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DLC and the Psychology of Incompletion

This morning, I went to pick up Mass Effect 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken at the Gamestop around the corner. There was a line of seven or eight people in front me, all accepting delivery on the former. When asked if they wanted to buy the $10 “From Ashes” DLC that adds an extra character and mission on top of the $60 retail price of the game, all agreed on the spot to purchase it. No questions asked. Except me. But I won’t lie, I was definitely tempted because the way that DLC of this kind works at a psychological level is to make you feel like your game is somehow not complete out-of-the-box. I mean, it’s a fully playable character and storyline. You don’t want to miss anything, right? You don’t want to rank low on the Galactic Readiness Meter and get a bad outcome from your 100+ hours of the Mass Effect story, do you?

It’s a play to fan emotions, hype, and the simple psychology that people want to get the full Mass Effect experience- such as it is, with “bonus” content scattered across numerous promotions, exclusives, and other marketing devices. Many will justify this from a fan position. Many more will simply spend the $10 without questioning it, appealing to their fandom for validation or simply not really considering the psychology that’s at work on them.

Frankly, I don’t care about the add-on character- and I love Mass Effect. I can read about this character online if I really feel the need to in order to get the full story. I don’t have to play with it, even it’s an addition on the level of Shale from Dragon Age: Origins. Aside from that, if BioWare and EA don’t feel that the content is integral to the core experience of the game, then it’s not essential to me either. And for $10, I can take my son to Leapin’ Lizards twice. Doing something with my son wins out over video games every time, whether they’re complete experiences or not.

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It’s ironic that I picked up the new Capcom title at the same time with the froofra going on about the 12 future DLC characters being already present on the disc. If you sell somebody something and tell them that they’re going to have to pay more later to access stuff they’ve already got in their possession, that doesn’t tend to go over to well. But here again, what fan of this game wants to be without these extra characters? Your game is incomplete without them. Even if you’re content running your Poison and King team ad infinitum, it’s always going to be in the back of your mind that there’s something missing, as if you bought a puzzle at the thrift store knowing that it was missing pieces. And that’s a strong mental lead-in to a purchase.

You can feel this pull as well in any online multiplayer game with map packs- log in to Modern Warfare 3 and see if you don’t feel left out like you’re playing a hobbled game if you don’t have the map additions. Additions which are only available right now to Elite subscribers. It’s not as easy to dismiss DLC content as “optional” when there is a certain psychology at work that makes the consumer feel that the product they own is not complete. And when you can hop right onto Xbox Live or PSN and charge it up when you get that impulse to buy the rest of the game, it can be hard to resist. If all your friends want to play Domination on a map you haven’t bought, the content becomes less optional, doesn’t it?

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We’ve heard wailing and gnashing of teeth now for years about on-disc DLC, day one DLC, the cost of map packs and so forth yet the march towards a la carte, per diem monetization continues. And it’s all your fault. Yes, you who bought or are going to buy “From Ashes”. And you that buy all the map packs and worthless horse armor nonsense like weapon skins, costumes, and system voices (really?). If either this kind of silly cosmetic garbage or essential content split out into multiple purchases didn’t sell, the publishers wouldn’t be doing it. For every forumista that stridently (and impotently) declares that they’re protesting and not buying a game, there’s a thousand that are forking over the cash without batting an eye.

Now, let’s be clear. Neither EA, BioWare, or Capcom are starving artist community that are Just Doing It Because They Love Games, Man. They are not doing what they do to make you happy or please you beyond providing a product that you will give them money for. All of the immature, childish hollering that you see online about companies “milking” their properties or making “cash grabs” is apparently the bleating of people that have no understanding of how capitalism or for-profit business works. And if you think that EA and other publishers aren’t running numbers to see how much they can charge you for DLC, the extent to which they can monetize a title, and what your “will not buy” point is- you’d be mistaken. They know exactly what they can leave out of a “finished” retail product and you’ll still pony up for it.

