I don’t like where this is going. About two years ago, the games industry was introduced to the concept of the DLC season pass. Around the time of release, players are given the option to pre-purchase a game’s DLC at what is ostensibly a discounted rate. This also provides the vague advantage of the player having DLC automatically loaded when it becomes available, which may be helpful to those for whom the game in question has fallen of the radar while waiting for DLC to trickle out. However, I can’t help but think of the season pass solely in terms of what it does for a publisher because to be clear, the reason it’s offered is the same reason a publisher does almost anything, to make the most money possible as quickly as possible.
In offering a season pass, the publisher is selling the vague promise that you will receive a game’s DLC for less money than if you were to purchase it piecemeal. This sounds valuable in concept, but it’s important to think about what that promise doesn’t provide. There’s generally no guarantee you will receive all of the DLC available. There’s no way to know if the content is something people will collectively perceive as worth the cost because of a frequent utter lack of details. Given that these things don’t give release schedules, there’s a possibility that by the time the DLC releases some players will no longer even be particularly interested in returning to the game. Publishers have a habit of seriously underestimating how quickly players will wring all the content out of a game, prompting some to move on, simply in search of something to do.
Bioshock Infinite is the most recent major game to feature season pass DLC, and it’s arguably lessened in quality as a result. Up to this point, the games using season passes have been either fragmented in narrative structure or of a genre that doesn’t feature any real narrative. By fragmented I mean the narrative doesn’t particularly suffer from having parts added in later. The problem here is Infinite is trying to do something these other games aren’t. It aspires to tell a complicated, artful story. This is something that is greatly hampered by Irrational chopping the game’s narrative into pieces in order to have something to sell as extra content.
This is really just conjecture, but doesn’t it feel right? Much of the speculation about Infinite’s DLC has been directed towards filling in the large story gaps, particularly those surrounding Daisy Fitzroy and the Vox Populi, Fink the industrialist and the origin of Songbird. Though major characters in the game, these three get much less explanation for their actions in contrast to a comparatively minor character like Slate, who basically served as a walking treasure chest in the overall story. I know that Irrational are better storytellers than this, and although I sincerely felt Infinite was one of the better stories told in a video game, it could have been so much more. I expect that the aforementioned story gaps will be addressed in some measure by the DLC, but how much more amazing would the game have been if we could have experienced the full story all at once?
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