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Written by Dustin Murphy
Where do you begin when it comes to the tangled mess that is DLC, Expansions, and Season Passes that try to bridge the gap of content that is already readily available, but also content that is not? This is something developers have already seemed to have gained a good idea of when attempting to bring out a new title and implement plenty of content to keep players interested. The question comes to this – when is it okay? As we saw in Devon Day’s last article here DLC has become almost a pre-planned contention plan that tries to keep players around for their games. Unfortunately, this also means that those who want a completed game (i.e: story DLC that finishes out a story in the first place or content on disc that’s locked behind a DLC code). Does this mean downloadable content has evolved too quickly or has the consumer become blinded by the not-so-acceptable pre-planned DLC?
/-/ The Disadvantage of Season Passes /-/
As a gamer first-and-foremost, it’s not hard to see that DLC brings in a lot of interest to titles that live up to their hype, were under the radar, or just simply seemed like a good time burner. Many games such as Monster Hunter, Toukiden, and even Ubisoft’s service called Uplay, have given a unique spin on what it is to have ‘locked content’ and ‘free content’ that can simply be obtained by going online, downloading, and or just checking in on the online portions of the titles. Unlike many titles though, these two titles and a service are one of the few that offer such an alternative to people who don’t want to join the season pass train. This, however, does not mean the Ubisoft service will give up the content that a Season Pass has to offer, instead it offers content that is on disc and is unlocked by performing certain goals within a title or past Ubisoft titles to unlock it.
So where do we begin when it comes to how troublesome season passes are? When thinking of games that feed off of such a setup, it’s easy to look at the big smash hits such as Evolve, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed, Destiny, and even titles such as Dead or Alive as well as titles like Forza. So what makes these Season Passes such a bad deal? When stepping away from being a write that reports on games, I’m also a consumer, and one that does tend to buy games as well as look at the future content that will be unlocked from them. When doing this several questions will come to mind before doing so – what’s included, will it take away from the main campaign, and why is it something I should be interested in it to begin with? When playing games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield many players aren’t purchasing the season pass to expand a story, but instead they are obtaining these season passes to obtain maps that are or have not even been developed yet, which means this content is still up on the drawing board at a developer and being worked out to give players the best possible way to play it. This can mean that players will either get a few surprise maps, which isn’t a surprise or they will be getting a rehash of older ones that have been brought up to match the current title. So why is this something to make noise about?
Remember back on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and even the GameCube when none of that was truly needed to make a game a full experience? Games back in the time didn’t require the option to obtain downloadable content at a set price, but even with the internet, there were still options to obtain expansions for MMOs or online shooters that required a connector to get online (Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy XI, and even Socom can be used as some awesome examples). These games, however, were complete on their launch with only DLC as a secondary option had they opted to create it. This, however, was not a common practice in the time and only recently saw itself growing on consoles, which remained different from the custom game mods that were created by fans of games. As the consoles we know as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 launched DLC began to become an option for gamers with games such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and even L.A. Noire began to grow and become more popular, so did the idea of downloadable content in order to expand those games. With the launches of new maps, weapons, and such on other titles, L.A. Noire was one of the first games to incorporate the season pass, which allowed fans to gain access to new outfits, story missions, and even broaden the background of Detective Cole Phelps as he worked his way through each crime type.
As games such as L.A. Noire, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and even Mortal Kombat began to grow ever-more popular – developers began to find a way to cut individual DLC purchases into one, which got the attention of fan of these games, which lead to them understanding that gamers would begin to purchase these passes, which gave them the DLC at a reduced cost. Thanks to this practice with online games that revolve around multiplayer, titles like Assassin’s Creed, which are story driven, DLC season passes for such games began to pick up and take off so that fans could expand the story around them. So why exactly is this a bad thing? Over the years it has become a common practice for story based games, online multiplayer games, and even various free-to-plays to run on paid DLC and or subscriptions that would allow for players to expand their enjoyment of games. This has also lead to a problem where players feel almost coaxed out of enjoying a full release title versus one that should have seemed complete to begin with. So what titles can be used as primary examples as to this problematic practice? Even as much as I can say that Ubisoft has made amazing attempts to bring completed storylines out to the public, the stories are almost seemingly incomplete due to how the DLC does take a spin on the characters side-story, which in turn does affect how players can perceive a completed story.
