The hot debate over the past week has been about day-one downloadable content. Day-one DLC isn't anything new, however the debate kicked into high gear after a lot of gamers found out about the leaked day-one DLC for Mass Effect 3, which has a lot of people asking is it acceptable?
The original day-one DLC debate started back with Need for Speed: Carbon, where gamers found out that a lot of the unlockable cars were already stored on the game's disc but had to be paid for with real money in order to use them. For the most part the whole issue was relegated to forum boards and under-the-breath murmurings from gamers with the day-one DLC. The issue has always been something challenged by consumers because $60 is a lot for a game, and while the argument has always been that "games cost a lot to make" not every game is made equal, and not every game is worth $60.
The argument further escalated just recently when it was found out that Gears of War 3 had on-disc DLC, and according to Gaming Essence, Epic's Rod Fergusson contested that the on-disc DLC was just a delivery method and made it easier to get the content to gamers as opposed to a hefty download. That's very nice of them to consider the bandwidth of consumers, but it goes without saying that if it's on the disc and you paid $60 for the disc, you should have access to all the content on the disc.
The issue with Mass Effect 3's day-one DLC is that some gamers worry that the character -- who was revealed to be part of a species that works as a crux to the main story plot -- may hinder gamers from experiencing the totality of the Mass Effect 3 story unless they fork over an extra $10 for the day-one DLC in addition to the $60 for paying for the game. BioWare's producer, Mike Gamble, aimed to clear up misconceptions about the DLC saying that it was a "complete experience" right out of the box and that the character wasn't imperative enough to the overall story to make it a must-buy for anyone already buying the game as a day one purchase.
The crucial aspect of this argument isn't just that additional content is made available for the game on the same day that it launches, but that if the development of the content was finished before the game went gold, why isn't it included in the overall package?
In the case of Mass Effect 3, executive producer Casey Hudson defended the day-one DLC on the premise that it was designed and finished by a separate team at the studio and was finalized after BioWare had already announced that Mass Effect 3 had gone gold. The problem is that most in-the-know gamers realize that DLC involving a character with extra dialogue, missions and content is not something you cook up in three and a half weeks. There's a matter of audio and dialogue recordings, art assets and scripting to be handled, which usually takes longer than three weeks to come together for something worth $10 in content. That or it was in the pipeline well in advance. In other words, the day-one DLC is not a "just so happens" scenario.
While developers and publishers can charge whatever they want for additional content and the base game itself, let's not forget that consumers are the reason these guys are still in business and the one thing you never want to do is take advantage of the consumer.
A good example of companies who use DLC to expand games as opposed to cash-in on a franchise's popularity are Bethesda's Elder Scrolls games and Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series. Furthermore, Bethesda even revealed to Kotaku that DLC should feel expansive to an already complete game, that it should enhance the overall experience with something new and grand. They feel this should all be done under a $10 price point. I agree.
For the most part, day-one DLC isn't a bad thing if it has nothing to do with taking away from the total experience of the game. I'll personally never really support it because most of the day-one DLC for games these days contains content we used to be able to unlock simply by playing the game for an extended period of time, sort of like in games such as Mortal Kombat, True Crime: Streets of LA or Tekken.
While publishers stand by the claim that game development costs are constantly increasing -- even though most gamers only ask for a fun game and not necessarily a costly one (MineCraft, Limbo, Terraria, and Bastion for example), and game development tools are actually getting cheaper by the month -- we're seeing more and more games remove content that used to be unlockable simply by playing the game, and more and more games charging for this content as premium goods.
As consumers, you have to ask yourself how much of this is acceptable and when does it stop being acceptable?
(Image courtesy of Rabinna)