Sunday, October 18, 2009

Control Freak: DLC and You

(Welcome to the newest part of this blog. The part where I can openly RAGE about something that's bugging me within the gaming world. This is NOT a light-hearted expression of what I think, or a See-It-From-My-Point-of-View blog like the Random Blogs. This is me, yelling at you, yelling at the companies, yelling at the games, yelling at a wall about what's being done wrong.)(Or what's being done right but I still hate it anyway.)

As the inaugural blog for Control Freak, I think it's best I start with a particular topic that strikes many gamers as unfair: DLC, or Downloadable Content for those not in the know.

DLC is what is offered over a console's Internet service as part of the ever-expanding experience. The type of DLC ranges from menu themes, new level maps, new cars, new songs, new costumes, new characters, new game modes, new game chapters, harder difficulties... basically anything that can be added to a game these days to make your life a living hell -- I mean steal your life away from you by making you play the game longer -- I mean... no wait, that is what I mean.

Keep in mind, non-gamer readers, that all DLC is entirely optional. There is no need to download a part of the game in order to keep playing it. You can think of it like a navigation system in a car: It's optional but not necessary.

There are some cases where DLC is offered on release day simply for the fact that there was not enough room on the disc to handle all of it. That can be understandable, but to most gamers it really pushes their buttons (seriously no pun intended) and they continue thinking it was done to make money.

That is the case when content is left out of a game on purpose so it can be sold either on release day or later as DLC. This makes gamers mad in the fact that:
A: It was withheld so the companies can make more money.
B: Some DLC can be seen as outrageously priced ($5 for one costume).
C: Some DLC should be offered as a patch instead.

Take Resident Evil 5's Mercenaries mode for example: on release day the player could connect to Xbox Live or Playstation Network and spend $5 to unlock the mode.
Alternatively they could have JUST PLAYED THROUGH THE GAME TO UNLOCK IT.
So what's the point of charging $5 for a mode that's readily available and only takes BEATING the game to unlock it?

Then there's the case of Capcom and Super/Street Fighter IV. When SF4 was released, gamers rejoiced. It was the newest offering of the Street Fighter franchise in almost 10 years.
A year later Super Street Fighter IV was announced and fans were pissed.
Because it's essentially the same game, just SUPER in the title and with more characters. All for a lesser price than the original game.
Non-gamers might be thinking: if there's more content, why don't they just charge more for the SUPER iteration? Or offer it as DLC?
If they were to offer it as DLC, it might change the programming of the game entirely: new character selection screen, new intro movie, new title, new move sets, etc. It's not like an update where everyone's copy of the game is patched in order to fix something. They would be losing money in allowing everyone with the game to download the DLC. Not to mention the months it would take to get the DLC approved.
Someone with the original game might not be able to play against someone with SUPER because the programming will be different, and Capcom wants fairness all around.

Is the case of Capcom and SF4 cheap? (Some might say) No.
Is the case of RE5 and Mercenaries mode cheap? Yes.

Charging for content that's already on the disc is a traitorous act. We buy the games, we support the companies and yet we get the shaft.

Now let's talk Game of the Year Editions, what can be seen as some as the biggest rip-offs ever. Microsoft and Xbox 360 are especially notorious for this.
Take Forza Motorsport 2 for example: When the game was released the price was $60. Seeing as how most games this generation are released at that price it's reasonable. Then came the DLC: new race tracks and, over the months, about a dozen new cars. The DLC prices ranged from free to $5 (800 Microsoft points). That's not too bad I suppose.
But fast forward to today where you can go to a store and buy Forza 2 with all available DLC (on a second disc) for the low low price of $20
Considering it was originally $60 + cost of DLC does that make it a rip-off? Yes.
I can understand the value of a game decreasing over time but really? Someone who bought the game new would either have to get the DLC or buy the Platinum Hits version only for the second disc. (I'm not sure about content rights and all that, but someone could probably borrow the game from a friend, install the second disc and play everything. Again, though, I'm not sure.)

DLC, in many rights, is just and fair and adds more to the game. But when there are several chapters added on, taking our money, taking our time, taking our very lives from us... it just gets to be too much.
A player can sink so much of themselves into a game for months, maybe a year or so, only for a sequel or a Game of The Year Edition to be released with all the previous DLC offered up as bait.
"Maybe that'll make more people buy the game and there will be new people to play with!"
Or maybe everyone else already has the game and it's no fun to play against a n00b with zero experience?
Then what good is that game?

Now let's talk about Premium Themes and Avatar clothing.
First the themes: users from both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will know what I'm talking about. You can pay so much money for a...
Oh, the non-gamers don't know.
Well a theme is color and picture scheme for the 360 and PS3 that changes the look of the consoles main menu screen and such. Again, it's not necessary, but it can get a little tiresome looking at the same starter theme for months.
Some themes are free. Others can cost up to $5.
5 bucks to change the look of your console's menus.
It can be seen as pointless on the 360 since you can import a picture file onto the background and use whatever you want. On the PS3 you can change the color scheme and maybe add a picture. Idk since I don't own one.
But as I was saying: you can pay so much for a theme that can be summed up as "putting a dress on your dog." You're going to spend a lot of time playing games or maybe watching movies with your console, not staring at how pretty your theme is. Do you really need to spend $5 to make it look fancy?

As for Avatar clothing: Avatars are Xbox 360's version of you, or a person you send to represent you. Your Avatar doesn't have to be of the same gender. Is an Avatar optional like the themes?
With the release of the New Xbox Experience, the Avatars were made available to everyone who connected their 360 to the internet and updated their consoles. The console update is optional, but necessary if you want to... oh I don't know... keep playing games, getting content, and so on. You're required to select a pre-made Avatar and then adjust it how you want to, there's no getting around it.
When you get bored of the standard set of clothes available for your Avatar, you can go on Live and buy new clothes. But like I keep saying: it's not necessary. And it's pretty pointless actually. You're not going to make your Avatar cute by spending real world money on a fake shirt. Got it?

(And yes, that's my actual Avatar.)

All in all DLC can be evil if you're broke, an evil necessity if you really want it, and gimmicky if you have enough money. The fact that game companies can charge us for our lives is preposterous. The fact that we buy this stuff is even more so.
Try as we might, the game companies have us whipped. They say jump and we press a button and do it.

So what happens when the game companies don't listen to us: the gamers?
I believe that's for another blog.

Keep Playing.

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