Sit down children and let Uncle Karl tell you a tale of video games in their youth.
I grew up in the 1980s, a time where the biggest video game crash and resurrection happened. An age where gigantic blocks represented things like spaceships, people, buildings and whatever else you thought needed to be on the screen. A time where things like the Atari & Colecovision were the kings of the home gaming market with their amazing ability to move those aforementioned blocks around my monolith of a TV… Then came the dark times. The gaming market crashed during the year I was born, those Atari consoles became an eyesore, their games so numerous and crap that no one wanted to buy them; plus ET was released which as many of you know, spawned the biggest rumor in gaming that so happened to be true. From the ashes of this devastation, a hero emerged! An 8 bit system that would change the face of gaming forever: The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short… And the rest is history.
But what is the moral of this story? Well back then, when I was growing up, when I dropped money on a video game… I GOT THE FULL FUCKING GAME! No Day One patches, no preorder exclusive bullshit, no Season Passes that promise the world and then deliver nothing, no paying $1.99 for an extra fucking emote! All through my gaming life, which spans over 25 years at this point, when I bought a video game, I got the full game right there and then. Hell, even the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 era still gave you the full game up front for the most part. It wasn’t till the dying days of the consoles that things really got bad.
Now before I get into full rant mode about the evils of the digital age and how greed is killing the gaming industry, I’m going to point out the only saving grace of the era: Patches. Now while patches are annoying, I personally hate having to wait hours for a day one patch to download for the new game that I’m excited to play; but in the end I’m thankful for this being a thing. Without patching, some games would be unplayable. Could you imagine trying to play Batman: Arkham Knight on PC without the ability to have patches downloaded right to your system, but instead have to do the old method of waiting for a patch to be released on a DVD from some gaming magazine? You’d go insane! Same thing with console games. There would be thousands of games out there on home consoles that would be virtually unplayable without patches… Plus Madden would never update their rosters except for when you bought the next game… THE HORROR!!!
Now I’m sure there are going to be people out there that will say: “But Karl, what about the incredible savings I get from things like Steam Sales & The Humble Bundle?”. I’ll admit, for PC gamers, things are a little bit better when it comes to pricing. There are good ways that a savvy gamer can save money, those two things being a great example. However, take a look at your Steam account. How many of those games have you played? Even more so, how many of those games have you played till completion? Not that many I’d wager. Sure, you saved money on those game, but honestly you probably wasted more money than you care to admit in the long term. Plus think about this also: How many times a year do you update your PC? Once? Twice? you spend more on one upgrade for your PC than most console gamers do on a whole system. So the long term costs average out.
Also spare a thought for those of us who are primarily console gamers. We are stuck with full retail prices for games that are no longer in print or on store shelves because we don’t have places like Green Man Gaming or The Humble Bundle to go to. We’re stuck with what the Xbox Marketplace and Playstation Network wants to charge us.
But I digress, let’s get back to the main issue at hand: DLC and microtransactions.
Back in the day, DLC used to be known as “Expansion Packs”. These were an additional disc of content that you would buy to lengthen your enjoyment of a game. These things usually cost about half the price of the full game. Expansion Packs were awesome, some of them would add a whole new version of the game like Warcraft: The Frozen Throne, which added a whole new campaign along with abilities, characters and modes. Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction is probably the most famous and awesome Expansion Pack ever! (If you haven’t played it, go back and do so) Half Life: Blue Shift & Opposing Force are also great examples of how to do an Expansion Pack right. But the thing is, we’re no longer in that era. Today “Expansion Packs” are long since dead; replaced with bite sized “Story DLC” and buying skins for your character.