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With that said, I have to say that as much as I dislike the trends around DLC and as insidious and pernicious as I think the psychology around parceled content is, these companies are doing the right thing. They’re doing exactly what smart businesses with saleable product should be doing. You’ve voted with your dollars, you’ve responded favorably to their mind games. And you’ve said “please sir, may I have another”. We’re not too far off from a future where we won’t be buying games, we’ll be buying digital storefronts with shelves stocked with ephemeral, transient products marketed to make you feel a sense of lacking and designed to appeal to the psychology that makes us want to spend money for complete products without a sense of lack- even if it means spending an extra $10 to complete a $60 purchase right there at the register.

Michael Barnes

Games writer Michael Barnes is a co-founder of Nohighscores.com as well as FortressAT.com. His trolling has been published on the Web and in print in at least two languages and in three countries. His special ability is to cheese off nerds using the power of the Internet and his deep, dark secret is that he's actually terrible at games. Before you ask, no, the avatar is not him. It's Mark E. Smith of The Fall.

46 thoughts to “DLC and the Psychology of Incompletion”

  1. It’s funny that you posted this.

    I just got back from Gamestop on my lunch break. I picked up my preorder, and when the Gamestop grunt asked if I wanted the DLC, I was confused because I assumed the game would come with a code inside for a character to discourage used purchases, like ME2 and Zaeed. I went ahead and bought it, thinking I wouldn’t get the ‘full experience’, then walked out to my truck and sat there for a minute thinking, “What the hell did I just do? Why/How did my $60 game become $70?”

    I shit you not — I’m disgusted with myself and EA/Bioware at the moment. Mostly myself though.

  2. I’m not a fighting game guy, but that SF X Tekken debacle is horseshit in my eyes. I’d wait for the inevitable discounted version that contains all the DLC, if I was going to get it at all. On the other hand, well, I can’t really argue with you there Michael. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that. Vote with your wallet and these companies will stop pulling this shit.

    1. The problem is that it isn’t quite so simple though- as mentioned elsewhere here, if you’re a Black Ops player and play with your friends, there’s a social pressure to buy this crap. If you are a big fan of Mass Effect, your sense of fandom is being preyed upon. And this whole psychological appeal to a fear of _lack_ makes it hard, I think, for people to say no to this stuff.

      But again, so many people just don’t care about these issues at all, as long as they’re having fun.

      1. I bought the first ME game and I have no qualms about the DLC I purchased that came out well after the initial release. It was content that they created after the fact. However, I will admit I pirated the 2nd ME when I found out that I couldn’t borrow the game from my friend to play it because I would miss out on content and I didn’t have the money at the time to buy it new. I will pirate this one because it’s BS that they are requiring me to pay an extra 10 to have all content.

        I also bought Soul Cal 4 on day one and was furious to find out that Vader was on the disc but I couldn’t play as him or use other DLC content. That led me to renting Soul Cal 5 which makes me happy because I found that game to be crap compared to the older titles and will not buy it.

        So there’s my vote. They are losing money from me because of this crap. I only steal from thieves though and I will happily continue to pay for any game that doesn’t use tactics such as this.

  3. It’s all horse armor. I know this because Bioware would never put significant resources into what amounts to an impulse purchase. Granted, many people opt in for the extra ten bucks, but if they didn’t, what a waste of money for Bioware to have spent significant resources on something that may not see a return on investment for them. Significant Story driven DLC is different because that comes after the game has been out for some time and attempts to lengthen the game’s tail.

    Unless you’re a vinyl kit owning Mass Effect fan I can’t imagine any DLC available in the first month of release will really be worth your pennies.

  4. This is what I keep telling people over an over when they complain about DLC release timing and pricing. Your forum protestations and online petitions are completely meaningless because you STILL BUY IT.

    You can send 1,000 angry emails to Bioware but as long as you and all your friends keep shelling out whatever price is asked for any and all additional content then it will not only keep coming out, but it will also come out more frequently and be more expensive to boot.

    Most folks will give you a blank stare if you mention a supply and demand curve because basic economics doesn’t seem to be a part of the general curriculum anymore. But here is how it works: Price for a thing comes from how much of a thing there is and how likely people are to buy it. If there are only seven apples in the store and 100 people want an apple then you can expect that the price of the apples will be high. 50,000 apples and two customers, apples will be almost free.

