The Ever Evolving World of Downloadable Content

Ah, downloadable content. How you’ve changed over the years. We’ve gone from having everything being on the disk, to extra items being available for purchase, to additional content being sold post-launch. Then the season pass came along, offering a slight discount to future content those who paid in full at once. We’re now seemingly entering a new phase where post launch content is offered for free albeit with a catch.

It seems like many games these days are adopting a sort of freemium type of model, which is both good and bad for gamers. While the average console game (in America at least) continues to sell at the standard full retail price of 60 bucks, DLC for most games like Street Fighter V, Rainbow Six Siege, Halo 5: Guardians, etc are becoming available for the low, low price of free.

Rainbow Six Operation Black Ice

Some things such as cosmetic items or other DLC pieces can be earned for free or unlocked quickly through the use of credits, which many games offer as an incentive for playing the game. As a way to offset the free content like new multiplayer maps or content packs,  players can instead opt to purchase in-game currency to help unlock DLC items faster if they weren’t so keen on the idea of grinding.

The latest game that takes this approach Rainbow Six Siege where players earn a currency called Renown for essentially playing the game. Renown is used to unlock everything from new operators, gun attachments, to weapon skins. Outside of completing daily challenges or completing objectives in the single player situations, earning renown feels pretty slow. For example, in my experience, finishing a terrorist hunt mission rewards about 50 renown points, though if you die before finishing the mission, you’ll likely earn somewhere between 10 and 20. Playing online rewards a bit more, though you’ll need to win in order to really cash out at 200+ renown.

Why is this an issue?

Operators increase in price with every member of the faction that you purchase, so the first one is 500, the next is 1000, etc etc. Once the single player situation objectives are finished, which offer 200 renown a pop, your only way of earning renown is basically by playing either Terro Hunt or going online. For people like me who don’t play on a consistent basis, earning enough to unlock stuff feels like a slow grind and frankly, it dampens my enthusiasm a bit. Couple that with the fact that the new operators cost 25000 renown a piece and I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that I won’t be able to unlock any new character at all in the near future without the help of spending real money.

Smite Gods

I’ve heard Street Fighter V may also have a a system in place that is somewhat restrictive in terms of doling our in game currency at a super slow rate, but I’ve yet to spend enough time with the game to determine that considering it just came out. With the way these things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me however.

From a business standpoint, I get it. It’s done in a subtle way to gently push players into spending real money to get things faster. It caters to the instant gratification mindset that many people have these days. From a casual player or someone who’s not playing the game on a daily basis for hours on end, this policy feels a bit restrictive. While I don’t play it often, I really like how Hi-Rez Studios handles the free-to-play/currency element to their MOBA style game Smite. While playing the game unlocks their currency in various forms, the game also rewards you for logging in on a daily basis. The longer you consecutively log in, the more currency you’re awarded including green gems which are the premium currency typically reserved for people who use real money.

What’s great about this is, it allows you to build up currency over time even if you don’t spend hours upon hours with the game. Not only that, I find it provides a little more motivation to log in knowing that I’ll be rewarded, which is no doubt the intended effect.

Honestly, I like the idea that companies are finding ways to give out content for free. I’m also cool with the fact that we can earn currency to unlock new content. The thing that bothers me a bit is how restrictive the system in place currently is, catering more to those who would pay money or spends most of their time playing. I understand that this business is about making money, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a better way to respect players or fans who have limited time as well.

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2 Responses to The Ever Evolving World of Downloadable Content

  1. Hatm0nster says:

    I have difficulty getting behind freemium “features” in games sold for the full $60 price tag. I’m willing to tolerate cosmetic add-ons being offered for real money, but I think a game like Rainbow Six: Siege essentially gating-off characters is going a bit too far. I get that you can eventually unlock them by grinding through the game, but I still think railroading people into spending money is rather shady.Stuff like that isn’t even “extra” content. It’s an unlockable, or at least what used to be an unlockable. If a developer/publisher insists on having such a system, then I’d like to see them incorporate it in a manner similar to Halo 5.

    In Halo 5, all that money unlocks are weapons & stuff to use in a single multiplayer mode. You can reasonably earn them with in-game currency (it usually takes me 5-6 games to earn a “Gold Pack”), and having them doesn’t really even give you an advantage. If you don’t want to mess with it at all, then there’s a whole section of multiplayer that cuts out the cards entirely and delivers a more traditional Halo experience.

    My point is, if you’re paying the premium price of $60, then anything they ask you to pay for should be true DLC (NEW content); not the “opportunity” to unlock stuff faster, and certainly not anything that could be an advantage against those to who didn’t want to pay more than the base price.

    • Yeah, I agree about the spending money part. I was shocked when I saw that both DLC operators in Rainbow Six were going to cost 25000 each. I get that the hardcore players are probably rolling in “renown” but to someone like me, 25000 is an impossible number considering the low rate at which renown is earned. Essentially, this forces me to spend real money if I want to unlock them or hope to eventually have enough, granted for me that would be a VERY long wait.

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