You know what we used to call a skin for a character or weapon? An “unlock”. This was something that you earned through completing the game or through some sort of bonus objective. A skilled gamer would be recognized for knowing where these things were and shared the information to their friends who would strive to get better to get the same thing that their friends had. During the beginning of the online age, you knew who the skilled guy was because he had the one shot shotgun or the golden RPG that shot fluffy kittens of death (Remember when these things used to be fun instead of adding a pink skin to a gun?). These things were symbols of status and amazement. but what do you get now for doing something amazing? 100 Achievement points or a Gold Trophy… Yay? If you want fancy things like extra fun weapons or character skins or additional bonus maps, then you better fork over the cash.
The truth of the matter is kids, it’s that gaming is more about squeezing money from your wallets than giving you a good gaming experience like it was in the past. Companies want you to buy the $1.99 dance emotes in Destiny, which you do. They want you to drop an additional $50 before Star Wars Battlefront is even released for 4 packs that have no detailed content known, which you do! They want you to spend $5 on card packs for random one time only use perks in Tomb Raider, WHICH YOU FUCKING DO!
And this is where my anger begins to boil. Instead of thinking with your brains like proper human beings, you just consume this garbage and gladly hand over hundreds of dollars in shit you don’t need, or can only use once and then be done with it. Look at League of Legends! How many people have spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars buying champions, XP boosts, runes, etc in that game? Millions of people! LoL is one of the most profitable games on the market because it provided a way to make you think that just playing the game and earning the champions was boring and time wasting. Look at how many skins you can buy in that game, not to mention the limited season ones that you have to buy now because if you don’t have that Ashe Valentines Day skin then you’ll be seen as some sort of scrub! As my girlfriend said to me once about LoL: You can tell who has invested the most into this game, they are the people with the good skins. She also says this as someone who has hundreds of skins that she has bought or had bought for her over the last couple of years (Her family just buys her Riot Point cards as gifts, plus I’m guilty of buying some of them for her too).
I’ll even admit that I’ve been taken in by these attempts to rape my wallet of extra cash. I’ve bought things like the Batman Arkham series Season Passes (Except Arkham Knight, but more on that soon), and just about every single piece of DLC for every PS3/PS4 WWE video game, and yes, I too play LoL and have bought XP Boosts. My biggest sin being that I’ve spend $132 on Instant Level 90 Boosts for characters in World of Warcraft that I’ve since deleted from my account, thus wasting my money. So I’m not immune to the hate I’m spewing, I’m just as guilty as everyone else.
Now let’s get to the tipping point. There are four prime examples of DLC price gouging that have been seen recently that need to be spoken about, and are the basis of me going on this long winded rant session: Batman: Arkham Knight, Star Wars Battlefront, Destiny & Rise of the Tomb Raider.
I’ll begin with the smaller offenders: Destiny & Rise of the Tomb Raider. These two are on the low end because they are offering microtransactions for the multiplayer experience. Yes, these effect one mode in the game and if you don’t want to get into it, then you just don’t play the mode. But that’s not the point. Those that say “no one is forcing you to buy those things” or “if you don’t want to buy, then avoid the mode”. No. Stop. Stop defending these stupid business practices that add up. Just because you can’t work out that $60 for the main game, $50 for the Season Pass, $2 for the little one time multiplayer perk times 20, 30 times you buy it equals A LOT OF FUCKING MONEY, it doesn’t mean I should shut my mouth about it.
When you look at Destiny, or more so Destiny: The Taken King since it’s THIRD expansion. Yes people, we’re technically at the third expansion for this game. Don’t let the fancy new title and marketing bullshit fool you, you paid full price for the THIRD expansion of this game. This game is a mess and proof that people are stupid enough to buy into any bullshit sent their way. First, you bought Destiny, then you bought the Destiny Expansion Pass which contained 2 bite sized additions to the game, then you bought Destiny: The Taken King, a glorified expansion pack at full price; now people are shelling out for emotes… People are shelling out money for animations… DO YOU NOT SEE THE STUPIDITY IN THIS!? And what’s worse is that they want you to do this with an in-game currency (which should be the first red flag telling you “DO NOT BUY THIS SHIT!”) that equates to spending $2 for 2 low end emotes and upwards of $5+ for the legendary ones, totaling something around $40 for all 18 emotes! That’s the cost of the first two expansions to the game combined. It’s three quarters of what you paid for the basic edition of Destiny: The Taken King! Yet people are buying it in droves and to make it worse… PEOPLE DEFEND THIS SHIT!