    With DLC “supply” becomes irrelevant after production. The supply is functionally infinite after development is complete. So the only thing left to drive the cost is demand. Remember when 800MSP seemed like a lot for a map pack? Now similar map packs are 1200MSP. Why? Because everybody bought it at 800. Then they bought it at 1000. Then they bought it at 1200. See where this is going? Until we stop ACTUALLY BUYING game add-ons they will just keep raising the price. Because why not? If someone is willing to pay $50 for a snicker’s bar then by all means sell it to them for $50. The quality of the thing is irrelevant. The value is determined solely by the point at which people will stop paying for it.

    So if gamers are really annoyed with add-on content then there is only one way to change it. You have to resist the urge to catch it all. If there is add on content that you like then you should certainly support it, but if we just gobble down everything they offer with no question then the hose will only get wider and the cuts will only get deeper. Not only that, the quality of what you are getting will go down as well. Because I bet you dollars to donuts that if they release horse armor for skyrim it will be 400MSP and it will sell 3 times as much as the oblivion version.

    1. Great post- definitely a call to action.

      The problem is that to combat this, it does need to be a WE. Not a “guy on the forum”. But a movement of people saying “no”. People not giving in, and people realizing that they don’t HAVE to have any of this horse armor. But WE keep giving them money, and they keep inching up the prices and parcelling content.

      The press supports this by reporting on “announcements” and “confirmations” of DLC.

      These companies DO NOT CARE how mad you are. But they do care if you stop giving them money.

    2. fundamentally dude there is no supply and demand. you’re not buying any old game, you buy this game! THE ONE AND ONLY MASS EFFECT 3 DUDE! YEAH! If you’re buying day 1, you’re already sold, you’re more than likely going to be talking to people about it, playing it online and being part of the ‘hype.’ so while i get ya, its not really an economic decision.

  5. I feel this is part of the reason I dont bother with gaming anymore. I cant stand the formulated BS anymore. I cant stand 60 dollars for a game that should be 40 (Thanks Pirates, you know who you are). I hate paying another 15-30 even 45 for more game which by the way is always very little extra. And like stated if you dont your game is indeed hobbled. Just go play Black ops without a map pack with your friends and be the kid with no ice cream at the ice cream truck.

    I now have not played in 4 months.

    1. You know what’s funny? The map packs and what not are intended to encourage you to keep playing the games (and spending money) and to keep you from selling your games on the aftermarket. However, when map packs start to come out, I tend to reach a point where I feel like I don’t want to keep up and I sell the game right off. I loved Uncharted 3’s multiplayer, but I didn’t want to buy a “Treasure Hunter” pass and with all the new maps out, I just gave up on it.

      DLC encourages me to get rid of games!

  6. I just finished replaying ME 1 and 2, making sure I had a proper save file in anticipation of the third chapter. I would like to stand by my convictions and boycott this game, or at least get off my couch and go buy it at the store so I’m not supporting this Origin BS, but, sadly, it’s probably not going to happen.

    Companies aren’t going to change because this stuff works. However, I don’t think these companies are considering the value of their reputation. I happily purchased Minecraft in alpha because I was promised free updates forever. Even if I didn’t like the game, I wanted to support what he was doing. I’ve purchased a couple Humble Bundles, even when I already owned some of the games, because I admire the concept and want it to succeed.

    I pay far more attention to projects made by developers that I respect. Bioware has been one of my favorites, but their design decisions and marketing tactics have severely impacted that. Does it matter? Can user opinion ever make a difference?

    I was a rabid fan of the first couple Call of Duty titles, but haven’t played them since they ditched dedicated server browsers. Any day now Activision will go broke and decide to reply to my letters. They’ll apologize to me, fix what I don’t like, and beg me to come back. Any day now…

    1. When you’re a company the size of EA or Activision, you don’t worry about your reputation with online complainers. You laugh at them and then take their money.

