Saturday, April 14, 2012

Another look at on-disc DLC

A while ago I wrote that downloadable content for video games gets a bad rap, and that there is no difference between having to pay to download DLC or pay to unlock optional parts on the disc.

It's as arbitrary a difference as correcting a test by starting with a score of 100 and subtracting a point for each wrong answer, or starting at zero and adding a point for each correct question. Both add up to the same thing in the end.
Now the issue has come roaring back, as Capcom allegedly made the same point in messages to whiny consumers. DLC critics seem offended that people like me are correctly saying they feel "entitled" to the content.

Cliff Blezinski of Epic Games said the same technological factors that cause some DLC to be released simultaneously with a game - DLC production begins during the three month period after a game is built and before it hits stores - is causing some DLC to be burned into the disc. I don't understand Blezinki's logic in why it's better than releasing it digitally, but let's assume the worst and say he's wrong. That still doesn't mean companies shouldn't be able to charge consumers again for certain parts of the game.

These locked-away portions of games are a complication in determining the price of a game. Last year in a post about how video game prices have fallen over time, Michael Hawkins made a good point in the comments sections that the added cost from DLC add-ons was missing from my equation.

Just as Brad DeLong showed comparing the price of encyclopedia book sets over time is problematic because of the emergence of digital encyclopedias, comparing video game prices is now complicated by DLC costs.

The solution is not to merely add the cost of the DLC onto the retail price. So far, no one has released a game that is unplayable with specific DLC. Instead, we have DLC that enhances games. Consumers can skip the DLC and still enjoy the product.

Some games turn out to be duds and players have already paid the retail cost, but are not on the hook for the DLC. With that in mind, the counter to viewing DLC as a hidden cost is to see it as consumer insurance that allows players to stop throwing good money after bad.

1 comment:

  1. I'm liking this post. I meant to comment a while back but I got distracted and forgot.

    I liken this to buying pizza. They charge extra for toppings or special crust and so forth. Generally people view this as a positive thing, because if you don't want to have bacon on your pizza, you don't have to pay for it anyway and pick it off the top.

    It's very much the same thing. If you don't want all kinds of add on's or gimmicks, you don't have to buy them. You get a video game, essentially personalized for you, rather than getting charged for some other guy's prosciutto and goat cheese that you don't like.