Everything used to be on one cartridge. That was how console gaming used to be. You’d go out into the shops, purchase your game for whatever amount, and then you’d have your game. For better or for worse, once the game was out at the stores that was the finished product. We’ve had many advancements since then, cartridges are no longer the norm, we have lightning fast internet (Well, many of us do and even the slowest of current internet is faster than dial-up.) and we have updates. We also have DLC. Downloadable content, and what a stir it has made. Working off the concept of updates, it has become possible for developers to add-on additional content to a game that has been already released. By no means is this a new thing, even in those cartridge days, there was Sonic and Knuckles. When Sonic 3 came out, we were introduced to the enigmatic Knuckles. He was thought to be a villain, but he was on a quest like Sonic to retrieve the stolen chaos emeralds, they were just played against each other. The importance of this is Sonic and Knuckles the game, due to Knuckles popularity, another game was made where he was co-staring alongside Sonic and playable for the first time in Sonic’s history. This could be considered nothing special but the odd thing was the shape of the cartridge. It looked like any old Sega Megadrive cartridge but it had a rounded top that could move and when you flicked that back, there was space to dock another game in it. This was amazing at the time and people wondered what would happen if you put games in it. Most games didn’t do much, but if you put Sonic 3 into Sonic and Knuckles, you could play as Knuckles in the game. That was huge! That a new game could alter a previously released game was really big. And now, we have the ability to add further story, extend the lives of our games, even gain an advantage against other players, but is this a good thing?
The most popular offer for a game these days seems to be the season pass. You pay a set amount and all the DLC that comes out for the game is yours as soon as it’s released at a cheaper rate than if you purchased these packs individually. In a way, this is much like Sonic and Knuckles, you are paying to lengthen your game and the overall experience. The State of Gaming these days though, this is not always viewed in a positive light and for good reason. When games such as Batman Arkham Knight are released, there is a large fanfare and it sells well but then the offering of the season pass makes you wonder, “Have I bought a finished game and this is content that has been thought of after the end of production? Or has the game been released with content edited out so I have to pay for it later?” Indeed, for the price we pay for these games and how long we have to wait, the question we have to ask is “Is it worth it?” Why not delay the game a couple more months and then release it whole? Why not release the content as free because it was not ready in time? So many years ago, people would have been elated to have more time playing their favourite games but now there is a cynicism attached to DLC. That most developers are simply milking the games for more money, the argument could be asked, would you pay the full retail price as well as the cost of the season pass if that was the initial asking price, or would you wait for the price to drop? Is DLC a curse or is it a blessing.
I think it’s a bit of both. I personally have no problem with DLC, I think that if you want the extra content, you can pay for it, if you don’t, then you don’t. I do have a problem in mind that I am rather annoyed with. The Game of the Year editions. When it comes to consoles, it is not a new concept but it is a bit of a problem in my mind. If we take a recent game, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, for example. This was a game that has a rich story, great gameplay and DLC to lengthen the game. If you bought the game in the UK on launch day, you would have paid between £35-£50 depending on what retailer you bought it from. If you were very keen on the game, you could have picked up the season pass, which was about £20. You’ve pumped in £55-£70 for a game that you enjoyed. You played it to the completion of the game and you mastered every set of skills necessary. Maybe the game went on sale while you were playing it, maybe the price fluctuated and someone picked it up for £25, that’s the nature of gaming, sometimes you miss a deal if you want to play the game sooner. This goes for DLC that can sometimes be put on sale. It is not ideal but acceptable. One of the issues I have with the Game of the Year mentality is that, after you and many others have supported the game, bought the DLC and convinced others to buy it, if it was popular enough, it will receive a Game of the Year edition. These GotY’s generally have the DLC wrapped with the game for a complete package experience, which is good idea because it makes it easier for new people to get into the game. GotY’s are usually sold for around the same price as the original game if not less. You could say it if a person were patient, then they could just pick up the GotY edition and they would grab a deal but if everyone did that, there wouldn’t be a GotY as there would be no sales. There is no reward for playing it early, in fact, you paid more for less than those who waited for a year. There was a time when the games industry wasn’t so cynical, but with these advancements, it is rare to find DLC that is created with good intentions.
Was Sonic and Knuckles made after Sonic 3 did well? Or was the Knuckles character already playable and then Sega saw an opportunity to double their money by cutting him out of the game? At that time, you wouldn’t have really asked the question, people were happy to have a new game and have it extend an old one. Now the answer would be assumed to be in the negative sense. With games only getting more expensive, when is the break going to happen? Will we start receiving pieces of games for full retail price? Will there be games with compelling stories that we can only discover if we pay half the price of the game on top of what we have already paid to find out the ending?
At this point and time, while we have such wonderful games being developed left, right and centre, there is still a business at play. I don’t think they are wholly to blame. Many games have been slated for not coming out early enough, delays are met with cries of outrage and scathing reviews of games that are too short can cause irreparable damage. Where does the blame lie for this strange state of gaming? And is there a solution? It will be something I touch upon when I next write about the State of Gaming.