Any Way to Make a Buck

posted by on 24th August 2013, at 1:21am

You know what really grinds my gears these days? Downloadable content. That’s right. I said it, and I know all my fellow gamers agree with me…or at least most of them. It’s a pet peeve for many of us Why should we have to pay for more content of a game we already own, especially if what I’m paying for doesn’t get me all that much? Downloadable content (or DLC as we like to paraphrase) is perhaps the most profitable scheme game publishers have invented to make more money. How, you might ask? Let’s jump right into it.

It wasn’t long ago that when games came out, they came with all the content up front and assumingly for free…or at least included in the cost of the game. And this was great for gamers. Why wouldn’t you want all the content for one price and in one package all at once? Of course, with the introduction of the internet, gaming changed. Publishers now had the ability to release content updates straight to the gamer and didn’t have to worry about catching every bug and error. And this was great, too. Publishers could update their games, put out patches and fixes when needed, and send out more content to enhance their games. But eventually, some smart person in the industry (likely an economist or marketer) realized the potential money that could be made from this free content and its delivery system, the internet. They said to themselves “Rather than provide free content updates to the players, why don’t we charge money for it!” Lo and behold, DLC was born.

The change was gradual. Some gamers saw this as OK because why shouldn’t gaming companies be able to profit from the content they put out, even if it didn’t initially come with the game. But many more were upset by it. Change is always hard, and if it means paying more money for something you want, the response is likely going to be negative…which it was. Gamers saw publishers as greedy corporations only out to make the most money rather than focus on the quality of the game or the happiness of the gamer. The relationship between the gamer and the provider is key to any success in the gaming industry. If your players aren’t happy, and if you push on them too hard, you will lose a lot of money and find it very hard to get your player base back. But gaming companies were set on this new strategy of selling future content rather than giving it away for free.

Eventually, with persistence and adoption of the strategy by the top gaming publishers, gamers gave way and accepted the change, or at least most of them did. Clearly, I’m still here complaining about it and likely many other gamers share my sentiments. But by and large, most gamers were OK with it, meaning they were able to afford it and as long as they were still happy and entertained by the games, what else matters?

So why should we as gamers still be upset over DLC costing us money? Most of us aren’t hurting for cash and DLC can spice things up a bit after we have grown old of initial content. What’s the real harm? Laziness, I tell you. You see, DLC makes it easier for publishers to make money without doing as much work. Those fears people had over publishers reducing the quality of content became more or less realized. Essentially, the hardest thing for gaming companies to do is come up with and design original games to keep us interested enough to keep them making money. But with DLC, there is no need to come up with a new game, but rather more focus on continuing to develop (and sometimes overdevelop) games just to make more money, even if the new content isn’t all that great.

Think for example about a computer. Computers haven’t really changed much since their original invention in the mid 20th century. Sure, they are a bit faster, store more, and look better than the hunk of junks from the 90’s, but they are basically built around the same general blueprint and parts. But just like any industry, computer manufactures have to find a way to keep you buying their product. There are two ways to do this. The first is to keep coming out with new models of computers…new as in mostly look different, have newer parts, but run the same as any other computer most people have now. Second, computer manufactures can instead invent and manufacture new parts to replace older parts. If a company specializes in part manufacturing, they don’t have to worry about coming up with new models of computers, but instead just offer small improvements to consumers. This of course is acceptable for computer manufacturing, but not as much for gaming.

Game publishers have a much easier time working with what is already there rather than coming out with something original and new. However, as gamers, we should want and expect game companies to work harder for our entertainment. I’m not saying DLC is all bad. Now that it is here and likely not to go away, it’s OK to release content for a game as long as companies put good quality into making the  content and give it to us at a fair price. Some games should be developed more, but most should not. We know it’s simply business for the gaming manufacturer to come up with this kind of strategy, and we can’t blame them for trying to lessen the quality so they can make money. But we as consumers can hold them to a better standard and we should.

So, what is the purpose of this article then? I want gamers to think about what I’ve said and see if there is any merit or substance to what I saw. Is it fair to us that a company can charge us more for just a little more work on their part? I don’t think so. I think the best thing we as gamers can do is vote with our (or our parents’) money and show the gaming industry that it’s fine to have DLC, but not at the sacrifice of quality…and certainly only at a fairer price.

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