Code Breaker: How Online Passes and DLC are Making Playing Games A Pain
This article originally appeared on GameNTrain.com
Two Fridays ago, I went to my local games emporium and picked up SSX on the 360. I hadn’t pre-ordered it, but I know a few guys there and I’m always polite to them, and so they slipped me the pre-order bonuses that they were offering for the game. These amounted to a new character and a whole new mountain to race my snow boarder down. Excellent, it always pays to be polite! I made my way home, I had a few hours before I needed to start work, and thought there were few better ways to kill time than relaxing with some off piste action. Unfortunatley, it was not going to prove so easy to enjoy my game.
I slipped the disc in, the game started, and an update had to download. 20 seconds later, I restarted the game, here we go! Oh. I have to enter a code to download my online pass. OK, here we go, a 25 character code, lets enter that with my pad, that’ll be easy. OK finally ready. Except, I remembered I had the pre-order bonus DLC. Could I be bothered? I decided that if I didn’t do it now I may lose the code sheet. Another two 25 character codes, input with the awkward method of control pad. Finally, after about 10 minutes I was playing the game. I liked it a lot actually. Now I know that 10 minutes isn’t a great deal of time, and that I can hardly complain about getting free stuff, at least it would be churlish in the extreme. However, this DLC and Online pass malarkey has really started to piss me off. Games are supposed to be an enjoyable pass time, to relax and forget the stresses and strains of working and relationships etc. DLC and these codes that gamers are constantly having to input, basically amounts to a few minutes of Data Entry before we can enjoy the game we have spent £40 on. That’s too much like work to be considered fun.
I used to think that DLC was a great idea. It extended the life of many of my favourite games, added new quests, characters or multi-player maps. I was happy to part with the extra cash on the few games that I deemed worth it, and then… DLC went crazy. Every game had DLC, and the DLC seemed to be more and more essential to the game. Almost as if developers were purposefully leaving parts of the full game out, just so they could charge consumers for it, and make extra money. But surely they wouldn’t do that right? Surely they wouldn’t charge you for DLC that was already on the disc. The Disc you bought for £40? Oh. Then we had day one DLC. That means that you bought the game, day one, probably had your free pre-order DLC, and then the developers had released further campaigns or maps etc. on your consoles download store. To get the full experience, you have to pay once, and then pay a little more when you get home. If the DLC is ready day one, it should be on the disc, for free. At least wait an appropriate amount of time before you come begging for more money.
I am quite simply becoming disgusted by this terrible grab for money. Now you might say that Jon, you don’t have to buy any of the DLC, no one is forcing you to buy it. You’d be right, no one is, but that doesn’t make it any more right. DLC done right is still a fine thing. Look at Bethesda games Oblivion and Fallout. Oblivion is an example of the very worst, and very best examples of DLC. Remember the reaction to Horse Armour? £5 for some shitty armour for your horse. However, DLC such as The Shivering Isles and Nights of the Nine expansions, offered a great deal for you 800 odd Microsoft points. Likewise the Fallout games. Each piece of DLC added something solid and worthwhile to the game. Yes it cost you a little more, but I at least thought you got your moneys worth. DLC has to be done correctly. Customers shouldn’t feel like they are getting ripped off. Price is important, but also timing. I can understand giving stores exclusive DLC in order to secure pre-orders, but when these exclusives become too much it all gets a bit ridiculous, see Batman Arkham City. Most stores had different DLC exclusives, it was a tough choice deciding where to pre-order the game.
Online passes are another aspect of gaming that has raised its ugly head recently, but is now firmly ingrained in the culture. I have never understood the reasoning behind the online pass. It goes a little something like this. A consumer buys say, SSX. After a few week, they get bored of it, and trade the game into a store, perhaps in order to afford a new game. Another customer then sees SSX in the store as a used game, picks it up and starts to play. Now companies like EA aren’t happy with this. They use the excuse that networks and servers that enable online play are expensive, and that the extra people who haven’t paid to play on it are driving up costs. The online pass then helps pay for these new players. Buy a new game, play online for free, after entering a code. Buy a game second hand, expect to pay £10 for the privilege of playing online.
All sounds pretty fair? Well it’s absolute bullshit. Only one person is using the game to play online. Firstly, the person who bought it new, they played online, then they sold it. They aren’t still playing it online are they? The person who has bought it second hand, well, they are still just one person, and if they are playing online, that’s still the same amount of people taking up server space, even though that person has changed. The extra people on the server excuse is absolute shit. The online pass is just an excuse for publishers to make money on used sales, which they can not do any other way. Used sales by the way are the main reason that game shops can survive.
In the UK our major game retailer GAME, has been recently rumoured to be closing, after some financial problems, which has resulted in it not stocking some huge games, Mass Effect 3 in particular. Used game sales help keep game retailers afloat. Yes there are undoubtedly problems with trading in your old games, you certainly won’t get a fair price, but they are an essential part of gaming culture for some consumers. Many people use trade ins in order to buy new games. Companies like EA may not get a piece of the action, but in many cases, people who buy used, would probably not buy new. EA are probably not losing a great deal of money this way. However, their draconian methods of trying to control consumers is far more likely to drive people away than secure sales. Look at Ubisofts DRM. We don’t have time to get into that here, but not being able to play your game unless you are connected to the internet is quite simply criminal.
Companies need to understand that making things harder and more expensive for loyal customers, is not the way to keep customers loyal. Punishing people who have paid you money to buy and play your game is counter productive. Is it any wonder that piracy is on the increase? Make things easy for people, and they will buy new, but most importantly buy. Make things hard, and more and more expensive, and people will look elsewhere for their entertainment, and perhaps pirate it. No one makes money from pirated games. Games should be easy and fun in order to play. Codes, online passes and increased DLC, are not aiding this process. They are making it a pain in the ass.