Friday, March 20, 2009

The right and wrong ways to do DLC.

Whether you like it or not, DLC (downloadable content) is gradually gaining momentum, and I'm knee deep in it. Sure, most people can call it nickel-and-diming the customers at a micro level, but there ARE people out there that don't mind it. But the problem is not with the DLC model, but how companies execute it.

Games like Rock Band really take the model to the fans, bringing in new songs while they're still fresh on the radio, or bringing in old classics that cater to the few that remember them. I mean, I can literally listen to a song I like on the radio and wait for them with baited anticipation, knowing that someone in Harmonix is probably making the song compatible with the game somehow. I was just listening to Papa Roach's "Lifeline," and now it's a playable song that I own. How cool is that?

Then there are other companies like Capcom and their DLC of alternate costumes. Supposedly, they're "downloaded" after purchase, but after noticing the relatively small size of the downloads, you know you're not getting a true download. Anything that is relatively measured in kilobytes (105 kilobytes, to be exact) is just unlocking something already existing on the disc. Sorry Capcom (and to any other company doing this)...this don't fly with the consumers. You're telling people to shell out more money for something that could easily be unlocked if you implemented it? That's worse than stealing candy from a baby.

At least there are some companies that know how to distribute on-disc DLC. Take the game Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm - their DLC comes in on a monthly basis as FREE DLC for their customers. Sure, the stuff is already on the disc, but at least the content is released on a timely basis as opposed to the customer's own playthrough...all without the monetary expense.

And while it's easy to place the blame on the company, the consumer is still the "final straw" in this equation. It's really up to you whether or not you want to replace that extra 7-11 snack, Burger King meal, or crappy $10 GameStop used game for digital content. I'm willing to bet that the same people that bitch about purchasing DLC are the same people that drop money in the bucket for food and other minor purchases for other things. If that doesn't work for you, you could compare it to the money wasted in Vegas. Or in the arcade. In that case, a new Rock Band song would cost you roughly 4 plays in your typical arcade, but you get to play this song all you want.

And you know that there are people out there that just don't want to spend the full $50-$60 for one game, when they can easily get 4 or 5 smaller, digitially downloaded games for the same price. I can justify my $10 Mega Man 9 purchase for my Wii over a TON of games released on retail out there. Instead of unleashing another sequel to the Prince of Persia game, the Epilogue was released with more game to play at an extra $10 expense. Burnout Paradise released new multiplayer modes and more car reskins at varying price ranges, all at reasonable prices.

What does this mean? People don't want to pay full price for sequels that only deliver the same gameplay in different environments - they want the new environments with same play mechanic at smaller, more easily attainable formats. Add to the fact that it's more gameplay without bulking up your game collection, and you also find a business model that can potentially be environment friendly.

However you look at it, the DLC model is something that's becoming more and more popular, so you either embrace it or make suggestions to improve it. Hating it will only put you in a minority group that's getting smaller and smaller.
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