      It literally does not matter that the online forums are afire with blazing hatred for Activision. No one there likely reads nor pays attention to any of it, because they’re too busy going to the bank and figuring out how to further expand the profitability of their IP.

  7. Got mine with my CE, could not care less.

    I know damn well I am part of the problem, and I am more than happy to pay extra for DLC if I feel the game warrants it. I play over 40 games a year, in all stripes, and I have purchased DLC for two series: Alan Wake and Mass Effect.

    If I love a game, why wouldn’t I want to pay extra? Alan Wake and Mass Effect titles are full experiences without DLC, but the extras add more. Alan Wake deserved to sell tons more than it did, I got DLC to show the designers that I, at least, appreciated and wanted more.

    The point about internet bitching is spot on. Sales count, not complaints. If people are buying, there is no impetus to acknowledge anything beyond that. I never buy if I don’t like the DLC, there isn’t much more as a consumer I can do.

    1. How do you decide if a game warrants it when you’re making a day-1 or at-the-counter purchase?

      Shouldn’t the value of the DLC be considered separately from the game? Do you think “If I love the previous game enough, all new DLC is fair game”?

    2. That’s exactly right. These companies do not say “uh oh! Joe Gamer is angry that we’re charging $15 for a map pack! LOWER THE PRICES!” They say “Joe Gamer is bitching but he bought it…so let’s raise the price to $16”.

  8. Truly you vote with your wallet and all the prognostications about it online become irrelevant. The smartest thing a company can do is not comment on it, put it up there for whatever price they want and let the suckers line up to buy it. And they will buy it.

    If you need an example of this look at all the outcry about Online Passes for used games. People bitch about it, sign petitions, etc. and then EA reveals that they made $10 million dollars off the codes online.

    The only way to protest is with your wallet.

    1. So true. The bitching, petitioning, and so forth are irrelevant because most people lack the willpower to say “no” to DLC for some reason- largely in part due to this psychology of lack and in the case of mulitplayer games, the additional social pressure to keep up with everybody else.

      Yeah, online passes…OUTRAGE. But here’s my money. It makes no sense. Can these people not live without certain fucking video games?

      There’s also the issue that there is a huge, vast majority of people that do not visit sites like this and just follow right on with the online pass without thinking about it. I’m sure there’s plenty of online passes sold to folks who are just unaware that their new-at-retail copy of the game has one in the box.

  9. You say that not buying is impotent and for the businesses involved it is indeed futile but honestly not buying Capcom games and any other games that have DLC announcments so close to launch makes me feel better about myself. By not buying these games I can focus on giving money to on the less mainstream and for me more interesting games like the Darkness and Crusader Kings 2 (although that had cosmetic DLC at launch but I’ll forgive that since it is nothing big like a fucking Prothean). For me console gaming is dead and I would rather spend my time and money on the the far more experimental and high value for money PC games (huh I’ve become one of those people).

  10. There’s an easy solution to all this. And it dictates my buying behavior. You see, there are more games out there than you possibly have time for. I have Xbox games still on my shelf that need finishing, there are Steam deals to look out for and Humble Bundle games to play. If you want a game that doesn’t pull these stunts, you can just buy the ones that don’t. Look at Saints Row 3, it’s got like 300 DLC packs or whatever. This discourages me from buying the game at all, because I feel like if I bought it, it wouldn’t be complete. What will I do instead? I’m gonna wait for a Steam deal on The Witcher 2 and get more content than I can wrap my head around. Just look at that game. A 2.0 version, enhanced features, additional DLC that gets released for free and DRM free to boot. Just look for the developers and publishers that do care about your game experience and just forget about buying new on day one. You don’t need to buy new, unless someone gets you a birthday present. Wait for those price drops people and do your research. Let others get suckered into all this.

    1. This is a good point, I think all of us here likely have plenty of games to catch up with that don’t require DLC purchases. Heck, for $10, there’s probably plenty of 2-3 year old games you can pick up and get a HELL of a lot more value out of then “From Ashes”.

      1. That attitude pretty much fueled a decade or so of ignoring the PC gaming scene. I’ve got a bunch of games I’m not done having fun with yet, I didn’t care for what I was seeing, so I left.

