Video Games, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, nintendo, wii, ds, sony, microsoft, PSN, XBLA, Onlive, Playstation Vita, Wii U,
The Big DLC Con
G4A friend and new contributor Alex has decided to speak out on the injustices of downloadable game content and the digital distribution of games. He writes, it is totally clear that the age of Digital Distribution is now upon us and its dark shadow is looming over our beloved hobby. Digital Distribution has completely taken over the music industry, it has also now got a hefty chunk of the video industry too, so next up is gaming. But is it actually what us gamers want and are we already paying the price.
First up for close inspection is Microsoft’s and Nintendo’s points system. It all kind of smacks of stealth pricing to me, nothing has a real world price tag. Plus you can only buy a certain denomination of points starting at a £4.50 for about 500 points rising to 2000 points for £17. (These are Microsoft’s prices, Nintendos are slightly better value). I mean who has actually started buying points and got their total points that back down to zero, nobody I should imagine. So that is your spare change if you like bouncing up and down in Microsoft’s and Nintendo’s pockets doing absolutely nothing for you. Because lets face it you can buy absolutely zilch hypothetically speaking for say 37 points. It really is a rip off and it is about time Microsoft and Nintendo allowed adult gamers to pay with real money and start showing real prices as well as the cost of an item in points. Sony do it so I cannot see why Microsoft and Nintendo can’t. That said Sony’s system is still flawed as you have to put a minimum of £5.00 into your virtual wallet. This again leaves your spare change sloshing around in Sony’s back pocket. The reality is when you go into a shop and something’s priced at £3.75 you pay £3.75, not £5.00 leaving £1.25 to spend the next time you decide to frequent their establishment. Why it is any different for digitally distributed content I don’t know but I know I believe that it is not right.
Next up is Microsoft’s Avatar system I know it’s not real game content but it still costs us gamers money. The Avatar system is good fun and nice to look at but what is the cost of your Avatar’s new clothes or toys? All of the individual clothes and toys for your mini me on the Avatar marketplace are individually priced in points. If you start to add them up it starts to come to a pretty hefty price tag and in the end what do you actually get out of it other than keeping up with Jones’ is sweet FA really. At least these are optional though and it will only be either your vanity or obsessiveness that dictates whether you buy them or not. This also applies to Sony’s Home the online virtual world where you can buy new locations, clothes and furniture for virtual Avatar.
Microsofts, ‘Games on Demand’ service, basically a downloadable back catalogue of both Xbox and 360 games really is a huge con. A quick look today has thrown up UFC Undisputed 2009 a game that is well over a year old now, as an example. The ‘G.O.D’ price for this title on Xbox Live is £19.99 as are all the 360 titles in this collection. So we done a quick price check via G4A’s favourite games price comparison site Gamestracker, which shows you can pick up the same title used for £9.99 or £11.73 new which is a huge 50% saving. Add in the facts that if you buy it from ‘G.O.D’ (that really is one of the most apt acronym’s ever) you cannot trade it or swap it and it really starts to look like the worst deal ever.
We pay a lot of money for our games yet they seem to be getting shorter and shorter and I think this is in some part down to downloadable content. Recently it has become clear that some publishers are releasing unfinished games with the intent of finishing the game via chargable DLC. This really is not on when you are paying over £40 for a full game. One recent example of this would be Assassins Creed 2 which quite clearly showed 2 missing chapters right from the off. The first of which I am quite sure was on the game disk from the start meaning you pay around £3.50 to unlock something that was already there in the first place. Again I am also pretty sure that Bioshock 2’s ‘Sinclair Solutions Pack’ which was released about 2 weeks after launch for the cost of about £3.50 was already on the disk as it was only 180 kb in size. This is just not on when you pay £40 for a game you should be getting the full experience not half now and half later for yet more money. In fact this all feels like we are just being legally ROBBED!
One other thing to keep an eye on is the cost difference between the different networks. An example of this is the recently released expansion pack for Bioware’s Dragon Age Origins. On the Xbox it costs an expensive sounding 3200 points which works out at around £27. You will notice I said expensive sounding, well that is because on Sony’s PSN it weighs in at £31.99. Making it a whole £5 more than the already expensive Xbox version of the same content and I do mean exactly the same content.
Things might even get worse as well as we are about to enter the age of cloud gaming. OnLive launches later this year in the States and it is a subscription based cloud gaming set up. Meaning you will only need an internet connected hub or PC to which you stream the games. Full details other than a $15.00 dollar subscription fee per month and then extra for the games themselves are not known as yet. I doubt, here in Blighty we have the internet infrastructure needed for this just yet plus there are other technical issues the experts are concerned about. However, be warned it is known that both Sony and Microsoft are both researching cloud gaming and from what we can see it does not look cheap.
I must even this argument out a little by pointing out that there is a lot of good DLC out there. The big 3’s respective networks all allow you to download full titles that are smaller in size than their disk based brethren and there some absolutely belting titles to be found. Without PSN, Wii Ware and Live Arcade I would have not been able to play the delights of great titles such as Lost Winds, Flower, Wipeout HD, Shadow Complex and Braid. The smaller development costs of these networks have allowed smaller independent game developers to get started and we are almost seeing the revival of the bedroom coders of the 80’s and this is a good thing. It also has to be said that some disk based titles have had good support via DLC. Games like Burnout Paradise has been improved almost beyond recognition via both chargeable and free DLC.
Surely there are many gamers out there who feel the same way as we at G4A do about the download revolution. They can charge as much as they like for something that doesn’t physically exist, not in the real world at least, and we just roll over and take it. As long as there are younger gamers out there who get their parents to pay for such extortion then we will keep being ripped off. Do not get me wrong for a moment I love what Microsoft, Sony and other companies are doing, but not at such a price that exploits all of us. Remember gamers the only way to make them sit up and take notice is to vote with your feet and wallets, I for one will not download the con that is the Modern Warfare 2 Stimulus package as it’s overpriced for what it is, (3 new maps and 2 old ones for £10 who are they kidding) and if other gamers followed suit I bet the price would come down pretty quickly.
Are we the only gamer’s out there who can see what these companies are doing with their “deals of the week” etc, those little incentives to try to keep us interested? We at G4A don’t buy it and neither should any of you. So come on and join the cause to drive those ridiculous DLC prices down just leave your names and a little comment and we can make a difference!!!