Video games have come a long way in the way they’re developed. In the long long ago, video games were developed as passion projects on shoestring budgets in the developer’s garage by a small group of people who worked together because they were friends. Game development flourished for a few years like this and people enjoyed the end results. Systems like the Atari 2600 and Colecovision sold like gangbusters. Sadly gaming was thought to be a fad, and soon the console market died. But then in 1985, Nintendo brought the console market back into the mainstream after its gruesome death with the NES and their plucky little Italian plumber. Thus began the cycle of gaming development as we know it today: a cycle that requires oodles upon oodles of money in order to deliver the best gaming experience to the consumer as possible. Gaming is now a multi-billion dollar industry and creating these games takes a lot of cash.
But with video games being such a different commodity than say, books or movies, a question presents itself: given how much money it takes to create a first rate, top tier game, what is considered a fair price for these goods? Gaming has never been cheap, but it’s never gone into the realm of astronomically priced. Sure, you can spend as much as you’re willing to on peripherals and accessories, but they’re not essential to the process. The cost of gaming has always been like a begrudging relationship that is necessary, but not one that you have to enjoy. It’s something to be put up with, something to be tolerated. It isn’t ideal, but you can deal with it because the ends outweigh the hassle. Until recently, that is. The balance of power in this begrudging relationship has all but completely tilted to one side of the spectrum: to that of the companies publishing games, and more importantly, those companies publishing my three least favorite syllables in gaming: DLC.
I am of the opinion that the best game ever made is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Cliché, but there it is. OoT packed in its little gray cartridge a world unlike gaming had ever witnessed before. Fully explorable 3-D rendered environments, the addition of the context sensitive button, minigames that stayed fun for hours on end, truly memorable and terrific music, well designed and thought out characters, a gripping story, OoT had everything you could ever want from a game and then some. That game had so much packed into it that even today, the amount of content on that cartridge is truly staggering. And the best part about it? You only had to pay for the game once. Were OoT created today? Nothing could now convince me that at least forty percent of that game would have to be downloaded as DLC. All those bomb-chu target ranges? DLC. The Biggoron Sword? DLC. The Big Wallet? DLC. Epona’s Song? DLC. Din’s Fire? DLC. There’d probably be one or two songs specially made to be purchased as DLC as well. The list could go on. So much of this game would no doubt have to be purchased AFTER we’d already bought the game. And that is not okay.
DLC is now a standard option for virtually every single game produced today. The way it used to be, in the long long ago, was that a developer would think of something cool that he or she could put in this game, create it, then implement it. And if it was good enough and added enough to the experience it got to stay in for the gamers to enjoy in the final version. Then DLC became an option. Now game devs will hold some of their ideas out of the final product simply so the consumer will have to purchase it as a separate entity. Mass Effect was a large violator holding out fun additional bits from games, namely characters and extra side missions. Why weren’t these characters included in the copy that I just purchased? Oh, because I need to spend x amount on them in addition to the sixty bones I just dropped on this game. Gaming companies simply will not release a complete game anymore, because they have the technology to get away without doing so. They can now also release unfinished and buggy games, games that haven’t been tested enough to determine whether or not they’re suitable for the public to purchase yet. Release a game and get public backlash for it being choppy and hastily put together just so your company could have it out by that deadline? Just release a patch for it later. And worse still is “Day One” DLC. You know how you just went and paid sixty dollars for that sweet new Xbone or PS4 game? Well now you can rush home and download a sweet new gun or some dumb new outfit for your character to wear! And only for anywhere from one dollar up to fifteen dollars! That’s potentially seventy five dollars you’ve already poured into this game before you’ve even started playing it. How is this acceptable?
These companies hold things back from gamers in order to squeeze every last penny they can from them, and then expect the gamers to thank them for the opportunity. And that brings me to my final point: the gamers. Rather than being outraged that they’re expected to pile on an additional amount of money on top of the money they’ve already spent on the game, they couldn’t be more excited about it, more submissive and more willing. They can’t wait for all that sweet DLC like Red Dead’s Assassin Suit, That one chunk of The Last of Us, map packs for Call of Duty: It Doesn’t Matter You’re Gonna Buy It Anyway, and people are (quite literally) buying in to this tragic rhetoric. They’re selling us unfinished products and expecting us to pay for the pieces that they intentionally left off. The iconic phrase “thank you sir, may I have another!” comes to mind. I take that back. That phrase was compulsory. Perhaps it’s more like Oliver Twist’s “Please sir, I want some more” because, at this point in time, we’re now simply begging these companies to fleece us.