Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Today's Article Brought To You By the Letters D, L and C

Today's article is up late because so far, Dragon Age 2 is very, very good. One of the few advantages, from a geek's perspective, to not having a job is being able to pick up a new release that has been carefully budgeted and saved for on launch day... and play the hell out of it.

I installed the PC version after getting back from all of the day's errands, and installed the unlock items from Facebook, Penny Arcade and the other myriad sources that a shiny promotional item could be earned pre-launch. Then I redeemed the code for “The Black Emporium”, which is their free incentive DLC, that comes with a mabari warhound. Thinking about it, I then went and purchased “The Exiled Prince” launch DLC and installed that.

The Exiled Prince made a lot of people pretty mad. The usual geek complaint is that on launch day, if you buy a game, you should have access to everything the developer created for that title, without paying any extra. Day One Downloadable Content is like the developer making a whole game, then cracking off a piece of it and holding it for ransom, or so the argument goes.

I don't know that I agree with the groupthink on this one. When the original Dragon Age: Origins came out, there were also 2 pieces of launch DLC, also one free and one you pay for. The idea was to test free DLC as a means to control piracy and get a little bit more developer money from the secondary sales market (as free DLC ain't free after it has been downloaded once) and to see what people would be willing to pay for in terms of extra content. DA:O had as our freebie “The Stone Prisoner”, which added an interesting recruitable character and associated quests to the game, and the premium content was called “Warden's Keep”, which added an area, a questline and some merchants to the game.

Is this guy worth a few bucks over a crumbling tower full of monsters? You bet he is.

People hated it. I personally appreciated what they were trying to do, instead of adding SecuROM or some equally draconian DRM software, they gave people a reason to buy their product on launch day. The only thing a lot of folks were saying is that they mixed up which content should have been free, and which was worth paying for. (I hope you can see where this is going.)

Dragon Age 2 listened to the fans, and didn't abandon its plans to rethink copy-protection to protect their game's value. They reversed roles, making the DLC that is effectively just a new area with a few toys the freebie, and asked you to pay a premium for a new (fully voiced) character, and all the quests that, while optional, add significant content to the game. Guess what the fan response was.

You won't pay for me? *sigh* Guess my house goes unavenged.

Do we, as gamers really want to send this message? Don't innovate, don't create more if you expect us to pay more? If the premium content was created, but not available at launch, would that fix it, or just spark a new set of complaints about having to wait for it.

Sometimes, as gamers, we remind me of an old joke about a bunch of little old ladies sitting at a buffet chattering away. One says “The food is terrible here. It is overcooked, under seasoned and dried out.” Her friend enthusiastically agrees, adding “And such small portions!”
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Chris said...

Great writeup

thatguy said...

Gamers tend to be cheap, or at least frugal spenders. It gets expensive to game, especially with games costing $60 at launch, of course we'll prefer more free content. Unfortunately this means that the DLC's arent going to sell as well as an actual game, usually.

Matt said...

If the premium content wasn't available at launch, there would be an uproar over how cheap or lazy the company was. I understand the concern over piracy and such, but it's such a back-and-forth battle. Good post!

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