Welcome to the ZTGD Reviewer Rodeo. Each week, we’ll grab on to the hottest issue, hold on for dear life, and wrassle it to the ground.
One of the major innovations of this generation has been downloadable content. Whether bringing new stories to single-player campaigns, fresh killing grounds for online sport, or simply some new clothes for characters, there is something for nearly every type of gamer. Many times, DLC is even announced before a game launches and/or exclusive to certain retailers. The ZTGameDomain review crew takes a look at their favorite (and least favorite) DLC trends and share their hopes for the future in this week’s Reviewer Rodeo
John “Dubya” Whitehouse
Downloadable content is a great innovation and has become commonplace for gamers now. But, as with all good things nowadays, you have to take the rough with the smooth.
DLC can range from being an obvious cash-in to something that can expand a game’s story and characters; something that adds actual meaningful content on to one of your favourite games. Take the Fallout 3 DLC, 5 pieces of addition content that, put together, cost the same as a full priced game. I went out and downloaded all 5 for the simple reason that they added to the story of the game (in one case, actually changing the ending) and kept me engrossed in a game that I had already spent over 60 hours in. They were full of content and took hours to complete.
On the flip side, there is always the case of the infamous Horse Armour in Oblivion, which cost a large amount of msp’s for very little in the way of content. You could also look at a game like Tiger Woods for an example of where the consumer may feel cheated. You buy the game for Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£40 with a handful of courses on it, only to find that there are almost as many new courses available for purchase on XBLA the day the game comes out. In a lot of cases, the content is already on the disc, and by asking you to pay for these makes you feel that the boxed game you bought was incomplete. It’s this kind of DLC that tends to get people enraged, and it is easy to see why. Sure, in some cases you could argue that the DLC found on the disc was worked on by another part of the development team and was never intended to be part of the main game. But, in a lot of cases, it seems that publishers are just trying to make more money by removing elements of a game, knowing that they can then charge you if you want to get the full experience. Assassin’s Creed 2 did this by removing 2 of the memory sequences and then releasing them as DLC later.
But to me, that isn’t the worse kind of DLC out there. In my opinion the biggest DLC crime is store exclusive DLC, where each different retailer has an exclusive piece of DLC to giveaway with a pre-order. I feel that the publishers are just punishing the game’s fan base (the people who would have pre-ordered and bought the game anyway). In a lot of these cases, the exclusive DLC won’t be available anywhere else, ever. So if you are a big fan of a game, not only do you have to agonize over which piece of DLC you want, but you also have to live with the fact that you won’t be getting the full experience from the game that you love. It’s a real unfair way of doing it. I think that if publishers are going to do this kind of pre-order bonus, then they need to make all of the pre-order DLC available to buy from the online store, so that people can purchase the other DLC if they wish, even if they have to pay a small charge to do so.
Drew “Frustrated Fury” Leachman
I am a fan of any downloadable content that extends the life of the game. Granted, PC games have been doing this through expansions for a very long time, but with the technology that we have today it is now possible to digitally distribute full on games to consumers. By far the most I have put into a DLC is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – The Shivering Isles. It took up a lot of space on my small 20GB hard drive, but I put at least 30 hours into that expansion alone. Things like that are what can make downloadable content great.
What I hate with a fire burning passion is console and retailer exclusive content. It really hit hard when they announced PS3 exclusive content for Batman: Arkham Asylum. That’s when I realized that this trend is getting out of hand. It kills me to know that money is being exchanged to keep people from having fun playing their games. It’s just a really sleazy way of doing business that helps no one but console manufacturers and certain retailers. At this point, I couldn’t care less about exclusive content. It’s like fighting a losing battle if I do care. I wish it would stop, but it will never happen.
Ken “Zero Tolerance” McKown
Personally, I love DLC. It keeps me playing games long after their shelf life thanks to new content to help keep it fresh. I love getting new costumes, stages and even single-player narrative for games, and it has opened up a whole new world for developers to continue supporting these games long after their release. What I do not like is when things are locked on the disc and later opened up with a key for a price. I don’t necessarily have an issue with developers cutting back content if a game drags on too long, or needs to be shaved, but leaving said content on the disc and charging me to unlock it is just shady in my opinion.
Perfect examples of this are the recently released L.A. Noire. There are cases that were created, but cut to keep the length at a certain time. This is similar to Director’s Cuts of movies for me. This content can be added in later for a small price tag, and extend the game well beyond the initial push. Another pet peeve of mine is paying for cheat codes in games. These are the kinds of things developers use to throw in for fun, and now we can immediately upgrade our character for a few real dollars. DLC is a great tool that is just not always used properly. I love the possibilities, but developers and publishers really need to learn how to manage it better. Stop announcing DLC before the game launches. While it may not be ready for launch, it makes it look like you are simply holding back content to charge us for later.
Mike “Red Pen of Doom” Futter
I remember the days when pre-order bonuses used to be game-related items that didn’t impact the in-game experience. Things like decks of playing cards (Gun), messenger bags (Mirror’s Edge), and action figures (too many games to mention) were used to lure people in to certain retailers. Regardless of where you chose to buy (or when, for that matter) you were guaranteed the same experience with the game itself. Enter DLC.
I share the disgust of my colleagues when it comes to in-game pre-order bonuses and DLC announced before the game itself even hits retailers. These practices have been abusive. I am heartened that NetherRealm and Rockstar/Team Bondi came out in advance of Mortal Kombat and LA Noire to say that all pre-order bonuses would be available for purchase later on. I don’t mind paying for the other bonuses (if I’m interested in them). I just hate knowing that the game I purchased for $60 isn’t complete.
It’s not hard to figure out how this evolved. It used to be that only EB Games and Gamestop had the exclusive bonuses. As Amazon, Best Buy, and now the superstores (Target, Walmart and even K-Mart) stepped up their videogame departments, pressure was put on the publishers. Prime retail space is limited. Rather than create tangible items, which cost money and take up warehouse space, publishers pushed developers to create in-game trinkets to incentivize pre-orders.
It’s not all bad, though. In the right hands, DLC is much more than pre-order crap and unlock keys for content already on the disk. Companies like Bethesda, Bioware, and Rockstar have packed hours of additional narrative-expanding content into their DLC. With Mass Effect 2, the DLC bridges the story to the conclusion of the trilogy. If multiplayer is more your thing, new map packs and gameplay modes in all of the marquis titles are practically a sure-thing.
Like any innovation, DLC is simply a tool. It’s up to the developers, publishers, and the console manufacturers to make sure it’s managed properly. As I mentioned in an earlier Reviewer Rodeo, my hope is that we see some tighter guidelines on DLC soon. Microsoft and Sony need to clamp down on day zero DLC and on-disk unlocks. They are insulting, infuriating, and pure abuse.
That’s all for this edition of the ZTGD Reviewer Rodeo. Join us next week as we grab onto another bucking bronco of controversy and beat it into submission.
Got questions or comments? Drop ’em in the comment section below or hit us up via email. Suggestions for Reviewer Rodeo topics that you want our opinions on? Hit Mike up at [email protected].