DLC and Season Passes: Expansions or exploitative?

Deal or no deal? You decide.

by Stephen Carter Sep 26, 2014 at 7:52 AM

  • Gaming Article


    DLC and Season Passes: Expansions or exploitative?
    The recent release of Destiny has sparked many a debate, the most pertinent of which being the question over the title's longevity. Is there enough content to keep people going? Or will numbers dwindle as soon as the main story is completed and people begin to hit the wall? Regardless of the length of Destiny, its launch has sparked off another debate entirely; post-launch downloadable content.
    Being a game which uses some MMO mechanics, it was clear that Destiny was going to get ongoing support following its release. Of course, DLC is always appreciated when it's for games we enjoy playing, and some worlds allow multiple routes for expansion, giving gamers something new despite being in the same setting or time.

    But when it comes to DLC, should we be sold ‘season passes’ which give us access to all content following launch? I mean, in the case of Destiny, the season pass was being sold alongside the game at retail, with details about what you’d be getting and when. What’s worse is that games are being announced and details of their season passes are already being touted.

    This brings into question what value for money we are actually getting from these passes, and are they just granting us access to some content that could have been included on the disc? I’m not saying there is anything wrong with mapping out in advance when games will be supported following its launch, but to know and announce what is coming when surely suggests that it’s already being worked on at the same time as the base version of the game?

    For example Lego Batman 3, of all games, is getting a season pass which will give you access to three packs following launch which will contain extra characters and new missions. Being an avid fan of the franchise, I should be excited about such an announcement. Instead, I find myself wondering as to why they feel the need to charge extra for some content which could arguably be put on the disc. It makes you feel like you are double-dipping and in effect buying the game twice given the price of some of these passes. The Destiny pass is priced at £35 which is nearly the same amount that some consumers will have paid for the full game! Other games have recently shipped with Season Passes including Titanfall and Assassins Creed, with Sunset Overdrive already having a season pass in the pipeline too.

    Naturally, this whole debate boils down to value for money, which is completely subjective. However, when you’re nearly spending the same amount for additional content as you have done previously for the retail disc, you’d expect the content which you’re purchasing to reflect the amount of money which you are paying. Is this a cynical business model whereby the game is being chopped up and repackaged to glean more money from consumers? From a developer's perspective, this method allows them to tie gamers into their purchases and keep them playing the game as opposed to moving onto something new once they’ve had enough.

    Of course, there’s always the novel idea that developers should release extra content for free, or for a nominal fee rather than putting a premium on these additions. Granted, developers need to earn their money back for the effort they put into such content, but if it was material which was originally intended to be on the disc, but didn’t make the final cut, then charging extra for it seems a bit harsh, no?

    Is this a cynical business model?

    There’s also the view that developers should focus on supporting their consumer base and listening to their feedback, in order to provide future updates based upon what would be popular with players. For instance, once the game has been released and the initial support has been completed, why not open up possible future ideas for expansion to the players? Release some details on ideas that have been bandied about for future DLC and see what they think, and if it’s popular then put those plans into place. Or even take ideas that have been given as feedback and try and make them possible.

    Sadly, this will probably never happen, as the industry appears to be moving further away from being consumer focussed and more intent simply on the contents of gamers' wallets. The relationship between developers and customers is symbiotic; they rely on us to pay for their expenditure, whilst we depend on them to deliver a product which we value and enjoy. Hopefully we might start to see support in different ways from publishers and developers in the future, rather than them trying to make a quick bit of cash.

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