Posted by moonhead on Apr 6, 2010

Extortion Gaming

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!!!

 Alex Hetherington

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12 Responses to “Extortion Gaming”

  1. Liam says:

    Right on. Whilst playing burnout paradise recently a player had bought a car that was fast & had great strength(usually cars are good at either but not both). He was able to dominate not through skill or knowledge of the game but PURELY by buying this vehicle that upset the game balance. Cloud gaming could see me walk away from a hobby I have had since the VCS. I can`t be alone, hopefully ms & sony will think hard before implementation.

  2. sound of snow says:

    Great article Alex and I totally agree with you. I recently bought the tatooine dlc for
    star wars force unleashed, it cost me 800 points (just a bit cheaper then what I paid for the full game) and I finished it in about 15 mins, a complete rip-off so it’s a boycott for all dlc for me now, well until they sort out the pricing anyway.

  3. rocko2525 says:

    I totally agree, I don’t really buy alot of DLC but each time I have taken a chance and bought some it was a complete rip-off. I can only see it getting worse in the coming years and for myself I will stop gaming which I have been doing for over 20 years if Cloud Gaming is the future.

  4. bobbyhopadop says:

    As a fairly big fan of the XBLA game marketplace id like to drop my two cents. The arcade releases have really started to rocket in quality over the last 18 months, and so have the prices.While some games do give value for money and sell well i.e Braid, Battlefield 1943 and Trials HD, others can flop spectacularly. Some games are simply rubbish and overpriced (turtles) but there is also some games of high quality that fail solely because of their pricepoint, Loderunner im looking at you. Loderunner is currently priced at 1200pts and sold so little copies, at 400pts id bet my super mario pyjamas it would have sold 50 times the amount. Simple mathematics shows the obvious advantages.Im led to believe Microsoft set the price of games, should the door be left open to publishers to set their own prices??

    • moonhead says:

      Could’nt agree more. Because of the price of some of the Live Arcade games I’ll only download the free trial and even if I really like the game I will not pay the price that is being asked for it. I also remember Jonathan Blow the creator of Braid complaining that he felt that MS had priced his game to high at the time of release. So yeah, your probably right the devs should probably have more say over pricing. Thanks for the comment.

      • bobbyhopadop says:

        Didnt Jonathan blow also want to give the Braid premium theme away free, as a thank you to the people who made his game a success……and Microsoft enforced a 240pt levy

  5. drew10 says:

    I think that we would all be happy to pay for DLC if it provided value for money. The sorry truth is that very few game add-ons have done this and only a few titles have managed to part me with my cash.

    On the PS3 there have been some worthy titles Wipeout, Pain and Rag Doll Kung Fu spring to mind but the lack of trial versions on many of the PS3 titles means you have to buy these games blind. That is something none of us should be willing to do.

    Nintendo’s ‘stars’ system of reward points that you get inside everyone of their first party titles can now be exchanged for points on the Wii Store so you can actually exchange these for real games. It takes a while but surely this is the way forward. Gamers should feel like they are being rewarded for their continuing support not ripped off.

    It is a matter that needs to be seriously considered by all three of the major console manufacturers before gamers become more and more disillusioned with them.

    A system whereby you can earn MS points through achieving certain gamer scores would be a good incentive for people to buy more software. It would encourage people to rinse every last drop out of some games or to buy more games if gamer points were more than just a way to show how long you spend in front of the screen. If say every 5000 points you received 800 MS points it would make more gamers spend money on full price titles whilst also giving a boost to the Arcade market.

    Reward us for our loyalty and stop seeing us as a goose that will forever lay golden eggs.

    • moonhead says:

      Bang on the money as usual Drew it is just a shame that it would seem gamers with common sense are in a minority. I say this as the COD MW2 stimulus package is now the most downloaded content ever whilst being one of the biggest rip offs ever, sad so very sad.

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