        Recently, I’ve rediscovered a few thing I like, and I’ve been buying some games again. I’ve still got a backlog of games, so I still plan on skipping anything with practices I disagree with. Occasionally, it’s annoying that I’m skipping out on a game I wanted… but it’s more time for other things. I still try to make some effort to say why I’m not buying, so that my vote isn’t construed as a vote of ‘no interest’, but that does mean it is likely to lumped with the ‘sound and fury signifying they bought it anyway’….

  11. Excluding all of the map packs for castlevania HD I think I have bought two map packs one for CoD and one for Halo. Map packs are a rip off, extra story is a rip off, more characters rip off. If you the developer think this absolutely needs to be in the game then put it in the fucking game at the $59.99 price point. I want my game to be complete when I buy it, I’d be ok with them putting the box at $80 if there was that much actual content.

    This is one of the reasons I no longer support Bioware. I respected them as a developer to make a complete game and not expect me to purchase extra content. But since DA:O they have left a sour taste in my mouth. I won’t be playing ME3 and I know they won’t miss my $60 but I’ll be happy with myself.

    1. The thing that got me in DA:o was when the Dwarf in your camp practically says “Give me your credit card number and you can do this cool quest”.

      What makes all of this stuff a ripoff is that you’re really buying nothing, and it has zero resale value. I bought both Killzone 3 map packs, and I don’t have Killzone 3 anymore. I got screwed.

      I’m not buying any more map packs ever again. I guess if you only play a particular game or play a particular game extensively they add value. Otherwise, you’re a sucker.

      1. I got the CE of DA:O so the guy in my camp just gave me the quest. I bought almost all of the DLC for DA:O despite it being a bit lackluster at times. A couple of months ago though I started my second playthrough, a mage this time. I was having fun until after lothering when you get to the world map. I suddenly saw an icon there that wasn’t there in my first playthrough.

        Naturally, I clicked on it, and saw what seemed to be an interesting story play out. After the fight, I got to the guy who was bleeding to death on the floor. When I tried to heal the guy, the game took me to a screen where I basically had to pay to continue the quest. When I refused, he just lay there moaning, not actually dead, just waiting for me to pay up. I quit the game and uninstalled it.

        The dlc itself I could live with, the fact that some ingame guy was trying to sell me stuff? That really went against the grain for some reason. If I don’t have the content, then don’t have it in the game, don’t put the start of the quest there and then install a paywall.

  12. Firstly: I managed to resist the DLC temptation today as I picked up my Mass Effect 3 copy, primarily due to disappointment with the ME2 DLC. To be honest, at this point, I have yet to purchase DLC for any traditional, story-based game and be pleased with my choice. I’m always disappointed that the DLC feels too ‘episodic’ or irrelevant; if I had paid for the Zaeed DLC in ME2 (as I’m sure many have), I’d have been really pissed off. It added pretty much nothing to the overall story. Thankfully it was free with my purchase.

    It’s unfortunate that DLC is selling like crazy, but all we can do is not buy it individually, or, like Slothboy recommends, explain the principles of economics.

    1. That’s kind of what I was thinking, that it would be along the lines of the ME2 DLC. I didn’t buy any of it, but from talking about with folks it wasn’t essential. I didn’t miss any of it. And the Zaeed thing was totally unnecessary, I hated him and never used him.

      But hey, you tell gamers buying a $60 title that what they’re buying is incomplete…they don’t say “fuck you” and take their money elsewhere…they give you $10 more!

  13. I really don’t have a problem with the ME3 DLC.

    On one hand the game’s already $60, and Day Zero DLC smacks of price gouging. On the other hand Bioware’s current line of defense – that content freeze comes about three months before the game hits retail, and during that time the team works on DLC, so it’s not precisely accurate to say that this is something which should have been in the game – is valid. Sort of.

    Still, releasing it on day one doesn’t sound like a smart business move, but they could have just sat on it and released it later. The market will decide. I bought ME3 the other night and didn’t buy the DLC. If I like Mass Effect 3, then I will likely, at some point, get the DLC – if people say it’s worthwhile – if not, I will live without. At this point, I don’t feel like I bought an incomplete game.

