Monday, March 5, 2012

The Disc Locked Content (DLC) Dilemma

There is a pretty big problem in today's generation of games that I feel people aren't making an effort to stop. With increasing support for the digital market, some developers take advantage of this and have figured out ways to extort more money from their consumers. This includes a recent trend of online passes that locks out online multiplayer modes from being available unless you have a one time use code that comes with a brand new retail copy of the game. Which means, if you bought the game used, rented the game, or maybe borrow the game from a friend, you can not play online. If you want to play online in those cases, you have to purchase an online pass which will usually run you for about $5 extra. So, the $5 you typically might save when buying the game used just goes back to the online pass. Some games have a online trial period that will let you play for a certain amount of time like Mortal Kombat. Some other games like Battlefield 3, you're SOL after downloading several gigabytes worth of updates (which is another problem with this generation's games). However, I don't want to get into any of that right now. I want to talk about one of the worst offenders in recent memory when it comes to so-called downloadable content, that culprit being Capcpom.

3/4th of the cast included
There's a little release this week called Street Fighter X Tekken that you might not even know existed until today. It's only a crossover between two of the most popular fighting game franchises today. No big deal. As per usual of Capcom games lately, SFXT broke its street date of tomorrow and already has been in the hands of hardcore fans and pirates for a while now. With that, hackers have managed to data mine the contents of the disc. What they found was no surprise to some given Capcom's previous track record and how they are handling the Gems system (which is also a whole 'nother problem that I'd rather not get into right now) and the fact that Mega Man and Pac-Man are not available until they appear on the PSN store. All of the things that they had planned and announced as DLC is all already there on the disc but locked away for future potential buyers who are total chumps. This includes alternate costumes but most importantly the twelve, TWELVE, completely finished characters that were meant as a selling point for the Vita release of SFXT. It should also be noted that it seems that Capcom intends for Mega Man and Pac Man to eventually make it into the Xbox 360 versions of the game when they were previously announced as exclusive characters for the PS3 and Vita versions because they appear in the data of the disc as well. You can find screenshots and gameplay footage of these characters in motion all over the web as long as they haven't been taken down by the Capcops. The internet had a little uproar about it and so here is Capcom's response:
By now you've heard news that 12 additional characters - previously revealed as PlayStation Vita exclusives - are located on the Street Fighter X Tekken disc. Naturally this means said characters will arrive on the console and PC versions shortly after the Vita version launches later this year, but the real question is why they're on the disc in the first place.
Official statement:
Capcom has confirmed that 12 new fan-favorite characters will be available as Downloadable Content (DLC) on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC versions of Street Fighter X Tekken later this year. The playable characters will make their debut on the PS Vita system when the game is released this fall, with the console and PC versions receiving them as DLC soon after. The character information and files were intentionally included on retail versions of the PS3 and Xbox 360 game to save hard drive space and to ensure for a smooth transition when the DLC is available, allowing players who choose not to purchase the content the ability to play against players that did. More specifics regarding pricing, dates and other additional exciting DLC plans for Street Fighter X Tekken will be shared at a later date. As a reminder, the retail version of the game will be the only disc-based version consumers will need to own and all future upgrades will come from post-launch DLC. The new characters fighting their way onto Street Fighter X Tekken are... from the Street Fighter side... Blanka, Cody, Dudley, Elena, Guy and Sakura will be playable and from Tekken... Alisa Bosconovitch, Bryan Fury, Christie Monteiro, Jack, Lars Alexandersson and Lei Wulong will all be available.
By including these 12 characters on the disc, the idea was to ensure easy compatability between players who do and do not choose to download the characters when they arrive as DLC. For example, not buying costumes in the Street Fighter IV series means you will not see the costumes when playing another person who did buy them; on-disc characters avoid this issue and allow everyone to participate in the update without additional patches or hiccups. The update also saves on file size - instead of a massive download, there will be a much smaller unlock that brings the new content to the surface.
This move also furthers our desire to avoid a "Super" version of the game down the road. Everything you need to enjoy this game for months (and years) to come will be accessed by the retail disc available this week. When the DLC update does come, it will inject new life and excitement into the game by unleashing 12 new fighters into the wild.
SFxT has a ton of content on day one, then later this year we reenergize the whole thing with a hefty DLC update, without the need for a second disc. And while pricing details are still to come, I can at least say it'll be a great value considering the size of the update - 12 new characters is pretty substantial, after all.
I understand the reaction, but SFxT is a damn fun game with a ton of content right out of the gate and more stuff - all designed to keep this fresh - to come.
[Source: Capcom-Unity Blog]

