I remember when gaming was a complete experience from the moment you purchased the game.
If you’re a gamer and you’ve been enjoying video games since you were a kid, then you’ve no doubt noticed how different the industry is now, then it was back then. I remember a time when I could buy a game, slide the disc (or cartridge) into the console, and know that everything I’d ever need to play that game was already there. The whole story, all the game modes, every character available — Nothing was missing. We got what we paid for, and what we paid for was the complete package.
…And then everything changed.
If you’ve bought any video game recently, you probably noticed that every single game has DLC , downloadable content, and micro-transactions galore. Which, to me at least, is not only horrible, but also a lie. It should all be called ‘what we didn’t have time to finish, so sorry, but we’re still gonna make you pay for it’, and sure, it would make for a long acronym, but it’s essentially what it is.
Or is it?
I first want to talk about the Sims. I know, I know, but hear me out. Back then if you remember those games, they had what we called ‘expansion packs,’ and they were priced a bit lower than the full base game, but they added a ton of things to the game. You didn’t need it to play the base game, but it added variety if you wanted it. Kind of like how WoW releases new content, an upgrade in levels, different races, and more places to explore etc. All of these things built on top of the base game, like layering a new city over the top of an old one. Most expansions were for PC games and that’s where, I would say, it all started. Expansion packs never made you feel like something critical was missing from the game, they were sort of afterthoughts. Like, ‘how cool would it be to add animals in The Sims? Hurry up and make that an expansion pack!’
So how did it all go wrong?
But now, DLCs are planned before a game’s release, which tells us one thing: they purposefully take things out of the base game in order to slowly release more things as the months go by. Shady, I know. Most of these things, however, we want in the base game so we fall for it, like a fish hunting a shiny lure.
Why didn’t consoles have expansion packs early on? Simply put, consoles didn’t have enough memory to allow for DLC content, meaning that the companies would have to release another disc (like the PC games do). So what was the company’s answer to lowered costs, not having to produce more digital medium, but still wanting to extend the life of their games? Digital Downloads.
I’d imagine if we’d see the Sims 5 release this year, then the base game would include the sim maker and the DLC would be the actual houses. This, of course, takes into consideration how EA has been acting lately. They’ve been pulling every greedy trick in the book to extract money from their fans, without, delivering promised entertainment. Instead, they fill their games with micro-transactions that give you a false sense of progression.
Take those second-rate mobile games where every time you complete a stage, a ‘BUY MORE GEMS NOW’ flashes on your phone’s screen, almost taunting you to press it so you can get onto the next level.
The worst part is, we’ll pay for it.
How many times did I tell myself I wouldn’t pay for DLC in Call of Duty games when they released with a mere 6-9 maps? How many times did I still buy it, because otherwise, finding a game online took longer? How many times did I pay double the price for a game just so that it wouldn’t get stale after two months? Like many of you, I’m sure, way too often.
And sure, the price of games hasn’t gone up that much in the past decade. All new games since the PS2’s release have been around 79.99$ for us Canadian and 59.99$ for my fellow Americans, but add the DLCs priced from anywhere to 15$ to 130$ (DOA6) and that’s a lot of money for one game. I feel like we’re paying more, but we’re getting less every single time.
So this trend of adding and selling DLCs started a long time ago, but it had merit, content, and it didn’t replace actually giving us a complete game. Now, games are basically released to the general public as a late beta test. Take Mortal Kombat 11 for example. Their launch was a complete failure, with the primary single-player mode (Towers of Time) being unplayable due do the ridiculous difficulty and countless server bugs that would kick you out of matches. Similar problems were encountered in the Krypt and most online modes – problems with persisted months after the game’s release (at least on my end).
It’s certainly been very clear to me that companies are pushing these developers to pump out games every year or two years and regardless if it’s finished or not, it needs to be sold. They need to profit from all the people they have been paying for years to work on said game. Just look at the Anthem fiasco, not only was the game released nothing like the game promised at E3, they took out content to later add it in as DLC. If that doesn’t turn you off from buying another EA game ever again, I don’t know what will.
So are companies really just being greedy, or are they actually playing into our demands?
We want a lot of content as to not get bored with a game quickly upon its release, but if we want games to entertain us for years and have things for us to keep discovering, at the end of the day, are DLCs really just a necessary evil?
To an extent, I think they are. I may bash MK11 a lot, but at least the game on release had a ton of content and games modes, and it felt like a complete game. Fighting games are a bit different in a way since one new character added through DLC can change the whole meta of the game; but in an adventure game like Tomb Raider, what could possibly be the point of having DLCs? Are they saying that the base game’s story isn’t complete? And that you need to pay more to finish it? And sure, most of the times the side stories that expand aren’t necessary, but if they aren’t necessary, then what are they for? I’m pretty sure you all know the answer to that question.
This trend shows no sign of stopping any time soon because let’s be honest here, if one company does it and makes a profit, then every other company will do it too. A company’s primary goal is the same as what is best in life to Conan ‘To crush your enemy, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the peoples’.
However, the silver lining, if there is one at all, is that a lot of gamers are more aware of these practices, and are and willing to call it out. So I would encourage everyone to be vocal about what’s happening in the gaming industry. We are the consumers and thus we have to be aware of who and what we’re willing to give our money to.