    Even loving ME2 as much as I did I think the only DLC I bought was the “Shadow Broker” one. It was awesome, well worth whatever money I spent on it. I totally skipped the rest and didn’t feel like I missed out.

    Let the market decide, I say!

    I think I ended up buying most, if not all, of the content-based DLC for the first Dragon Age and never regretted it. I enjoyed the extra content enough to make it worth my money.

    1. My only counter to the ‘3 month freeze’ defense is that, if the character was important enough to be in the game, they likely started working on it prior to three months away from release. I assume this is a fully-voiced character with dialogue and the whole bit, not just some weapons with readjusted stats and a new skin.

      Moreover, in the event the three month issue was somehow legitimate, I don’t see why they couldn’t just tack in on as a new purchase code aka Shale/Zaeed. It can’t be that difficult to print up a bunch of scratch-off cards. This was a blatant money grab. And I feel dumb for spending the money. But, who knows, maybe the character will make me change my mind. Just annoying.

  14. I just honestly don’t have a problem with DLC, and it upsets me when people jump all over it. If you don’t want to buy it, don’t buy it. I’m certain that game companies have strategies in place to make tons of money from DLC.

    But part of the reason DLC exists is because the game content has to wrap at some point. The game goes into QA, or whatever. And during all that time, there are a bunch of artists and writers sitting around with nothing to do. So they make new stuff and then sell it to you.

    The only thing I don’t like about DLC is that it has probably killed the full expansion. I liked those longer story arcs. I almost never buy DLC after launch because I don’t want to plug back into ME2 six months after I beat it just to play a bite sized bit for two hours.

    If you don’t like the DLC, don’t pay for it! I like it because it lets me pick which bits I want, and it lets me reward Bioware and EA for making games that I like. If me paying for some ME3 DLC means I get more games like Mass Effect, then everybody wins.

    Sorry, that got kind of rant-like.

    1. Wait, I had two more cents. I think one thing that would make people feel better is if there was a more clear explanation of what the DLC is when you purchase it. I had to go online to find out that the From Ashes DLC has a new party member included. I don’t think that was even mentioned in-game when you could buy it.

  15. Voting with your wallet doesn’t work. Period. I remember the fall of 2008, when I spent $60 a piece on the Prince of Persia reboot and Mirror’s Edge, because they looked interesting. Did my decision to make a leap of faith with those franchises sustain them long-term? Hell no.

    I see a lot of people on the threads declaring that this time they’re done with Capcom, as Mike points out, and it does ring hollow. The DLC will sell and Capcom will keep making profits from their dickbag decisions. Am I pissed about the 12 locked characters? Hell yes. Will I be buying them on day one? Most likely. I want those characters and I know full well my decision to jump or not doesn’t affect Capcom’s business strategy.

    The guys who hacked open SF x Tekken and posted videos of the locked characters put some legitimate pressure on the company, even if they brushed it off in the end. Anyone who doesn’t buy the game or the DLC in response? They’re just a number. Cap doesn’t have to do PR damage control for 500-odd fewer sales.

    Your vote doesn’t count. That’s the Empire Strikes Back of the equation. No point in holding back on DLC that you want just to suffer in noble self-sacrifice.

  16. I remember the first time I got ticked about DLC. It was at a preview event for The Godfather II. The devs opened a few extra multiplayer maps for us to play, but embargoes prevented us from mentioning the maps, because it was for yet-unannounced DLC.

    It was a little shocking to me a few years back, but now, publishers withholding content for DLC is old news. I’m not saying we can’t do anything about it, but there will be no revolution.

    I think the best we can do is keep talking about it, keep it fresh in gamers’ minds, and hope they think twice about the actual value of a DLC release before making a purchase. For me, it’s not about a noble sacrifice, so much as I simply don’t enjoy being ripped off.

  17. Just wanted to say that this is by far the most rational and level-headed comment section I have seen possibly anywhere on the internet in quite a long time. Glad I found this website!

