After reading a recent interview on Destructoid it seems that there are still a large proportion of gamers out there completely unaware of downloadable content and life in games beyond their inaugural retail state.
Why is this the case and how can we do a better job of imparting that knowledge ?
Unlike the film or book industry, gaming is especially unique in that developers have the opportunity to expand their story, or further develop their end-product without having to re-release it altogether. Essentially, the concept of ‘end-product’ borders on the non-existent, thanks to steady streams of content and the expansion of existing material.
Games are continuously being tweaked, patched, modded and magnified. There comes a point when developers move on to other projects, but the opportunity is always there to tinker with the technology behind the scenes. You only need to look at Half Life 2 and the things that are still being done with the Source engine to recognize that.
It’s clear developers have a broader, less confined vision for their games, and the reality is, if you blaze through a game in fast and dry fashion and instantly trade it back in, you’ll be missing out on a considerable portion of its content.
Take Borderlands 2, for example. The game released back in September, but it saw the release of its third major, single-player content pack just last week. These packs also come on top of several other release packs, such as the Mechromancer. Five months on, Borderlands 2 is still very fresh, relevant and has an extremely active and vocal community.
The decision to buy a game is more important than ever. Essentially, players are being asked to invest in a long-term, slow-burning commitment with both developer and publisher. Yet, much of the content being supplied post-launch comes with an additional charge, and some begrudge paying an extra £5/£10 when they’ve already forked out £40.
It’s all entirely optional, of course. There’s no pressure on anyone to buy DLC and games stand well enough alone without it.
However, some publishers and developers seem just as resigned to the fate of their extra content because they’re not doing enough to promote the existence of something they’ve worked so hard on.
Are promoters afraid of confusing their community? Are they worried people will think a sequel is being advertised rather than additional content? Either way, it surely couldn’t hurt for them to try. At least people would go into a store with a question, or they’d do a bit of digging around online to find an answer.
Are advertising budgets too low? Do promoters max out their budgets on the initial launch of the game then they have nothing left afterwards? Should they be more tactical about their advertising campaigns? If they know there will be an abundance of content packs coming out over the next six months, should the promoters space out the game’s promotion and gradually pace its appearance in the public light rather than leaving the advertising to reviews, word of mouth or chance?
Is competition with major retail releases month-on-month becoming to much to contend with? We all know how stacked the gaming calender has become over the last few years. Is it worth the hassle promoting DLC when the next major installment in the Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty franchise is just weeks away?
Credit where it’s due, Activision do a fantastic job of making their consumers well aware of forthcoming content. Every map pack release for Call of Duty is a big deal, almost to the point of it being considered a full-on release. The Call of Duty demographic covers a lot of gaming ground, and most, if not all of them will be aware of additional content. Regardless of whether the consumer purchases it or not, making them aware of what’s currently – or going to be - available is the majority of a battle won.
This is another major reason why Call of Duty consistently does so well throughout the year. Activision sustain the main game with spread-out content throughout the year and are doing enough to inform people about it. No one can deny the importance and impact DLC has on Call of Duty’s continued, un-matched success. Past the initial launch-window rush, it’s utterly integral to the brand’s survival.
Unfortunately, money is tight wherever you look and not many have pockets the size of Activision to sustain it. Most promoters can’t just call up GAME and ask them to stick a promotional ad in their shop-window for a five pound digital expansion. Nor can they call up a television studio and have them ‘name a price’ to sandwich their ad between breaks of the Champions League. This is an expensive trade.
The irony in all of this is that DLC is an enormously profitable sector in the gaming industry. For the 75% of polled Gamestop consumers, there are millions of others out there buying points or entering their credit card details and downloading away. Some might say that DLC is the only thing keeping the industry alive. Yet there is still an astonishingly large proportion of gamers oblivious to it.
Developers and publishers cannot sustain themselves when their major, top-tier franchises’ are experiencing enormous price drops within their launch window. Hitman Absolution’s price plummeted from £40 to £17.99 in just two weeks, for example. That’s over half of the game’s price hacked off. Fortunately, DLC keeps its value, and only ever faces a limited window of reduction. Publishers and developers rely on that more than you might realize.
It’s more important than ever for promoters to get gamers onboard with additional content. I think you’re starting to see a greater focus on that in 2013.
Do you purchase DLC for your games or do you trade the game in once you’re finished?
Are your friends aware of extra content? Would they purchase it if they were?