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As Modern Warfare 3 was released last night to much fanfare (e.g., cold nerds in long lines), I feel it’s time for a frank discussion about MW3’s Hardened Edition. Though, as I don’t know anyone named Frank, I suppose it’s time for my new segment: Let’s Have a Ned Discussion. Heretofore, I shall use this segment as an outlet for basting the population with my Rage Gravy™.
First – for the uninitiated – a word on MW3 Hardened Edition. Like most special edition game releases, it contains some tawdry distractions to validate its cost. But it differs from other special editions with its clever use of unbelievably tawdry distractions that do nothing to validate the cost – even for a serious fan of the franchise. For the sake of comparison, the $99.99 special edition of Uncharted 3 comes with a figurine, a big, pretty special edition box, a belt buckle, and a replica of Nathan Drake’s necklace. And so the nerds flock like flies to a turd.
Ironically accurate. Oddly erotic.
Swag-induced nerd-priapism can usually validate the purchase of such overpriced special editions. Hardened Edition, however, comes up a bit short. The description, from Game Stop:
- CALL OF DUTY: MW3 GAME DISC, FEATURING UNIQUE DISC ART
- PREMIUM, COLLECTIBLE STEELBOOK CASE
- EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL OPS JUGGERNAUT XBOX LIVEOUTFIT
- LIMITED EDITION, COLLECTIBLE FIELD JOURNAL CHRONICLING THE ENTIRE SAGA WITH 100+ PAGES OF AUTHENTIC MILITARY SKETCHES, DIAGRAMS AND WRITTEN ENTRIES
- The best-selling franchise in XBOX 360 history is back.
- The definitive multiplayer experience returns bigger than ever.
- Special Ops co-op reinvented with all-new survival mode.
Surely even the biggest fan of the Modern Warfare franchise can’t find the extra $40 for Hardened Edition to be worth the investment. Why bother? A $40.00, one-year membership to MW3’s Elite service is included with your purchase (a $50 value!) Elite’s big selling point? All future DLC is included with your membership.
It would seem that the argument for purchasing Hardened Edition is that it’s a bargain. Allow me to repeat that. Gamers have been ripped off to such a degree, for such a long period of time, that we now consider paying $100 for a complete gaming experience to be a bargain. One hundred dollars buys you a complete version of MW3, and sixty dollars buys you a version that will be deemed irrelevant inside of two months. Wait, what?
There was a time, not that long ago, when DLC seemed a less-than-cynical idea. Years after a game release, you could bask in the glory of new content; fresh life breathed into your favorite dust-covered classic. The sort of genuine "by the fans for the fans" concept that has made the game industry unique among its big-business peers.
It didn't turn out that way. It became a device for longer, thicker revenue streams. DLC, pervasive as it has become, doesn’t go a long way toward extending a game’s shelf life. Six months after any given release and the average consumer can be found ankle deep in drool, eyes transfixed on a sequel trailer.
DLC is no longer a simple add-on, it’s part of a "complete game" from day one. First came the season pass and its ilk, and now we have Hardened Edition; the natural progression. We’re being told, essentially, that MW3 has a sissy, introductory version and a cock-diesel, full-fledged man version – if you'll pardon the advertising parlance. No hardcore gamer buys the sissy version. Not in good conscience. So we pay unless we’re incapable of it. But, y’know, fuck the poor.
They usually have a shitty kill/death anyway…
Of course, game devs have a number of completely understandable reasons for this behavior. Consumers have long since proven that they’ll pay for additional content, so why not plan on developing that content from day one? Developers’ profits are also under attack from used game sales, and they are desperately trying to stem the tide. Their campaign started with one-time-use online passes that are now included with new copies of most major titles. The next logical step? Remove any reason for the consumer to resell the product. Why would you return MW3 for credit at Game Stop when you paid an extra $40 for the sake of garnering all of its DLC?
For those so brainwashed that all of this bullshit sounds completely reasonable, let me put it into non-gaming terms.
As read by Don LaFontaine
In a world where the model for game sales has infected the world of film:
"Hi, welcome to [insert local theatre name here]! Initial ticket cost is $10. This buys you the first act of the movie, which is a really excellent experience, and you could leave it there, dear consumer. We are confident that you’d feel extraordinarily fulfilled. However, if you really want to get the full movie-going experience, upon completion of the first act, you will be given the opportunity to remain in the theatre for the second act for half the cost of your initial ticket! If you’re so completely swollen with love for the film by the end of the second act that you absolutely cannot live without seeing the third act, you can purchase that act for an additional five dollars! But wait, there’s more! You can buy the right to watch the entire movie, right now, for the low price of $15 dollars. That’s an entire act for free! How can you possibly pass up this deal?"
You can't. We already own your soul.
While I’m completely aware that there’s nothing to be done about the metaphorical bitch-slap that is DLC, I can’t help but complain about this particular incarnation of it. We're now buying so-called "special editions" whose only selling point is they contain unreleased DLC packs. This pratice is insulting, it’s a money grab, and it’s being done by rich, fat, greed-heads on the backs of honest gamers who have no choice but to cough up unyieldy ammounts of cash for the sake of the escapism that they so crave. This, my friends, is bullshit. And that’s some shit I won’t eat.