With stories being a problem to begin with, it’s hard to accept a game that is incomplete and requires such fundamental practices to complete it. So why couldn’t the stories have all of this content provided to players on launch? That’s a question to ask a developer, but one thing is certain, it has grown to irritate some gamers as this does cost prices for games to go p from 59.99 USD to an estimated cost of 60 to 100 USD per game before taxes are applied.
/-/ The Advantages of Season Passes /-/
With the growing popularity of season passes and micro-transactions, the devaluation as well as risk of games not succeeding upon launch, consumers can see how easy that the AAA market takes a huge risk when pushing out content passes before a game series developer and publisher can determine just how well the game will work on launch. With this being a rather large risk, developers shoot on the rather large hope that nothing goes wrong, that fans will purchase the season pass, and thus the ratings for their game to remain successful with each piece of the DLC to go up in turn.
Thanks to the chance to continue development on games, developers do use this in their favor to listen to customer feedback and add the content that they would like to see once the game has been out for enough time to gain some common grounds among consumers. Doing this also gives companies an avenue to encourage season pass pre-orders as well as season pass sales themselves. That in turn offers consumers a chance to get a discount on the season pass before the game and season passes release. A prime example of this is when Borderlands 2’s season pass had been announced, gamers were given the opportunity to pre-order the season pass at a discounted price of 10% off as long as it was pre-ordered or purchased with the game at launch. Doing this allowed for 2K and developer Gearbox (lead by Randy Pitchford) to have extra time to work on their game, change or added things that needed to be added, and ensure that consumers got their money’s worth when it came to the title. Though with it there was a trade off of what was consumers trust with launch of content that was not included in the season pass. This was followed up by launch of several raid bosses that could be obtained for several dollars a piece and taking on the hunt the player wanted to do.
/-/ The Ever Growing Cost of Gaming /-/
When buying a game there is always the question of how much the game will actually cost once all content has been purchased – assuming it is needed to play. With these type of costs, it’s not hard to see why players would be concerned when DLC alone can range from as cheap as a dollar to as expensive as twenty five dollars apiece and with season passes cutting the costs, it’s not surprising that games are now costing between 80 to 100 USD or more (Battlefield Hardline + DLC with local tax is 112.54 USD), which leaves players wondering – is this game for me? Thanks to many changes in companies such as Bioware with their titles Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, it’s not hard to see why multiplayer DLC is being made for free and why fans are eating up since the games microtransactions are a decent trade-off for the cost of DLC. Because of DLC options being made before a game launch, the industry has embraced the idea of Season Passes and pre-launch announcements so that they can implement content later on with fans having some acknowledgement.
The cost of this though? A customers trust and patience being tested if the DLC just happens to be what they were not hoping for. This in turn can leave gamers slowly turning away from games and even throwing them in for a trade-in while having sacrificed the money they spent on the initial game and content. For now? The best thing is to buy the initial game before dropping the money on the DLC in order to see if the DLC will be worthwhile.
/-/ Closing Statement /-/
While it’s hard to fight the impulse to buy a season pass for a game you are truly dedicated to, it also comes down to the willingness for players to decide whether or not that this content will be worth their time in the long run. Unfortunately, the only way to find this is take into count how much a game will actually cost with all DLC content, but also the history of a developer before truly jumping in on a season pass that may or may not be worth the while.
While I’ve found myself extensively looking into Season Passes it’s hard to justify the hidden costs of games and the questionable nature of the future content that can be released. Till the content releases, the best thing gamers can do is actually wait, look at the previews and online preview-gameplay before making the financial obligation to content that they may or may not enjoy at the given time of its release, but also if they will have the available hard drive room for that said game.
If you are a person that buys season passes quite often, what is your take on it? Do you like the common DLC practice as of late or do you feel the consistency of announcing DLC before a game is finished is acceptable and allows for developers to finish the game? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.