In Gaming, Downloadable Content Reigns

In Gaming, Downloadable Content Reigns
Courtesy Photo Injustice 2 recently released with several purchasing options for additional downloadable content on the day of release.

Courtesy Photo
Injustice 2 recently released with several purchasing options for additional downloadable content on the day of release.

Over the weekend, I reached my proverbial limit putting up with the cost of gaming.

Since I was a kid, games have run about $50 to $60. For the last three years, the gaming community has seen a substantial increase in microtransactions and downloadable content. For the uninitiated, downloadable content (DLC) is basically an extension of the content already included in the game.

By way of a “for instance,” Fallout 4 included a base game set in a post-apocalyptic Boston. The DLC aded in further locations and missions, including a quest set in Maine and one set in a weirdly Coca-Cola-themed Disney World. On the surface, this is a pretty neat thing: You get the base game, and then later they add a bunch of extra stuff. That’s what it was intended to be anyway. In the intervening years between the debut of DLC and, say, the debut of the Netherrealm/DC Comics fighting game Injustice 2 over the weekend, something has changed for the worse.

I bought Injustice 2 for $100. There were three versions of the game: a standard edition ($60), a champion edition ($80 with some additional content) and the Ultimate Edition ($100) which promises to add all the DLC as it comes out. I didn’t find out until after spending the money that they meant “all the DLC except for our pre-order bonus, Darkseid, which will cost an extra $6.”

So, for a total of $106, I have a new game and a promise that an extra nine characters will be added at some point. After roughly 10 hours of play over the weekend, I had completed the Story Mode included with the game. Another two hours of gameplay and I had completed the story mode with all available characters. Roughly five hours of gameplay got me through the various arcade endings for the characters. Basically, I completed a $100 game in under 20 hours of playtime. This isn’t a normal thing. Good games, great games have 60 or more hours of unique play in them. Granted, this is a fighting game, which normally runs shorter than other story-based video games, but it’s less about the content of the game and more about the price tag attached.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this will ever change. In my admittedly short research on the subject, the majority of gaming law pertains to gambling and casinos, with little-to-no regulation on the console gaming industry outside of the ESRB, the ratings board that decides which games are E, T, or M. In terms of regulation on the obvious greed emanating from the gaming studios, if you look up how this goes for developers, you find tales of unpaid overtime and nose-to-the-grindstone for 14 hours a day with very little in terms of off-time. So, it really doesn’t seem like the people whose names are attached to the credits are seeing any of the mounds of money coming in from these ventures.

My examples are the less extreme ones, actually. I avoid games like Battlefield and Call of Duty, massive online multiplayer games with very little single player content and some seriously bad online gamer attitudes. They usually cost the base $60 and then an additional $120 for a season pass, which doesn’t give you much outside of some new guns and maps to play on, maybe some voice packs done by Snoop Dogg or some other celebrity. That’s almost $200 for a computer game. That’s just insane.

So, what, if anything, could I do about this? Honestly, I think I’m doing it right now with this article. I constantly see gaming websites like Polygon and Kotaku run articles complaining about DLC and nefarious “free-to-play” mobile games that are anything but. I’ve not seen anyone propose any ideas to combat it, because I don’t think it’s actually possible. What power do the consumers have over anything besides to stop buying, and who actually thinks massively successful franchises like Call of Duty or Fallout would be affected at all by a boycott? No, this is something someone higher up than a few gamers is going to have to handle. This needs to be taken to courts or congress or whoever it is that has power to say “Wow, okay, yeah, that’s a bit out of control, scale that back.”

Once upon a time, games cost $60 and a season pass averaged an additional $20. I never felt like Bioshock Infinite, or even the original Injustice, was half a game without the DLC. They were both packed to the brim initially and then added some lengthy extra content later. More than worth $20. Selling people half a game though, and then charging them an arm and a leg for the rest of the content? That’s something else. That’s just blind greed. Hey, American capitalism, amirite?

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