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Downloading Ethics: The Sorry State of DLC

/ Feb 14th, 2013 No Comments

Street Fighter X Tekken
Street Fighter X Tekken

Street Fighter X Tekken

Last year saw the release of the hotly anticipated fighter Street Fighter x Tekken. The game at last fulfilled a virtual dream cross-over that was years in the making. It pitted popular characters belonging to two of the two game developers: Capcom and Namco. It was an instant hit getting rave reviews (it was also chosen as Fighting Game of the Year here at Gaming Illustrated), netting huge profits and being considered by many to be one of the best fighters in recent memory. It wasn’t long before downloadable content materialized which is now a regular trend in today’s gaming world. Normally such content is original and crafted after the release of a game. However, what took players by surprise was that the content wasn’t original. The 12 fighters that the downloadable content added were already in the game’s data files. This lead gamers to protest Capcom. The accusations of financial exploitation grew so immense Capcom issued a response. The company justifies the move was to help players save disk space and “to ensure for a smooth transition when the DLC is available, allowing players who choose not to purchase the content the ability to play against players that did.”

Not fooled by a bluff that obviously banked on gamers being gullible and technologically inept, players continued to apply pressure. This resulted in Capcom promising to genuinely make new content instead of requiring players to pay to unlock content already in their products. But even though Capcom has abandoned the model, other games have copied it. Skylanders and the upcoming Disney Infinity both require players to pay for the right to access content already on the disc. Their models though differ from the way more underhanded method Capcom used requiring players to purchase toys in order to access content in the game. While their models may be a little less underhanded and a tad more honest than Capcom’s, the continued use of this model shows that DLC has almost entirely become a get rich quick scheme. It is a byproduct of a industry that has grown more greedy as it has increase in fame and profit. The industry isn’t just satisfied with people who buy their games but want people to keep paying to enjoy them long after purchase.

It wasn’t always this way though. Though game developers may take time and effort to make new and original content for their games, it was more common in the past than now. Developers knew that players wanted more out of their games and realized the importance of working hard to make content to increase their enjoyment. It took days, weeks, even months to make new content. The hard work and dedication on their part was rewarded by players eager to pay to add to the life of their games. However, as is common with businesses that grow more influential, money has become a fixation that the video gaming industry can’t get enough of it. In their pursuit of it, creators have cast aside their principles and the quality of their games to make as much money as possible. DLC has become a tool to accomplish this.

Mike Tyson from WWE '13.

Mike Tyson from WWE ’13.

How it is used for the purpose of extorting more wealth comes in many shapes and forms. One of these forms are pre-order bonuses. These bonuses are used to gain more money and how is best seen by the bonus offered for the recent WWE ’13. Players who pledged to pre-order the game were given the ability to add Mike Tyson to the game’s already incredible roster of fighters.  It’s difficult to really call this content original when a model for Tyson already makes an appearance during the game’s Attitude Era Mode during a recreation of the main event at Wrestlemania XIV where Tyson served as a guest enforcer for the fight between Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. This indicates that Tyson was very likely in the game to begin with and could possibly be unlocked normally without a download. It’s not a far stretch then to conclude that the makers of WWE ’13 took out a part of their game, repackaged it and used it to get players to get the game.

This isn’t the first time pre-order bonuses have been used nor is it going to be the last. That is just the sorry state of DLC: it is now a reflection of an industry that has fallen into money grubbers. The gaming business now see players nothing more than piggy banks rather than human beings and quantity is considered better than quality. Naturally this has created a frustrated customer base, lackluster games and almost dishonest marketing. It’s an epidemic that is growing and needs to be fixed.

The good news is that the gaming industry can still fix itself and can take a very big step in doing so with DLC. Game makers could genuinely make new content for games on a consistent basis and genuinely earn money through hard work and dedication. This slovenly and exploitative approach to content must stop. It is both unethical and a bane to an industry that once consistently strove to make their customers happy, putting effort into making their games and putting even more to making content that wasn’t exploitative but original and entertaining. This is a problem that can’t be solved by downloadable content or patches. It must be solved by gaming companies making one smart business decision: being ethical. That is something far more important to games and players than new levels or skins.

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan Anson

A resident of Southern California, Jonathan Anson has been a lover of games ever since his father brought home a Windows 95 computer where he was first introduced to his first games. He previously worked for The Gamer Studio before jumping ship to Gaming Illustrated where he can be found showcasing his other love: writing. He is also in the process of attempting to acquire an AA degree in Journalism from Saddleback College.
Jonathan Anson

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