DLC and Virtual Marketplaces are Bad for your Actual Wallet

Since there’s numerous mumblings and grumblings lamenting the cost of the Modern Warfare 2 Stimulus Map pack DLC I thought it was the perfect time to bring up the subject of the virtual market place compared to the real world.

So here’s how I’ve traditionally gamed:

  • 1 – Buy Game
  • 2 – Play game
  • 3 – Complete or get sick of game
  • 4 – Trade in game for credit or moolah
  • 5 – Go to 1

Essentially I’m only paying full price for the first game and I’ll get a decent percentage off the purchase price of each future game as long as I do it before the trade in value plummets.

This scenario for me provides the best balance between value and playing. Some players, like a friend of mine called Mike, keep every title they have ever played (but he also has every copy of GamesMaster published too….) so it’s not something that everyone will do.

The thing is, when you buy a physical copy of a game you actually own a tangiable product. You can hold it, you can look at the artwork (like I do with my Hardened copy of Modern Warfare 2), you can lend it to your friend(s) and, should you wish to, you can sell it on to fund further game purchases.

However, there’s a cloud on the horizon. Many publishers are looking at ways to get us to download titles. And they will only be available to download. Okay, that’s convenient. You don’t have to trudge into town and queue up in Game (why are their shops so small!?) – you just turn your machine on, make your purchase, wait 10 minutes (or 30 hours if you are being throttled by Virgin Media for daring to use your connection) and there it is – your spanking new game, ready to roll.

So what happens then when you finish the game, get fed up with it, or find that it’s a big stinking pile of turds? Well……nothing. You could delete it – but that’s the equivalent of giving £40 to Sir Fred Goodwin. You paid your cash and literally have nothing to show for it.

What happens if your machine blows up? Content begone! If you had a physical copy you can just reinstall – but in most cases with a download it’s a one shot deal!

Although DLC (down loadable conent) is convenient, it only truly benefits the publisher. As a consumer you have no real rights, recourse or even resale value to the content. I think there needs to be more safeguards in place to protect consumers and improve the support available for DLC. For a start, if you purchase a title, you should be able to re-download that title to your account as many times as you like in the same way that you can reinstall your physical software. I’d also like to see some sort of loyalty value associated with a title/publisher – if I can’t physically trade in then surely that’s not too much ask.

Moving completely to DLC in my case would mean that I would purchase maybe one title a year compared to the five or six on average that I have previously bought (on console). If I don’t think something is value for money then I don’t buy it – no matter what the hype.

What are your thoughts on this?

Peas and loaves.

Find me on PSN – evaDlivE

12 thoughts on “DLC and Virtual Marketplaces are Bad for your Actual Wallet

  1. Probably no way around the download stores. However your point about the one-shot deal for downloading may not be true for most if not all in the future as the store will remember what games you have purchased with your ID and allow a re-download.

    They will restrict the number of times you can download on a PC (within a certain period of time, unless you call a help desk), and they will only allow the game to run on one console at a time with your PSN or XBOX ID. (Other ways to do this as well.)


    • I know that DLC is the way of the future. And it is going to be convenient – but at the same time, as a consumer, I’m concerned about getting a raw deal (well, more than usual…). At the moment, a lot of companies that are changing to DLC or virtual content do not alter the price between virtual and real item to reflect the differing associated production costs.

      For example – e-books. They are supposed to be the next big thing. But a limited use e-book download costs nigh on the same as the real thing. The publishers have always maintained that the book cover price reflects printing, ditribution and publishing costs – yet when all those are effectively removed the price remains the same but with an item that is lot less flexible (try lending a load of 1s and 0s to your friend to read….).

      I’m actually pro-DLC and virtual markets, as long as the price reflects the end product. If there’s no case, booklet, disc and no way of transferring it to someone else then I’d expect it to cost less than the tangiable item.

  2. I definatly prefer a hardcopy even if i want to return it and get ripped off getting half the price back at least its something! As for the future of gaming all going to DLC how are the likes of game going to survive? Downloading 4.7 GB or even more no thanks i like the smell of NEWNESS 😉

    • I think that Game and Gamestation and all the others will end up either having to diversify (in which way I don’t know), or they’ll end up like ye olde vinyl record shop selling N64 cartridges to collectors….before going out of business.

  3. It’s an interesting dilema. I agree with you in as much as having a physical copy for me is far better.Its something that I own and I can see what I’ve paid for. My mate will probably lend me some of his games which wouldn’t be possible under DLC.

