Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DLC on Disc is it an Evil or Necessity of Fair Gaming?

Recently the Japanese publisher Capcom came under fire, for amongst other things storing DLC (Download content) on the disc for the game Street Fighter X Tekken that was sold to consumers for sixty dollars. Not the first company to practice this, Capcom was the latest company to do so at a time when gamer frenzy seems to be at an all-time high. Long time fighting fans were aghast that Capcom had the temerity to sell them finished DLC on the disc. I suppose if Capcom had simply put the content online available for download a week after the launch of the game everyone would have been happy. Which begs the question what is acceptable?

Capcom and other developers have made the contention that games take a long period to develop and it is only feasible to make DLC for a period of time after the game is launched. No matter how long a shelf life the game has, it’s finite. The argument is made that the game content is a finished game and thus any extra content is fair game as DLC. My personal preference is that I don’t enjoy buying or even playing sports games every year, but there are legions of Madden and NBA 2K fans who would disagree with me. The NBA 2K11 game was considered the best Basketball game ever and the 12 version was considered quite excellent as well. The question then isn’t if games should release every year but how much content can be put into a game and still ask for full price. 

Call of Duty games rarely run more than 10 hours single player, and yet because of their perceived value in multiplayer, gamers have no problem shelling out sixty dollars every year; for what is fundamentally the same multiplayer experience. Call of Duty just hit all-time records of more than 20 million games sold which is more than a billion dollars of revenue. In my mind then, this is proof of the truth that what this really comes down to is perception. Fighting games are singular in that they are primarily multiplayer affairs. Fighting game enthusiasts play online against others to see where they stand, much like the video game arcades of old, thus the single player elements are little more than practice fields to test out strategies for use for online play.

So what is the answer then? Game companies have to be cognizant of the fact that there are times when perceptions trump reality. Perception said it appeared that Capcom was trying to sell gamers half a game for sixty dollars and then charge the other half for twenty dollars more. It’s an old trick, give them the razor and sell them the blades. It wasn’t that at all. Reality says that Capcom sold thirty-eight characters in the fighting game and twelve characters as DLC. Yup, more than three times as many characters as regular v. DLC. Part of the problem is that gamers reacted badly from the get-go with little to no information. And not only that a fair amount of people reacting to the brouhaha were never planning to buy the game anyways.

If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that perception will sometimes trump reality. Capcom could have headed off the fracas at the bend by being clear and upfront about this issue. There was no way that gamers weren’t going to find out about this sooner or later. Not only that, it was entirely foreseeable as this wasn’t the first time the issue had come up for game companies. Could both sides have acted a little more wisely, of course? But this is something that’s likely to be repeated so it’s best to take the most important lesson from this, don’t put it on the disc you mor… I mean common sense first people.

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