Mega Man is destined to come to Xbox 360
Here's an idea, and I know this is just so unheard of, so excuse me but, how about have all the content available for everybody? Eliminate the problem of incompatibility between buyers and non-buyers altogether when you get rid of the barrier where people have to pay to play each character in a game that revolves around playing characters. There are plenty of other ways to provide support with real post-release content to keep it fresh and even bring in more buyers of their product. Just look at what Valve has done for years with Team Fortress 2 or maybe what Blizzard is doing with StarCraft II to really push the competitive tournament scene. Blizzard gives out free patches that rebalance the way the game is played every once and a while until they make a drastic overhaul to the game in the form of an expansion that is worth a cost. That's how you support a game. I get the feeling that Capcom only cares about short term sales. It's true about games that they sell the most in their initial weeks and if they fail there then it's a problem but consider what Nintendo has done with iterations of their games like Mario Kart DS. They constantly advertised it, reprinted it, and sold it at full price and so people were still buying it long after it initially released. No changes were made to the game and no DLC was released, what you bought was what you got. Once Capcom is done slowly letting people play the entire game that was there from the beginning, they're just going to move on and do the same thing with Darkstalkers 4 or whatever is next.
You can keep it classy for $8.95 USD in 2013
Allow me to briefly go over this hypothetical scenario that you should consider. People are going to have tournaments for this game. Not only do those tournament organizers (TOs) have to have multiple copies of the game, they also need to have multiple console setups for the game so that they can run as many matches as possible in a bracket to save time. With the way DRM works for PSN, you can only download what you've already purchased on a very limited amount of systems. So, the TO would have to buy all these extra characters and gem packs multiple times for each system just so they can provide their players with the same set of tools that they've practiced with at home. I'm going to assume that it's not very likely a TO is willing to put in that much money for that. Let's just say some guy really likes to play Blanka and he wants to take his skills to the test by going to his local tournament scene but they only have Blanka unlocked on one console. He would have to play only on that one console and a TO would have to adjust things while keeping this in mind. Once again, don't even get me started on gems. If you take a look at Shuma Gorath and Jill, the DLC characters for MvC3 and UMvC3, you'll notice that these characters hardly see any play and this is partly due to the fact that you have to pay for them. Don't get me wrong, nobody knows who Shuma is and that's the main reason why people don't want to play him but you can't really deny that it hurts their viability since they're not available by default for everyone to at least try them out. So here's a question for Capcom, is it really worth it making a quick buck if you have the most loyal fans, who play the game the most, go through so much trouble to get the most out of their game? Spoilers: the answer is yes, because they're a business. Take that however you want. Honestly, if it was up to me as a TO for a big tourney like EVO, I would make an important announcement to everyone banning the use of gems and dlc characters to avoid any hassle of dealing with it. This will definitely kill the sales of the DLC since you wouldn't be allowed to use them in competitive play. Of course, people aren't going to like it because when you start banning stuff you end up with something like the competitive Smash community. "Oh well," I'd say. It's Capcom's fault for deciding that the entire thing was a good idea.
Hacker makes an effort to remind everybody what his name is while showing off the full character select screen
What really disgusts me the most is that there are people out there that actually supports this kind of shady business practice. I've heard people say "vote with your wallet" which means don't buy it if you want Capcom to realize they shouldn't even produce so-called DLC for sale because people wouldn't buy it. The problem is, this never works because people buy it anyway and Capcom knows this. They know people are foolish enough to throw away money on arbitrary virtual goods. You know what, this goes for the whole game too. Simply don't purchase the game, right? There are people out there who thinks this okay because the package says you get 38 characters and you are the one who ultimately decides whether or not it's worth $60 out of your pocket and that no where does it promise the extra 12 characters. All of the locked away content aside, the core gameplay seems to be very fun, the reviews are good, and would be reason enough for most people to buy it but... News flash, people, it doesn't change the fact that it's still a fucking scam. Let's not also forget that pirates are practically rewarded for not paying for the game because they don't have to wait for Capcom to give them permission to buy any of the characters, costumes, gems, or whatever else. Remember, this isn't just a problem exclusive to Street Fighter X Tekken and Capcom. People are letting other companies get away with this bullshit too and I think it's about time people are aware and make an effort to say that this is unacceptable. Companies should be catering to their customers. This is not how you do it.

No comments:

Post a Comment