An unfortunate reality of the current generation video game consoles and push towards digital media is the advent of downloadable content (DLC). What was once considered additional/expansionary elements of a game that could be downloaded post-launch has become something that releases alongside the retail version of the game, often times on the disc itself, hidden and locked away until players fork out money to utilize content on a disc they already purchased.
The feeling of purchasing a game, to have pieces held back and charged for separate is terrible for consumers, but according to Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski, it’s just one of the “unfortunate realities” of modern game development.
GameSpot spoke with Cliffy B at PAX East this weekend in Boston and they touched on the controversial topic earning a lot of attention thanks to the Mass Effect 3 day one DLC and even moreso, the Street Fighter X Tekken DLC mess where Capcom included a pile of
DLC characters on the game disc, followed by stating that downloadable content and locked disc content is the same.
“When you’re making a game, and you’re getting into a ship cycle, there’s often three or four months where the game is basically done. And you have an idle team that needs to be working on things.
“And often for compatibility issues, [on] day one, some of that content does need to be on-disc. It’s an ugly truth of the gaming industry. I’m not the biggest fan of having to do it, but it is one of the unfortunate realities.”
How did game development work before the PS3/Xbox 360 then? Are there no other projects for the dev team to be working on in those three-four months Bleszinski refers to? Are there not true expansions that could be worked on, other games, sequels, etc.? Why is a lot of it available exactly when the game launches?
While Cliffy B is right about development time and managing resources, the fact is, launch week DLC/on-disc content could be released as part of the $60 retail package or as a free download. Everything else, semantics aside, is a scheme to grab more money from customers and that’s what gets people upset. If it’s on the disc, why isn’t it part of the game?
The Street Fighter X Tekken characters were planned before the game released and were there whole time, but not accessible to players (unless they hacked the game – which they did).
Paying for a game and not getting the whole package will never be accepted fully by the gaming community. Games are expensive and there are too many to play, so consumers expect value for their dollar. The trend of held-back/locked content is an unfortunate one and like Cliffy B says, it won’t go away until all content is digital, but not because it’s an unfortunate necessity, but because publishers have the incentive to charge separately for content.
Just look at Epic’s own Gears of War 3, a game which held back characters and assets already built into the game’s campaign from multiplayer, released later as DLC. Did I mention the $45 worth of… weapon skins they sold through microstransactions? Ugly truth indeed.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.