DLC Culture: A Season Pass of Downloadable Crap
I set out to write a satirical article describing an announcement from EA stating they would place the Star Wars Battlefront DLC season passes for the next 10 years on sale preemptively, just in time for the holidays, without having any idea what the content would actually be. My fake news piece was going to describe how people jumped at the opportunity to make the purchase, not really understanding why they were spending money for something that literally hadn’t been created yet. I even had an imaginary interview planned with an EA executive while he rolled around in piles of company money, Scrooge McDuck style.
Then I started catching up on Star Wars Battlefront headlines from the last couple of days, reading through items like Disney’s 10-year exclusive deal with EA, and I realized my article, fully intended to be an exaggerated parody of the DLC craze that gaming culture has embraced, really wouldn’t be too far from the truth.
Buy first, ask questions later. That’s what game publishers want you to do, and I can’t say I blame them. They’re a business after all. My problem arises with the cheap, gimmicky, used car salesman tactics they employ to convince you to make that purchase, especially when it comes to DLC. Cosmetic in-game bullshit, a plastic “limited edition” toy or trinket, early access to something that those regular Joes just can’t quite get their hands on yet… these are the tools to reel us in, and they work.
“Ooohhh, look at this cool mount! I bet you want that, don’t you? It’s pretty exclusive. Guess what… you can have it! Just pre-order this game. Or buy this season pass. Give us your money, you dumb little shit, and it can be yours.”
We purchase content frequently before it’s even fully fleshed out on a conceptual level in the form of season passes and pre-orders. This gives publishers a free pass to release the game in whatever state it may be in by the time their deadline for launch arrives, and then chalk up the unfinished bits to upcoming DLC.
The accountability that developers should have for the content they release in the final version of a new game at launch is completely undermined by this philosophy.
This is bad for gamers.
“Oh, I’m sorry, you thought the $60 you spent would actually get you the FULL game?”
I fundamentally disagree with the expectation that we as gamers will blindly fork over money for something that should have been included as part of the original game we already purchased. I take a strong stance against paying money for something when the details of what I’m paying for haven’t even been announced yet.
But I also know that I will keep buying both of these things, regardless of how many rants I post online or how upset it makes me.
I’ve certainly contributed enough dollars to pre-orders and DLC over the years to make my credit card statement particularly cringe-worthy in certain months. You could even say I’m an enabler of this type of behavior by game developers and publishers.
So what can we do about it? In all likelihood, it’s going to continue. Season passes are the new expansion packs. Publishers will keep marketing their content to lock in sales as soon as they can, especially for AAA titles that are cash cows.
My intent with this article is not offer a solution to the problem, but to bring awareness to the downsides of this pay first, ask question later culture in gaming and get you thinking about it. I don’t have the answer, but I do know I’m tired of spending $60 on a game only to find out the rest of the content will be released over the next year in the form of another $50 purchase.
What do you think?
Does this approach make your stomach turn like mine, or are you just happy to have more content coming out for a game you like? Do you have ideas on what we could do about it?
Feel free to leave a comment! I would love to hear your thoughts.