By now we’re no strangers to downloadable content as the practice of offering extra goodies after the release of a game rose to massive levels during the reign of the last generation of consoles. Love it or hate it the practice of making and selling DLC is now a permanent fixture in the gaming economy. Developers and publishers use it as a vital way to earn income past the initial retail sale of their games. They might not be able to make anything off of the resale of their games in the used market but they sure as hell want to make sure they get a few bucks out of you. Sure DLC started out with overpriced horse armor but eventually it grew into new maps, entire new storylines and hours upon hours of extra entertainment. Look no further that what 2K and Gearbox did with Borderlands 2 for clear examples of DLC done right. Gamers received a huge bang for their extra few bucks and for the most part had nothing but good things to say.
Of course you can’t have the good without the bad and leave it up to EA to lead the charge. Rather than providing more for your money EA just gave lazy gamers the option to pay for what could be earned in-game. Oh you’re too lazy to actually play Battlefield? Alright, we’ve got you covered! How about an extra $30 or so and we’ll give you everything right now! There’s nothing worse than hopping into a map on day one of a release and realizing you’re completely outclassed unless you pay up like the rest of the lazy jerks. To be fair EA wasn’t the only company to engage in this practice but I can say unequivocally that I found nothing more annoying than hopping on to the Xbox Live Marketplace and seeing 60 new pieces of so-called DLC from EA cluttering up the feed.
Now at least with these forms of DLC it was a level playing field for the most part where everyone had the option to partake in these offerings. I might not have liked the idea of paying for what was already in the game but the option was there regardless. As the console manufacturers began to look for ways to keep consumers in their pockets the practice of paying publishers for timed exclusives rose to popularity. For example, if you had an Xbox 360 you’d get access to Call of Duty content a month before those who had a PS3. For a lot of gamers out there they made purchasing decisions based on this so as the dollars rolled in the gears started to turn in the minds of greedy corporate executives. Taking it a step further the industry also saw the rise of retailer exclusives but for the most part anything offered from one retailer over another was inevitably released as paid DLC a month or so after release making it another form of a timed exclusive.
I was lucky enough to be in the enviable position of having both consoles so I’ll admit that I never gave the idea of timed exclusive content too much thought. Thinking about it now I’d say that if I was a single console gamer I probably wouldn’t have loved the idea of timed content but even then I still would have been able to get my hands on the extras in time. Being the eternal optimist that I am I can try to find the silver lining in this cloud and apart from twiddling their thumbs for a month or three gamers were still able to experience everything that these games had to offer.
Let’s jump forward now into the era of the so-called ‘console wars’ where timed exclusives seem to have given way to console exclusives. The instances of console exclusive DLC are becoming more and more frequent with the first one I took considerable notice of being the extra content offered on the PS3 for Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Both Sony and Microsoft are desperate to grab on to their piece of the pie when it comes to market share and while gamers on the whole are enjoying more content than ever it is becoming increasingly difficult for gamers to get everything a title has to offer unless they buy more than one copy of a game.
One of the biggest games helping to fuel this debate right now is Activision and Bungie’s upcoming release of Destiny. PS4 owners are getting an absolute glut of exclusive content that Xbox One players will never even see. Admittedly there are rumours that a lot of this might eventually hit Xbox One but nothing has been confirmed and Sony is still marketing it as console exclusive. Again, being in a very lucky position to have both consoles it’s no mystery where my money is going. In an effort to keep their strong lead Sony has opened their wallets for exclusive content for Batman: Arkham Knight as well while Microsoft has secured content for 2K’s Evolve. It’s fairly obvious that this practice is gaining ground and while fanboys for one side or another might be preparing victory parades for their console of choice it’s only a matter of time before they’re on the other end of the deal and it will inevitably piss them off.
I know it might be hard for the odd one of you but let’s try and look at this without fanboy mentality clouding our judgement. Is it even remotely fair to someone to have to pay the same amount of money for a product yet get far less content based on what console they have to play it on? I’d honestly say absolutely not and even gamers who are enjoying some of these console advantages would likely say the same thing. In the end you can’t blame the publishers and developers for taking big payouts to develop extra content for an Xbox or a Playstation. Business is business and making games is an expensive and risky proposition.
What I’m interested to find out from the gaming community at large is if they feel that this is ultimately a good or a bad thing for the industry as a whole? Is it the job of a publisher to help sell one console over another? In the end we all want to play games but regardless of the console I own I want to experience everything a game has to offer me. It’s likely only a matter of time before we’re diving into the realm of games splitting DLC between consoles making it necessary to buy copies for both platforms to experience everything. I’m not sure about everyone else reading this but my wallet is stretched about as thin as I’m willing to make it while I try to enjoy everything my gaming hobby can throw at me.