Justin’s Words of Wisdom: The Future of DLC
As each day passes, it becomes more and more apparent that DLC (downloadable content) is implemented more and more across many different types of games. Thanks to the rise of easy-to-access online services for consoles and the ever increasing speed of internet connections, releasing additional content for existing games is no longer limited to expansion packs in the PC world. If anything, it’s been that way for quite awhile now, but the amount of content that is available becomes more and more frequent as time goes on. Sooner or later, it will come to a point where almost every game will be expected to have DLC, much like how some gamers are baffled if even the most single player heavy game doesn’t have some sort of online mode.
I’m not in the camp that thinks more DLC means developers will cut back on content on the disc. In fact, I am generally happy with how much content games give players these days. There are games out there that obviously try to use DLC to earn a quick buck, but much like how I view most topics in the video game industry, it’s not as out of hand as one might think.
My concern is far greater concerning the issue, and when I read this Destructiod article reporting on the Elite service from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a bunch of red flags went off inside my head. Long story short, Activision’s plans for the Elite service is both a free and paid program. The paid part let’s you access in-depth stats, join specific groups of players, participate in competitions that reward you with real life prizes and an “improve” mode that is designed to make you a more efficient CoD player.
A price point has not been released concerning the Elite service, but I already dislike the idea of it. When you break it down, you are paying for a game, your online service provider (in most cases, of course), if you’re playing on Xbox Live, your Gold Account, and then an additional service which ends up being another yearly fee? Seriously? Should you have to throw Activision more bones just to learn where you died a bunch of times on a map? Is it worth paying more money to participate in official tournaments when existing real life tournaments are out there? Do you need an improve mode when you naturally get better the more you play these games?
Let’s think about how many Call of Duty games have hit since Call of Duty 4 was released in 2007. So far, we have had three other games released every year with MW3 slated to drop this November. Chances are another CoD will drop in 2012. Activision has already said that they plan on using this service for each CoD game starting with MW3. Why invest more money in a yearly service that is essentially a glorified stat tracker and interactive strategy guide? Another game in the series will drop, and you won’t spend too much time, if any, playing the previous installment. While it’s nice the service appears to carry across multiple games, it seems the only way you will get your money’s worth is if you play nothing but CoD each and every year.
I’m worried that if this service truly takes off, other developers will start similar programs. In terms of console gaming, this sucks weather you are a part of Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. You are already paying a yearly subscription on XBL, and not having to pay anything to use PSN is a perk in itself. Can you imagine having to pay another yearly fee for stats and tips in a Final Fantasy or Madden title?
While I did infer that I don’t mind DLC as much as the next gamer earlier, I’ll admit that I wish prices were cheaper and some content was more robust. From what I’ve seen, the majority of gamers have a harsher criticism of DLC as it is than myself. The Elite service goes way too far, and I can’t imagine this sitting well with most people. Unfortunately, I can see a lot of major fans of the CoD series buying into the program without a second thought.
However, a system similar to this can be used in the right way. Take, for example, Rockstar Game’s approach to DLC with their “L.A. Noire Rockstar Pass.” For a limited time you can buy an option to have all current and future DLC releases for just $10. This ends up saving you half of what you would spend if you bought each DLC individually.
This is exactly how DLC should be offered. If you aren’t interested in buying all the extra content, you can pay $4 for a pack or two. If you would like to experience it all and save some money, then go ahead and buy the pass for just a few dollars extra. No yearly subscription bullshit, no useless features, just extra content for a reasonable price.
I hate to sound like one of “those” gamers, but I hope Activision’s Elite service fails hard. Gaming is expensive enough as it is, and I don’t see the need to pay for a service that should be free in the first place. The Halo series have offered similar, but admittedly not as in depth services like the Elite program for several years now with no additional cost. Plus, who’s to say that the CoD even has that much life left in it? Activision sure successfully plowed the Guitar Hero franchise into the ground. No matter how any of this plays out, my only wish is to see DLC used as a way to offer consumers fun, expansive bonus content, and not a scheme to tack on unnecessary fees for minor information.
Front page image and Elite screenshots from wired.com, LA Noire screencap by Eric Stuckart.