Some ideas sound fantastic on paper, the ideal situation has everyone a winner. Others are flawed from the beginning and don’t have any strengths for anyone but the creator. I’ve generally been of the viewpoint that DLC or Downloadable Content can be beneficial for everyone involved and supported the notion wholeheartedly. A shame there are always those who will wield even the greatest inventions foolishly, praise to the man who discovered fire and boo to the twit who burn himself doing something stupid.
So what is the basic idea of DLC then? To have content created after the initial release of a product that can be added on via download. In theory, this would allow a game to be endlessly updated with new features for the foreseeable future, as long as they have a internet connection. Games would not have to be so ridiculously trimmed of fat from the drawing board to the final product because of time restraints, good ideas can be saved and put in at a later date without pushing developers to the brink of exhaustion, trying to push the release date back can be beneficial for the health of the product but it does mean publishers have to lay down yet more money before seeing a return. All in all, the premise of the idea is sound and has potential to make what used to be one and done creations into labours of love over an extended time, tweaking issues and polishing the product endlessly.
The problem with the whole idea then? This concept got in the head of one money hungry little shit with no respect for the customer and decided that no, DLC is now going to be something we throw arduous amounts of money down for the smallest of things be it a skin or a little icon for our online avatars, that DLC will already be advertised on the day of release and will be sold in a bundle or one of 4 different exclusive bundles with different content, not only segregating the players but annihilating their wallets for the foreseeable future. DLC has become a term for something to be cautious and wary about, the idea of a season pass, a means to pay immediately for usually all the upcoming content at a discount, is yet another thing that should be something we praise in theory, a beneficial service for both developers and consumers. They get the money early to help the work keep moving, the customer gets more for less. Except there is that little issue with both how DLC is treated and the fact that I said it usually gets you all the DLC. The truth of the matter is some publishers are being manipulative of their customers, not even putting all the DLC in the season pass requiring yet more payment to get access to all the content the game has to offer. Lets check that for a moment: the full price of the game which may or may not be subject to deals and savings, the season pass and the few extra DLC packs not included. Most games would have that rise close to double the already absurd price of the released game if not higher, gaming isn’t for kids anymore at these prices.
The mindset behind DLC should be content that you will begin working on after the game is released, not made in tandem with the full product. Extra content should be added on afterwards not designed to be sold as a separate package, effectively slicing up your game into chunks that you can feed to consumers for hefty prices each. Some might say that some DLC should have been in the original game and that there is useless or context-less content in the game that should have been traded out, to which I can agree… mostly. I say that as while it may seem like common sense to one, the the other it may not and trying to generalise any response would be foolish on my part.
The audacity of someone trying to sell you parts of what should have been a full product is something that used to baffle me, or at least baffle me to a more severe degree. Then I took a moment to collect myself and think about what drives this money grabbing mentality. Some are just unfriendly suits thinking the industry is their toy and try to squeeze money out of anything they touch true, however that can’t be the case with absolutely everyone, I don’t think anyone is that pessimistic. So why do they need all this money of mine? Well, it could be because costs of development are skyrocketing, it could be that even selling 5 million copies doesn’t make a profit yet on some big titles, it could be that even successful franchises are struggling to keep a company away from bankruptcy making these approaches seem more attractive. For all I know it could be a compound of those reasons, it could be several hundreds of reasons I haven’t thought of, all I know is that budget is getting out of control in the AAA sector of the industry. Sure if you sell your GTA V, one of the most costly games ever made and sell so many within a weekend you made enough profit to buy a small country you’ll do well but not everyone has that kind of selling power.
Why do budgets keep getting bigger? Why because more, more, more! Bigger, better and bolder! Well maybe bigger and better at the very least. Last generation we saw a horrendous push of HD gaming and the wonders of amazing blockbuster titles, nothing that I was interested in till it had quietened down about a year before this generation. Budgets were getting bigger, sandboxes were getting fancier, and you know what? The consumer voted with their wallets. The vote? YES. YES! OH GOD DEM GRAPHICS YES!!! It seemed everybody was screaming for HD this and HD that, we wanted to see what the big bad PS3 & Xbox360 could give us. Now we have reached what is almost a breaking point, if we keep getting bigger and better there will need to be higher prices or more customers willing to pay for a game, eventually there won’t even be enough people who own a console to sell enough copies to get a return, then what?
I have noticed we have seen the disappearance of the middle sized games, not tiny but not a monolith of a project. I know of someone who was consulting for a company who were in a meeting, they had two ideas, one small game that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and was estimated to make more than double its cost, the other would cost several million and only barely make a decent profit. They chose the second choice, the less profit choice, all because they hadn’t the means to develop something small, it was deemed a waste of staff and resources. This simply cannot be the mentality of the company, what awful business sense is this?!
Gaming companies have a lot of growing up to do. The business structure is of a job security-less career & painstaking hours among other things. Has it worked up to this point? Sure, but they also say don’t go into the job unless you are passionate about games, because everywhere else treats these talented folks better and the industry has a programmer deficit because of it. There needs to be some shuffling and some goddamn revelations hitting the head honchos above. Talk to the publishers, tell them we need to stop talented people on their merry way and put them on a smaller project with less risk and potentially more profit. Speak the language a businessman understands, I was hammered upon in school the notion that being good at a job is nothing when it isn’t paired with excellent business skills, seems like the kinda thing that needs to slap this industry straight across the chops.
So what kind of things do you think the game industry needs to do to better survive these times? What are your issues and joys with DLC? Do you think too many money hungry executives are seeping into companies rather than people who know how work? Better yet, would you work for someone who has no idea what they are doing? Thanks for the read and I’ll catch ya around.