This year in gaming developers and publishers tested and bent the limits of what they could get away with in terms of downloadable content (DLC). From removing vital content from the retail experience or even leaving the content on the disc but still charging a premium for it, companies like Capcom attempted to move the industry in a frightening direction. They saw how well the freemium model was working for social and mobile gaming and decided to try it out on games that still cost $60 up front.
This year also saw a rise in sequels to popular franchises scaling back on what was included in their predecessors, only to sell it to the loyal fan base and unsuspecting new customers later. Without a doubt, the abuse of DLC is a dangerous and popular precedent for video games. In the following gallery we take a look back at some of the biggest offenders of 2012.
Saints Row The ThirdSaints Row 2's cup runneth over with absurd content, but fans quickly noticed Saints Row: The Third was a major step backwards when it came to selection. Things that had been included in previous games, such as certain weapon types, outfits, and vehicles, would be sold now as part of publisher THQs commitment to “40 weeks of Saints Row: The Third DLC.” If that weren’t bad enough, fans were burnt again when new THQ CEO Jason Rubin decided the upcoming Enter the Dominatrix DLC was so awesome he would be saving it for Saints Row 4. Sorry Season Pass holders! Let’s just hope THQ’s bankruptcy sees Saints Row and Red Faction developer Volition moving its franchises to a more competent and trustworthy home.
Ninja Gaiden 3Ninja Gaiden, and especially Ninja Gaiden 2, saw ultra ninja Ryu Hyabusa armed with an impressive arsenal of ninpo (magic) and vicious weaponry (tonfas, a scythe, dual swords, nunchaku, bladed ninja claws, the kusari-gama chain-sickle, etc.). Each weapon came with its own unique moveset, making the deep gameplay in the Ninja Gaiden series some of the most robust on the market. Ninja Gaiden 3 removed all but one ninpo spell, and reduced the weaponry to a series of boring swords. Two of the previous game’s weapons were released for free later, but sold for a premium (along with numerous other pieces of content) in the tacked-on multiplayer mode.
Dead or Alive 5Dead or Alive is a popular fighting-game franchise notorious for its skimpy outfits and the hyper-sexualization of its female combatants. Before the age of DLC, Dead or Alive 2, 3, and 4 featured numerous unlockable costumes for all of its characters. In some cases, a single character could have to 20 different outfits. Not anymore. While there are a couple of alternate looks for the Dead or Alive 5 roster, developer Team Ninja has drip-fed the rest to fans at ridiculously high prices, including familiar costumes from past games that were once just part of the package.
Final Fantasy XIII-2Although I listed FFXIII-2 among my top five games of the year, not all was perfect with Square-Enix’s epic RPG. The problem here is that the retail release of Final Fantasy XIII-2 -- the one you paid $60 for -- basically has a placeholder that says “Paid DLC coming soon” (specifically, the Outfits section of the in-game menu, at the casino area, where there’s very little to do at first, and at the arena, where there’s absolutely nothing to do until you start shelling out cash for the series of DLC battles). If each of these portions of the game had featured at least some content, with more added later for a premium, it would be a lot harder to wag our fingers at Square-Enix and rub their nose in this lazy money-grab.
Mass Effect 3While Final Fantasy XIII-2 may have been somewhat upfront about what content was withheld from the final game in order to be sold back to fans in pieces, BioWare vehemently defended it's "Day 1 DLC" for Mass Effect 3. “The DLC, whether it’s day one or not, is always going to be sugar on top, the extra,” executive producer Casey Hudson told GamesBeat. “You know, the extra little bits of content that tell side stories. But it’s always optional. We would never take stuff out of the core game and only have it in DLC.”
Fans disagreed, as the Day 1 DLC included a new squad member in a game already lacking in playable characters. Plus, as a living Prothean, the character added substantial insight into the inner workings of Commander Shepard and her crew, as well as the rest of the galaxy. However, as potent as the fan outrage over this practice was, it was quickly overshadowed by the drama surrounding the game’s endings.
Mass Effect 3 (cont.)There’s also something to be said about single-player DLC in general in the story-rich Mass Effect games, whether it’s new missions that occurred before the end of the game or extended endings that should have been there in the first place. For me, it doesn’t feel right to go back and initiate side stories after completing Shepard’s adventure, as that’s “not what happened.” My Shepard never helped Aria retake Omega or encountered the Leviathans and learned the secrets of the Reapers because BioWare didn’t include that until nearly a year after I chose green, red, or blue.
Street Fighter X TekkenCapcom really played its hand this year in vying for the company most willing to burn through fans’ good will to make an extra buck. Although it had started with overpriced outfits in games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter X Tekken brought to light a startling practice. Players quickly discovered that 12+ characters and key features had been sealed away in the retail release, with plans to sell them back for upwards of $100 in total, giving birth to the phrase “disc-locked content.”
Asura’s WrathCapcom struck again early in 2012 with Asura’s Wrath, which literally sold the game’s “true” ending as DLC. Playing through the retail content, you will be forced to complete the final stage twice (why?) to witness an extended ending. This is yet another cliffhanger, however, and the few remaining people who actually care what happens in the abysmal story will need to pony up more money just to see it to its subpar conclusion.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon CityIn my review of ORC, I noted that I had this nagging feeling while playing the game that something was off. Something substantial was missing, but I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. Then Capcom “announced” (it leaked) that the entire other half of Operation Raccoon City, the Echo Six campaign, would be sold as DLC. As is, ORC felt rushed and unpolished, with plenty of game balance issues and technical flaws throughout. But withholding 50% of the final game, combined with a pattern of similar behavior in Asura’s Wrath and the Street Fighter games, wreaked of a Japanese company that 1) doesn’t care about its fans, and 2) thinks it fans are immensely stupid.
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