Pay more to play more (of what you should be playing already?)
Note: This article by its very nature may contain some spoilers regarding the DLC content of Mass Effect 3, you have been warned.
Last week I alluded in my post about the usage of stock photos in Mass Effect 3 that said event was but one of the many controversies surrounding the release of the game. I'm not here to condemn BioWare or EA, and I'm certainly not here to condemn the Mass Effect series;I'd actually need to play the games to have any justification to do that. What I am going to do is use some of the concerns regarding the release as a lens to focus on some problems that I think are going to be potentially large ones if trends continue. That's why today I'm going to be talking about the idea of day one DLC, and something more.
DLC is already an area of mixed feelings with gamers in general; when it's done right and added on to an already expansive game to make the experience even better than that's no big deal. The thing is there are growing concerns that DLC has mostly become something that's used to rush games out with content on the somewhat anemic side and then force players to pay more for a more complete game. It's made even worse when the DLC comes down the pipe months or even weeks after the initial release, with day one DLC being the most exacerbating situation. Mass Effect isn't the first game to have included day one DLC (and although I don't find myself comfortable with the practice myself I can't fault day one DLC when it's legitimate), but that's not the only reason for the controversy to begin with, either.
Although it hasn't been fully confirmed, the notion seems to be going around that the DLC content for Mass Effect 3 was already on the disc to begin with. This post on Destructoid states that:
"For instance, the build which leaked in November, the official demo, and now the standard retail release of Mass Effect 3 all contain voice files for the Prothean squad member," writes the Prison Zone. "There's also a full set of model and animation files for the Prothean, but file encryption makes it impossible to open these for further inspection. These files are just as big as they are for other, non-DLC characters, suggesting that the art, animation, and voice assets for the DLC character were developed at the same time, not after the completion of the project."
If this is true then it certainly is troubling. It's not hard to imagine that day one DLC could be a legitimate expansion that was worked on after the disc had already gone gold, but if you consider that the DLC might only be unlocking what was already there to begin with then how can that possibly be justified? Shouldn't paying upwards of sixty dollars for a game give the gamer the right to access all the game data thereon? The fact that there seems to be no guarantee of that at this point means that there's a lot of potential chicanery going on, and I don't like it one bit.
I know that the arguments will be trotted out "it's helps combat piracy" or "we don't do well enough as it is, we need DLC to bolster the sales". Well you know what? I call bullshit. Games that are seemingly doing this are already popular to begin with: Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mass Effect 3 (allegedly); these are all games that have huge fanbases and sell thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of copies and make millions of dollars. Chopping a game apart on the operating table before its launched and then selling it to the consumer piece by piece is not the way to engender warm and fuzzy feelings towards companies or franchises, and if gaming companies honestly think it is, then I think they need to get some downloadable content in the form of a common sense pack.