    On the topic of DLC, like others up thread I have a backlog of games I have been meaning to play. I am much more hesitant because of that to buy games at launch, it’s not the money for me so much as the entertainment value for the time I invest in the game. By waiting I know that I’ll be getting the best possible experience that game has to offer when I do get around to it, the DLC usually all get packaged up eventually anyway and I can also read user reviews to decide if I want to try a game at all.

  18. I’m very against DLC because it does make me feel like I’m missing out on the whole game. I do not buy day 1 games anymore, I wait until GOTY edition comes out 1-2 years later and pay <$10 for the game + all DLC. I tend to not play multiplayer games though, so I can do that sort of thing without any issues.

    When a game does come out that's loaded with bonuses depending on where you buy it from, not DLC but perks, I always tell myself I'll buy the game and then just dl the cracked version of everything. Typically what ends up happening though is I just don't play it at all. Like Arkham City… I'll play it one day, I'm still really far behind on games. As much as I would like to support them for their game, I enjoyed Arkham asylum a lot, those special deals and the catwoman dlc fiasco turned me off from ponying up.

  19. 2nd point and one ive made before:

    companies love DLC because is pure profit. for most DLC, there is relatively little extra work that goes into making it. so, if a company is making 10 bucks on a 60 game (still a good margin of 16%), 8 out of 9 times they are making 20 bucks on a 70 purchase (28%), with more to come from future DLC.
    that’s good fucking money~! why bother making an expansion pack (that, ultimately, make good games great) when you can just make a sequel with heaps more profitable DLC?

    while i dont condone DLC (fucking Civ), having profitable game companies is better than having them go bust.

  20. Well guys, sometimes DLC is really great you know. These discussions can get awfully negative about how the gaming industry is just trying to screw us all over and whatnot. We’re talking all about ME DLC, but what about Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption? That was awesome! And I also got the Lost Hobo King DLC for Stacking and loved it because it was more Stacking. Sometimes they do it right. Don’t buy CoD anymore and go play some better games.

    1. Call of Duty is a great game,why would I want to quit playing it? I do, however, want to quit PAYING for it.

      You are absolutely right that some DLC is great, no doubt. The Bioshock 2 DLC was _outstanding_, but it was also a side story and had nothing to do with the core experience of the game. The Fallout packs were great, and greatly extended the value of the game. Borderlands had a couple of really good ones too.

      The game industry is not trying to “screw us all over”. They’re trying to make money off of us. This is exactly what they should be doing as for-profit businesses. My argument, when you get down to it, is that when games are designed to be parceled out like this, we lose. Whatever happened to offering a complete, quality product and EARNING customer dollars that way?

  21. Man, I did the same thing yesterday, for precisely the same reason Barnes discusses in the article. My compulsive nature made me think I was getting an incomplete jigsaw puzzle, so I shelled out for the extra piece. That was dumb, and I sat in my car shortly after my purchase feeling stupid and a little dirty.

    Thanks for the slap in the face, Mr. Barnes. Now if I could only get my $10 back.

  22. “Well guys, sometimes DLC is really great you know.”

    Absolutely. I won’t complain about my Fallout expansions or extra tracks in Split/Second, because they enhance an already fulfilling experience.

    We’re talking more about cases when a company is obviously pushing the boundary to see how far it will go. Case in point: Resident Evil 5, for which charges for Versus mode, extra characters in Mercenaries Reunion, and then you still have to buy the two adventures to get the other Mercenaries characters.

  23. Pack a lunch.

    Why is there Sturm und Drang about price gouging DLC, unnecessary extra modes, and “watering down for consoles” in games? I have a few potential culprits.

    1: Games are art. I mean this as a factual proof, not as my personal opinion.

    If a car salesman tries to up-sell me on a sunroof, I don’t complain. I decide if I want a sunroof, and if I don’t want one, the salesman can pound sand.

    Meanwhile, imagine George R.R. Martin put fifty pages of vampire romance into the middle of the next “Song of Ice and Fire” book. And when we ask him why, he says Twilight novels sell pretty well, and he thought he’d put a lil’ sumthin in there to expand his user base. And if you don’t like that part, just don’t read it.

