What I’m about to talk about in this article falls into both “beating a dead horse,” and “forgone conclusion” territories. I hate to write an article where I can’t be at least a little original with the topic. However, this is a small part of a larger ongoing debate involving modern games, so for the sake of adding a little more fuel to the fire, I am going to reluctantly bring up the topic of on-disc DLC.
The most recent debate involving on-disc DLC came with the discovery that there are actually several characters available on the disc for Capcom’s latest fighting title “Street Fighter X Tekken.” These characters are slated to be unlockable when Capcom makes an upgrade to the game available via online stores for $20 dollars. That in itself is a pretty sinister business model, but it gets worse as you realize that potentially, extra stages and costumes for the new DLC characters are ALSO on the disc and might possibly be purchased separately.
Fan outrage and arguments abound about this, many of them valid in that they point out Capcom’s model forces consumers to pay extra for content that they technically already own, and also give advantages to hackers who can simply exploit the code and receive all this content without having to pay for it. Capcom has also received a lot of flak in the past for their attempts to sell $40 dollar upgraded versions of games like “Super Street fighter IV” and “Marvel Vs. Capcom 3” on separate discs instead of offering on-disc DLC.
On a more personal note, it’s extremely irritating to me, as a fighting game fan, that Capcom always pulls these bizarre tricks on my favorite gaming genre, fighting games. Capcom has been producing fighting games for over a decade now and they know that whenever the latest version of a game exists, be it in an arcade cabinet, on a disc, or as DLC, fans will always seek out the latest available version. Therefore, lots of people have certainly complained about the way Capcom chooses to update Street Fighter X Tekken, but few people are going to admit that they absolutely refuse to pay for it.
There is one argument that many people are making that just doesn’t hold water, and it comes as no surprise that it’s the argument that people are making the most: If all the content is already on the disc, it should be offered for free. Yeah. No.
I mean, it’d be nice if it were. It’d be a fine show of goodwill if Capcom decided to release that content for free, if only to stop the constant complaining about it on forums. However, Capcom is not in the business of making concessions to fans. It is a business. Period. It is its business that in fact knows its consumer…it HAS to offer an upgrade to their fighting game somewhere down the line and it’s chosen a means to do it. It’s a means that we don’t agree with but we will more than 70 to 80% accept since fighting game fans absolutely NEED the latest upgrade. We could protest, but we probably won’t, and personally I don’t intend to, because honestly, I’ve bought on-disc DLC in the past.
Go backwards a couple years and have a look at another pair of Capcom titles: Megaman 9 and Megaman 10. These retro-ized sequels in the Mega Man Franchise each sported an additional character that was available through DLC, Protoman in 9, and Bass in 10. Now, what you have to realize about these characters is that they simply could not have been downloaded and inserted into the code of the game in a working form if they were downloaded separately. These are characters in a platformer and have to interact with the platformer in every way possible. Thus, they were already part of the code for the original game. Lots of people paid extra for them. Nobody complained.
There’s also situations where I was given the option to unlock what was on the disc by paying for it. I got this option for two games from completely separate publisher: “Modnation Racers” from Sony and “NBA Jam: On Fire Edition” from EA. I could have spent hours playing the games and unlocking everything offered on the disc for free, but for some reason it didn’t seem worth it to me, particularly in Modnation, where everything from car tires to character eyeballs had to be won by completing achievements in races. So instead of spending all that time, I threw an extra $5 on each title and got everything both titles had to offer. Couldn’t have been the only one.
Now, you might be saying that these are both pretty minor examples compared to what Capcom intends to serve us up. Well…what if I told you that I regularly play a game where EVERY character has to be purchased separately DESPITE the fact they’re ALL on the disc. Each character costs me between $9 and $20 a pop and I need to own at least 8 characters in order to unlock all the game’s content on disc.
Well, I do own a game like that. “Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure” from Activision. Face it, if the characters were downloaded anew every time you bought one of their figures, you wouldn’t be able to hot-swap them over the portal as quickly as you do, and in order to get into all of the play areas of the game, you need at least one figure of each of the game’s 8 elements. Activision totally exploits this model, too: rarer element characters are often only sold in $20 adventure packs that include just one figure and some incidental crap. So, I suppose on-disc DLC is thus totally acceptable if it’s packaged in a way consumers are willing to buy without complaining. Hee. Toys…..
I come from a youth where I had to save up my allowance for 5 weeks to buy an NES game, and lately I can’t help but look at all the patches, bonus packs, level packs, extra characters and such that exist on the market and think how little attention game companies spend on delivering a complete product. It's truly a crime to depend this much on DLC to deliver experiences that in my day would have appeared on a full cart. Despite how I feel about it though, I don't ever make the claim that because modern gaming is incomplete, I deserve to get my hands on it for free. That's just expecting something for nothing.
Oh and when the DLC comes out, I'll totally whup all of you with my Dudley.