Rise of the Tomb Raider is another one if these offenders. Now only do you have the sin of the preorder (oh, there’s a rant for that coming), but also a Season Pass, plus microtransactions for the multiplayer in the form of card packs. So now you’re going to be paying money to buy in-game currency (there’s that red flag again) which you can use in turn to buy card packs with have a random grouping of cards, or maybe a single card as we haven’t been told exactly what’s in the packs, which can do anything from a 1 hour XP boost to giving you Big Head Mode. These cards are either one time use for the more common ones, or permanent in the terms of things like the touted Big Head Mode. So we’ve taken something that used to be known as an “unlockable” and turned it into a “purchasable”. This is on top of charging $30 for a Season Pass… UGH!
Now let’s talk for a moment about Season Passes. Now these things are a way of preordering (there’s that word again) all of the content that is going to come out after the game launches in order to keep you interested and playing the game months and months after the main campaign has ended. Now the format of what comes in these Season Passes changes from game to game, but primarily you’d be expecting some sort of additional story based extra, some new characters, a lot of skins for current characters, some extra maps for multiplayer and stuff of that nature. However, not all Season Passes are created equal. Take for example, WWE 2K15. This was a Season Pass that wasn’t a proper Season Pass. Usually in the WWE games a Season Pass would cover 3 to 4 packs of additional wrestlers, along with a move pack update. The one we got with WWE 2K15 was three additional Showcase Story modes that featured reused characters over the span of all 3 additional stories. What was leftover was 2 wrestler packs and the moves update; you had to by those separately. As you can imagine, it pissed people off.
A more recent example is Batman: Arkham Knight, which is probably one of the top contenders for Game of the Year. The Season Pass that is offered covers “6 months of exciting content”, all for the low price of $40. Do you know what the content is? Some racing tracks for the horrible Batmobile that is forced upon you, the now standard challenge maps where you beat up goons or take them down by stealth, a SHITLOAD of pointless throwback skins, and so far 2 story based missions that last less than 10 minutes. Sure, there’s more to come… More race tracks, more skins, and 1 more challenge map style “story” featuring past Arkham villains. Yes,it looks like you are getting a lot for your $40, but in reality you’re getting a bunch of stuff that you’ll never use or want to touch at all. You actually save money by by-passing the skins and just buying the levels at $1.99 and $6.99 respecively… Hell, you can go to the PSN Store right now, buy all $28 worth of additional content, and still be $12 richer before the last couple of bundles hit the market; plus I doubt that with the story DLC being $6.99 on it’s own, you won’t get hit any higher than that for the final Villain based mission pack. It’s not rocket science people, it’s smart economics!
Star Wars Battlefront is the latest example of this terrible trend. It was recently announced that there will be a Season Pass for Battlefront… Priced at $50! And what do you get for that $50? 4 expansion packs, an emote, and a two week exclusive preview before it goes live to the world! (The expansion packs, not the actual game). How vague is that? You are getting an emote for your $50 so far and a promise that you’ll get more content sometime down the line. At least with Batman: Arkham Knight we were told up front that we would have 3 story based DLC, some race tracks, and a bunch of skins. With Star Wars Battlefront you are paying for a promise that you’ll get something someday… AND PEOPLE ARE DEFENDING THIS SHIT!? I’ve seen forums and other sites articles littered with people defending not only the price of the Season Pass, but the promise it represents. Sure, a lot of it is the usual “If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to buy it” style mantra that these types of people constantly preach like the Reverend at Sunday Church (DLC IS THE WAY!! EA!! PRAISE THE NAME!! THE WALLET IS THE TOOL OF THE DEVIL!! PAY YOUR WAY TO GAMING SALVATION!!), but it’s there. To those people I say this: STOP! FOR THE LOVE OF GAMING STOP! This whole thing has gotten so amazingly out of hand that it’s going to kill gaming because we are getting less content but paying more for it. Stupid people of the world are the reason this continues.