    I have a younger brother who plays PS3 and is forever buying games, playing them then trading them in. Yes it’s a great way to fund future purchases but for me I will always keep my games. I may get bored of a game, go on and play others but I know it will always be there should I want to go back and lets face it leaving a game alone for a while can get you refocused when you return.

    I can’t play it if I’ve traded it.

    I guess it similair to itunes etc and me being from the vinyl era it’s like I forget I have some songs but I guess it’s going to be the way forward for the games companies.

    • DLC is definitely the future. It doesn’t make sense not to utilise the technology – especially as internet connection speeds get faster (allegedly). As long as we as consumers don’t end up getting the shaft because the only way we can access games is via our console provider.

      Microsoft already give a bad deal in my opinion by charging for Xboxlive. Pay to play? Haven’t you already paid enough by buying the console, the game, and your internet connection?

      • One of the things Bruce posted about recently was this Live vs PSN issue. He thought that Sony must be looking *very* closely at what Microsoft are doing with Xbox Live. They will want a slice of that pie! (unfortunately)

  4. I’m torn between supporting game developers and getting the most bang for my buck.

    On the one hand, as a games player I want to get games as cheap as possible so I’ll scour the “already used” section of Gamestop before anywhere else. But, as a software developer I want to support other devs. Buying a game 2nd hand won’t give any money to the developer. Have you noticed that the used section in shops is the more prominent? It’s certainly the case in Gamestop shops where I live. It’s a cash cow for them!

    I used to be concerned about the possibility of losing downloaded content but as the software is tied to my Xbox Live account I can download it again if my Xbox goes bust. What does slightly worry me is what happens in 20 years time? All our fancy games will be playable on emulators on vastly more powerful computers, but will we be able to access the games we remember any more? Will a whole generation of computer gaming culture be lost because of DRM and the whim of a giant corporation?
    There are thriving C64, Speccy, Amstrad, Amiga, ST etc retro scenes now. I wonder if the same will be said in 20 years time of Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii retro gear?
    Do you know anyone who still plays PS1 or Xbox games?
    (I also have 300 or so 5 1/4 inch C64 disks sitting in boxes at my family home that I haven’t a hope of reading again, so even physical media aren’t always a protection against obsolescence.)

    You should head over to http://www.bruceongames.com/ – Bruce worked for Imagine and Codemasters and has great stuff to say.

    • I get the feeling that the game developers don’t get as much out the deal as the publishers (or even less if the publishers decide to sack you after you release the most popular game of all time….).

      Personally, and this goes for other things too, I’m always willing to pay if I know that the money is going where I intend it to go. If I go to a restaurant, the tip doesn’t go on the card, it goes cash in the wating staff’s hand.

      So although I also like to support developers of all kinds – music, software etc., with this sort of DLC it’s unlikely that the revenue is going to the developers except as some sort of profit share if they were able to strike such a deal (which is not always possible for the smaller companies).

      I can’t see there being a retro scene for the current consoles due to the massive restrictions placed on the software. Under the DMCA and EUCD you’re looking at jail time if you circumvent copy prevention. Unless that relaxes, and let’s be honest it’s more likely to tighten its grip, the “scene” are going to be very reluctant to touch it.

      I’ll check out Bruce – should be interesting. Thanks.

  5. This was my hardest decision in respect of the Xbox vs PSN. If I have my facts straight PSN does not charge for connection nor do you have to go buy a damn wireless kit either (please correct me if I’m wrong there) so I did end up spending a lot more I think than what I would have done for a PSN.

    I only chose the xbox because my mate is on it.

    I reckon Sony will at some point bring in some kind of live payment as you quite rightly say they see people paying for it on xbox so why not have a piece of the pie. How PSN players respond is quite another matter.

    • You don’t pay to access PSN. Don’t know about a wireless jobby though as I’m connected directly to the router. When the PS3 first came out there was the inevitable “console war” with the Xbox fanboys saying how the PSN servers were rubbish, but having played on both they are both as bad, or good, as each other. And to be honest I don’t understand what Microsoft are actually charging for – they don’t provide anything other than access.

      If/when Sony decide to charge they will probably do it via the back door as I imagine there will be a lot of resistance to it. They’ll probably start out by offering a “premium” subscriber service where you get DLC and whatnot earlier than non subscribers, maybe even offer extra things in the Playstation@Home virtual town. Then once people are used to paying they make it mandatory if you want to play online.

      Or maybe I’m just being cynical. Whatever – it’s free at the moment: WOOHOO!

      • *Whatever – it’s free at the moment: WOOHOO!

        Is he taking the *&^%? haha

        Well I don’t know about PSN but xbox over the last few nights has been a mare with lag and games disconnecting/me getting thrown out.

        Go enjoy your free PSN 😉

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