other characters. The game was released last April 2013. The developers did announce that they were going to have a slew of Downloadable content in the form of extra characters, missions and skin packs (character costumes)

So far so good, yes?

Last November 12, 2013, the developers announced that they will be releasing an “Ultimate Edition” of the game. The Ultimate Edition will feature all of the DLC characters and all other preceding DLCs. It will most likely cost around $40.00 to $60.00, similar to a new video game price range. That’s the same price that Earl bought the game with. The only difference? He doesn’t have the DLCs. And if he did, he would have spent more than the forthcoming Ultimate Edition.

This drew Earl’s ire. In fact, gamers who bought the game at release, on first glance, could be mad.  And it is understandable. All the DLCs will be available at the same price gamers bought the game last April. The same sentiment should be running to those who bought the actual DLCs. Gamers will ultimately feel cheated and shortchanged.

 

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Sacrilege

Downloadable Content. (DLCs) These things have caused such confusion and pain to gamers of earth. They have been the bane of unbridled passion for video games.

Well, supposedly.

On the back of supposedly abusive capitalism, gamers have grown tired over this seemingly underhanded approach: Offer all the DLCs in a more content-filled version of a video game half a year from its original release. It is a surefire method of angering the gaming populace. Not only does it signal that those who bought the game at release bought at a much more expensive price, it also presents the regret-turned-to-anger phase since the buyers are implied not to have that certain hindsight that game prices will cheapen in due time. Gamers, nay, consumers would feel that they have been fooled by capitalism. Such is the case of Earl and Injustice.

This is outright sacrilegious. But I would like to “partially” disagree.

Before the steaming sentiment contribute to global warming, put down the controller and remove the troll face. It’s not going to do any good. The best case is to think about it. Here are certain views on the subject matter:

 

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The Time Value of (Video Games) Money / The Economics of Time

Let’s put things into a business perspective. (yuck!) During the game’s release, a certain person had $ 60.00. He can either do the following:

  1. Buy the game “Injustice: Gods Among Us”
  2. Buy some other game
  3. Spend it on some other thing
  4. Place it in the financial market and possibly earn money (plausible)

Notice that the first three options will ultimately lead the gamer into spending money and deriving an immediate form of utility, as expressed in pleasure and enjoyment of playing the game on hand. The person therefore consumes the good.

On the other hand, the fourth option is the only option there that does not give a certain “immediate” utility to the person. It will take time before your money grows in the bank. Heck, it might even lose some money if placed in the current stock market.

The point is, “time” also has a certain intrinsic value that everyone, including gamers, should consider. Companies, including game developers take that into consideration when making business decisions. Purchased property, with the exception of real estate and some other giffen goods (you do the Wikipedia search), diminishes in value. A car’s value diminishes over time. The same process applies to an appliance or a mobile phone. It’s also the same with a video game. Accountants call this one “depreciation.” As such, business consultants will suggest to video game developers that they need to prolong the life of their product. DLCs and expansions are perfect example of extending a video game’s shelf life. Since the product has aged, there’s no sense in keeping it at the same cost during its initial release. It’s either a price decrease or a content increase (with the same price) to ensure the “fair value” of the game. This also opens up the opportunity for those who weren’t able to buy the game. The additional content featured in the Ultimate Edition becomes icing in the cake.

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Core and Non-Core

The general creed for DLCs lie upon the respect between the “core and non-core” contents of the game. The “core” refers to something essential and necessary. The main story line, the main set of characters, the gameplay are examples of such pre-requisites. On the other hand, non-core refers to the “value added” service that is derived from the core. These are non-essential features that provide an expansion and or derivation from the core. It complements the core content.

A perfect example of a non-core DLC are the expansion packs for Borderlands 2, a first-person-shooter and role-playing-game by game developer Take Two Interactive. The expansion packs delve into the events after the Vault Hunter (the protagonist) defeats Handsome Jack, the game’s main Antagonist. It featured an expansion to the list of game weaponry, missions and side-missions, and avatar skins. It also focuses on the character development of other characters such as Tiny Tina and Sir Hammerlock. At the end of the day, the main missions are doable without the DLC. Nothing is taken away from the core content.

On the other hand, a bastardization of this creed can be found in “Asura’s Wrath,” an action, beat-em-up game by Japanese Video Game developer Cyber Connect 2 and was published by Capcom. While the game has an ending, Capcom released a DLC that would feature the TRUE ending, as the core ending was left hanging. DLC. In order to fully follow the story of the game, the gamer needed to purchase the DLC. Core content was for another, additional sale.

In the words of my friend, who is a fan of Asura’s Wrath, “Capcom f*cked us up.”

 

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Nostalgia: Then and Now

Remember Cyber Akuma? A Marvel vs. Street Fighter that was unlockable if you met certain game conditions. Remember when Megaman’s Ultimate armor had to be collected from all the stages? Or when characters from Tekken can also be unlocked by just playing the game for a certain amount of time?

Those were free and those were also stuff of legends that gamers would still talk about even today. The glory days then meant that gamers had to exert effort into unlocking additional content. Falling in love with the lore was inevitable since everyone had to spend time and endure certain tasks that made them appreciate the construction (or deconstruction) of the game.

Fast forward to 2013 and everything is either monetized and or instant. You want the extra characters now? Sure, go ahead, just pay an extra five bucks. You want a horse mount armor? Sure, but your credit card will be charged an extra amount. You want an extra story for the main character? As long as you have the money to burn, you will get it.

The problem with DLC isn’t necessarily the content itself. The problem also arises from idea of monetization. That, my friends deserve another write-up.

 

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Verdict

While I do understand where Earl is coming from, I do think that the Ultimate Edition of “Injustice: Gods among Us” is fairly priced. It feels like, and acts like a Game of the Year (GOTY) edition wrapped in some marketing lingo by advertisers since the target market reveres fiction and everything else that shouts “superhero.”

 

For someone like me who still doesn’t have a copy of the game, it’s a damn good buy.

 

 

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