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Old 04-12-2010, 08:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The Circus Of Values

Game publishers continue to grapple with the possibilities of DLC. But, while it arrives in unpredictable shapes and sizes, the one thing you might expect to rely on is that it will actually be downloadable. 2K Games came under fire when it transpired that BioShock 2ís Sinclair Solutions DLC was on the disc, unlocked with a small download and a small charge. For the price, players received a smattering of extras Ė a third upgrade for each weapon and an extended level cap, among other minor tweaks. And the internet was very wroth, and its countenance fell.

You might reasonably say that most of the internet probably loses an equivalent sum of money down the back of the sofa every week, but the point isnít money, itís value for money, and how customers perceive it. For the cost of a pint we spent a hundred happy hours with Chun-Li in a new costume Ė we knew what we were buying and what it was worth to us. Even Modern Warfare 2ís relatively expensive map pack should see us through more than £10 worth of play. Few people really demand something for nothing, and iTunes and Bleep.com have proven that many are happy to pay for something if attaining it is as convenient as illicit, free methods.

This comes unstuck when companies think like Ryanair. Charge £6.50 for a vodka and Coke and you risk your customers feeling like theyíre being exploited Ė and this is the type of frustration surrounding BioShock 2. Itís not that its DLC costs a lot of money, but that it isnít anything that players especially want for the price, and yet thereís no more appealing alternative.

In the wider context of videogames, however, thereís always an alternative. No clearer has this been than in EAís recent marketing campaign, which pitches Battlefield: Bad Company 2 as an alternative to Modern Warfare 2, pointing out its free DLC. EA isnít shy about charging where appropriate, but it does have room for broader ideas about the value of DLC Ė such as its potential to undermine a competitor and build a playerbase, or, in the case of Mass Effect 2ís DLC freebie, its power to reward first-hand purchasers. Itís upselling, sure, but if it incentivises buyers rather than alienates them, then itís surely a step in the right direction.

The Circus Of Values | Edge Online
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