    This is the only argument I could use to smack down Mr. Barnes’s thesis. By running the purely economic perspective, you are watering down the concept of games as art. Clearly, though, the whatever-makes-money thesis describes current gaming reality.

    2: The more invisible the insult, the more personally we take it.

    What is a game “supposed” to provide? We can talk a good game about “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it,” but how the hell does one judge an experience one has not yet had?

    The industry standard is currently day one patches. Hell, *Fantasy Flight* has day one FAQs for its *board* games. As stated in several comments above, we go to our cars, feel dirty, and because that’s normal, Barnes here pimp-slaps us and we just take it. 😉

    But I don’t have to get mad at Wendy’s. I pull the car over, go inside, and tell them to give me my damned Frosty.

    (Full disclosure: I cancelled my pre-order upon discovering ME3 had multiplayer. It and AC: Rev have turned me into a wait-for-the-price-drop buyer.

    (Meanwhile, I bought Mansions of Madness: Forbidden Alchemy on day one, and had to get FFG to mail me the replacement parts. I have not fully learned my lesson.)

    1. edit: the sentence on pimp-slapping should read, “Barnes here pimp-slaps us for nerd-raging instead of just taking it. 😉 “

    2. Believe me, I’m as on board the “games are art” ship as you can possibly be. The problem is that more than any other arts medium, video games are more beholden to corporate agendas than any other. Even if you’re doing purely indepedent work…you’re still doing it to run on machines and standards controlled by corporations.

      So the economic argument simply has to be a part of it. Regardless of how many individuals are involved in using their craft and artistic talent to make these games, at the end of the day they are for-profit consumer products. Not gallery exhibitions.

      As for what a good game (or a complete game product) should provide is a great, very open question.

      1. What I’m truly interested in is an awakening to the *fact* of games as art. Watching Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything Is a Remix” really opened my eyes to how central prior examples are to…damn near everything.

        Y’ask me, games are in the part of their history I would equate to the Casablanca period in movies. There’s a market, there are companies devoted to producing games, there’s a sort of arbitrary quality standard that we call AAA. The medium is old enough to have snobs.

        But here’s why I pick that period. Casablanca is the ur-example of what Dan Decker calls the Hollywood Formula for writing American screenplays: clearly defined characters, concrete story objectives, a system for dealing with themes and subplots.

        Nowadays, that formula does not make a good movie great, but it does prevent a mediocre movie from being unwatchable – and if you hate something, you can use the system to figure out why. This – plus a business-side understanding that putting opposing genres in the same movie will lose you both audiences – prevents the movie equivalent of unnecessary multiplayer.

        Simply put, I know not to go to a Transformers movie from the trailer. I know not to go to a Dreamworks movie from the poster. It is currently impossible to predict this well for games without a demo.

        The sooner the business side *accepts* that games are art – instead of arguing some sort of untenable alternative definition – the sooner these bastards will stop throwing multiplayer into the middle of a game that is supposed to be about using sci-fi to discuss the hard questions of ethics.

        More pertinent to the DLC discussion – the sooner I have a definition for gaming and its genres, the sooner EA can create 60-buck opuses for people who want that, map packs and new characters for people who play for the competition, and 2-4 hours of deep, player-driven narrative, once a month, with crappy graphics, for WHATEVER DAMN PRICE those geniuses wanna charge me.

  24. As far as I’m concerned, the original Mass Effect was a self contained story that had no sequels. You stop sovereign and the reapers can never come back.

    The other games were stand alone titles that were unfortunately named Mass Effect.

    Mass Effect 2: The Adventures of Commander Shepard and Friends
    Mass Effect 3: The movie: The Game – Directors Loot Cut

  25. I just want to say that content not being included in the original product, and only in DLC, is not a measure of how integral it may be to the creators of the content versus the marketing departments. Often one of the cooler ideas that come out of the development process ends up being the DLC, and devs fight to keep it in because they want to be sure people actually see it.

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