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Are game developers taking advantage of us with pre-planned DLC?

The ability to update and add to games means DLC is likely here to stay, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But the gaming community will have to decide with our feedback and our wallets where we draw the line between getting more out of a game and just letting ourselves be taken advantage of.

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We all love getting more of a good thing, right? But what happens when the line between the original thing and add-ons and extras starts to blur?

Over the years, gamers have become accustomed to things such as the “special” and / or “complete” editions of old games being released, “collector’s” editions that include various extras for a higher price, and always being urged to pre-order. (Which, given how many copies of games are usually released on the official date, would almost seem pointless now were it not for the small bonuses that are usually offered as incentive.) In today’s gaming world, many are becoming slightly sick of the ever growing popularity of downloadable content (DLC), and the rise of the “season pass”: a more recent offering for many games that involves making a single payment that will allow you to download any / all previous and subsequent DLC and add-ons to be released in the future. These passes, like buying most things in bulk, offer a better bargain than if you were to buy all new content coming out separately. However, there are several issues with this that have been called into question.

In some instances, developers will make certain promises regarding the release of, and future additions to their games to help entice people to preorder or buy both the game and the season pass. Sometimes, they fail to deliver and the offer that missing features may be added in later updates or even as DLC (which would likely come at a cost) is not exactly an acceptable solution, especially with new, full-price games, which generally cost around $79.99 CAD. In the case of No Man’s Sky, released in August by Hello Games for PS4 and PC, a failure to meet customer’s expectations and some promises understandably caused a lot of backlash. So much so, in fact, that in a rather unprecedented move, both Sony and Steam actually offered full refunds to those who have purchased the game, regardless of hours played.

So how much initial content, what level of replayability, how many hours of gameplay are required for a game to be considered worth it’s price? And are the extras really just extras, or are they things that those not purchasing future content may feel were vital, and should have been included in the original? In many instances, it feels as though the release of a game is rushed so that it can already be on the market while further development still continues. Games are now being produced with future DLC already in mind. It seems not only unfair, but sloppy and unprofessional to release an unfinished, potentially broken product only to then charge more for gameplay aspects that should have already been included or completed before the product was ever offered to the public in the first place. (Let alone having to go so far as to offer a refund to try to make up for the blunder.)

So much also comes down to the personal tastes of the individual gamers. For example, last November Bethesda released the very successful Fallout 4. As a long-time Fallout fan, I couldn’t wait to play (it had been five years since the last game in the series had been released), and purchased both it and the season pass for $39.99 right away when it arrived. I felt confident it would be worth it to me, and Bethesda promised there would be plenty of additional add-ons coming. I personally fell absolutely in love with the game, and was thrilled when it was announced that they were planning even more extra content than originally expected. However, at the same time, it was also announced that due to this, the price of the season pass would be raised to $69.99.

Though still a deal compared to buying each add-on separately, this seemed an awfully drastic increase. Bethesda then promised — and has since delivered — six DLC extras for Fallout 4 which range in price from $4.99 to $34.99. Gamers were given a small period of time to buy the pass before the price hike, but many people having to pay the new price were still left feeling somewhat taken advantage of.

Now, as for myself, I feel the price I paid for the season pass was (and even the individual prices are) fair / justifiable. I would have still felt I got my money’s worth paying the higher price. (Undoubtedly their hopes when they raised it.) However, not all fans feel the same. Some were disappointed with the specific content because it didn’t personally interest them, or wasn’t exactly what they expected. Some felt certain content should have been included in the original game, or should be free. But unless the developers lied in some way, made some empty promises, is their really a strong argument for such complaints? The game did seem to contain just as much as is considered average to be worth the typical full price, and no one is forced to purchase the season pass. One could wait to see what comes out before purchasing, and then only buy what interests them.

The ability to update and add to games means DLC is likely here to stay, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But the gaming community will have to decide with our feedback and our wallets where we draw the line between getting more out of a game and just letting ourselves be taken advantage of, which leaves gamers (especially those of lower income) needing to do even more research and close consideration before they discern whether or not to buy.

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