Alright, I’m almost done. Only two more things to cover and then I’m going to go and relax.
Preorder Exclusives… Oh god do I hate preorder exclusives. You’ve seen these before. Go into Gamestop and you’ll see that you can get the special blue mermaid skin for this game or if you preorder at Amazon you can get the red mermaid skin for the same game and all that other shit. It’s marketing to get you to drop $10 in the store or online right now because if you don’t, you might have to either wait till it appears in the online store for $2 or you might have to *gasp* miss out completely… If that’s a possibility. To use another WWE game as an example. WWE 2K14 boasted that if you preordered the game, you would get The Ultimate Warrior DLC, much like WWE 2K16 is boasting a Terminator DLC for preordering. However, when you bought ANY COPY of the game no matter if you preordered or not, you get The Ultimate Warrior DLC included. This happens a lot with these preorder things. You’ll preorder the game thinking you’ll get a code given to you with your purchase only to find out that it’s something that everyone was going to get anyway. Same thing can also be said about special skins for games that later pop up for purchase in the Online Store or included in the Season Pass.
The final thing I’m going to say is this: Developers need to be more honest with us. With Star Wars Battlefront, we were recently told in an interview that microtransactions are “not a part of our core design”… BULLSHIT! In Battlefront, you have in game currency (there’s the red flag once again) which allows you to either rent or buy high end weapons depending on which one of the two tiers of currency you are using. I’m sorry, but you do not introduce a two tier in game currency system without the thought of adding microtransactions into the game later if you haven’t done so already. Remember, this is a game that has 3 editions of the game you can buy, along with a Season Pass, so the chances of microtransactions happening either day one or sometime down the track are very high. i like to think that people aren’t stupid and will not believe in marketing spin like this; but I’ve come to experience that people are indeed that stupid.
So what’s the point of all this? Well I’m hoping that through reading all of this that you can see how bad and exploitative these DLC practices have become. That you as a consumer are paying more and more for less and less. That gaming is no longer a passion, it’s a business and you are seen as nothing more than flying wallets that love shiny things.
The one justification I’ve heard used to defend these practices is “gaming is now a very expensive thing to make, so the companies need to recoup costs somehow”. Now I’ll give you that making games is more expensive than ever, but games are created with budgets. They are given a specific amount of money by the companies, that get this funding through the sales of previous games by many studios, and use that money to make the next game. There is no business on Earth that will make a game on the promise that they’ll get paid after the game is on shelves, that’s just bad business. I do understand that without something like Battlefield making DICE and EA millions will help them make Star Wars Battlefront, but do they really have to do it in a way that makes us pay double the amount to get the same experience and content that we used to get in a full game only 2-3 years ago? No we don’t.
How do we combat this? It’s simple: Stop buying the bullshit. Next time you go to your local Gamestop, don’t preorder that new game just for that one piece of DLC; because it’ll be available later if you really want it, and only after you make sure the game is worth buying in the first place by reading and watching reviews from people and places you trust (Be careful, a lot of places these days have advertising deals set up with the bigger gaming sites). Don’t always buy that Season Pass on day one with your game unless you know EXACTLY what it’s going to contain, and even then wait till it’s all come out and weigh up the Season Pass price with the individual price. When playing multiplayer games, if you see someone with a fancy gun or skin, stop and think if you can grind out a couple of extra matches in orderr to earn it rather than dropping $1.99 to buy it. The more we stop falling for these practices the sooner they will go away. Yes, the downside might be that patches are slower, some games won’t get a sequel, or god forbid, we have to pay an extra $10-$20 for the game to get the full experience up front; but it’ll be better than what we have now.