Realizing I’m Part of the Problem with DLC

It happened again.

I’ve been playing Black Ops pretty intensely for the last few weeks as it’s currently my FPS of choice after I quit Halo Reach for good and there’s nothing else on the horizon I’m even remotely looking forward to in the genre.

So yesterday a little notification popped up on Xbox Live that a new map pack had debuted for the game. Four new maps? Hot damn! Before I even knew what was happening, I had added MIcrosoft points to my account, and downloaded the $15 bundle.

But then a realization came over me. The publishers had won. For all my sanctimonious ranting about how DLC should be free, and companies are overcharging for content that should be in the game already, I just spent $15 on this map pack without even batting an eyelash. Afterwards I actually felt bad. Like I’d just bought a vial of crack or a toothless hooker.

And what did I get? This game costs $60, and I’ve added exactly four new levels to it. Is that an extra 25%? It may be in terms of the amount of multiplayer maps, but lest we forget that this game originally had a campaign as well, and the guns, perks and challenges in multiplayer are part of the game’s content. Nothing’s been added to any of those parts of the game.

It doesn’t matter though. I’m sure I’m about to read some new story about how Activision just raked in $50M in 24 hours because of this DLC pack. What we’ve seen here in the last few years is the creation of a product guaranteed to be massively profitable. How often can you say that?

It really is a sight to behold. I’m sure there’s a decent amount of work that goes into making something like a map pack. It probably takes a team of designers and testers a few weeks to make sure there are no lingering problems with the levels. But in no way is this amount of work proportional to the price tag, and companies who own successful franchises have essentially found a way to print money.

So why does this work?

It’s pretty simple economics. We, the consumer, have demonstrated that we are willing to pay this inflated price point, because the benefit we reap from it is beyond the cost. We know these few bits of code are in no way worth 25% of the entire title, but the enjoyment we get out of exploring new levels in one of our favorite games is apparently worth the cash.

And frankly, $15 might be too much for these maps, but it’s not a lot of money in general. It’s a few cups of coffee, a dinner at Applebees, a movie ticket and a half. And if you do the math, you’re probably getting your money’s worth.

Let’s do a conservative estimate and say you play ten hours of Black Ops a week. There were fourteen maps before, now there are eighteen, a 28% increase. Theoretically with random map assignment, 4/18 or 22% of the time you should be experiencing new content in the game. So in a ten hour week, that’s just over two hours of time spent playing new maps. Contrast that with a two hour movie you pay $10 for. It may be less bang for your buck in week one, but what about in week 2, 3, 4 or 5? You’ve only had to pay the $15 once.

I guess I wrote this article to prove to myself that even though I realize people like me are the reason DLC prices are so high, that both we and the publisher are getting something out of the deal. Granted, they’re getting millions of dollars and I’m getting a few new virtual worlds to run around in, but when you actually map it out, I don’t feel like I’m getting ripped off as much as I did previously.

But as for my massive Comcast cable bill when I watch exactly four channels? That’s another media pricing issue entirely I can’t even begin to get into right now…

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  1. I hate that, you go through all that trouble to sneak that hooker in your car without any cops noticing. You take a look back at her and she grins… TOOTHLESS AGAIN!1!1

  2. I hate when new maps come out because whenever they pop up, people pick it OVER and OVER again and you have to leave and go into another group.

    OR if you get into a game without a new map to choose from, everyone leaves and the game never starts. And most the new maps are kind of lame to boot. They did a good job of making them LOOK fun but when I got in there and played…meh.

  3. I think the companies should be able to charge whatever they want for DLC. If people are willing to pay that price for it, then why shouldnt they make the most profit? Personally I think that price tag for 4 new maps is a little steap, so I wont purchase it myself but if other people are willing then more power to them.

    Video games are bought on disposable income since its not a neccesity to any of us. Disposable income is all spent on the percieved value of something. You may think a new movie is worth checking out in theathers while I wait for it on netflix. I view DLC in the same way. Let the compaines charge whatever they want and how the market reacts to it will determine the price for it.

  4. As addicted as I am to Blops, I took the money that could have been spent on the map pack and bought Machinarium instead. It feels good to support the little guys who are taking risks and making refreshing, innovative gameplay, instead of the multimillion dollar companies who get away with slapping on a new coat of paint and raking in the money. It’s a pretty fun game, too.

  5. The problem with this is Activision. They can’t stand to make only a billion dollars on their product. They have to make even more money by overcharging for something they probably did before the game even came out. I know other companies do this, but Activision is, by far, the worst.

    I will have no part of this shit. Also, the longer I play BlOps, the worse the game gets.

  6. 15$ for 4 maps seems very skimpy. I dont mind having to pay for dlc but geez could they give you your money’s worth! Heck Battlefied bad company 2: vietnam dlc gave you not only new maps but new armies, vehicles, weapons, and all for the same price. It was almost a sort of mini expansion-pack imo.

    I cant imagine it takes that much time & effort to make some maps, clearly people are just getting jiffed.

  7. 15 dollars. My last purchase was the 80 (or so) hour innovative and awesome sleeper JRPG, Resonance of Fate. I got it for that same price, brand new on Amazon. No more map packs for me. I’ve never not regretted those purchases. When I could conceivably buy an entire new game that rocks for about the same price, no effing way am I paying that for nothing but a few new maps.

  8. “Let the compaines charge whatever they want and how the market reacts to it will determine the price for it.”

    I think the gripe is that because of DLC, some developers realize they can release games that, only 5-10 years ago, would be considered “unfinished”. Before the advent of DLC, a game had to stand on its own without the knowledge that something would come out to “fill it out”.

    So you have the scenario that you shell out $50-60 for a game, and then another $15 or so before it feels full enough. Along the way with videogames no longer being a physical medium, a lot of people agreed to pay more for physically nothing. Think about playing GoldenEye for the N64, but with only half the maps, and then you would have to buy a lock-on expansion cartridge to play the rest.

    What’s worse are some games that have content already on the disc, but you need to pay extra to unlock said content. Effectively you’re paying again for something you already own.

    But yeah, DLC isn’t going away until people wise up and realize they’re getting hosed. And since they play CoD, I don’t think they’ll ever be smart enough to realize that. $15 for 4 maps? I can find a billion user-made maps for virtually any FPSer in 5 minutes for free.

  9. @Yautja

    “What’s worse are some games that have content already on the disc, but you need to pay extra to unlock said content. Effectively you’re paying again for something you already own.”

    That sounds incorrect. You paid for what the developer agreed to give you. If the disk has additional information not specified in the deal, where does that fit?

    Maybe we should make it law that developers specify exactly what content the consumer just by purchasing, down to the number of enemies types and perks…

  10. You’re not only supporting Activison’s overpriced DLC, you’re also supporting their practice of releasing the same game with little changes every year by buying the new Call of Duty every time they fart one out.

  11. “That sounds incorrect. You paid for what the developer agreed to give you. If the disk has additional information not specified in the deal, where does that fit?”

    As far as I know, I sign no contract when I purchase a physical copy of a game. Paying money transfers ownership of said item (and everything in it) to me. That’s basic economics.

    That’s like saying you can buy a car from a dealership, but you have to pay extra to access the trunk because that clause wasn’t explicitly stated to you when you bought it.

    If there was some agreement I would have to sign (or in part of a EULA in a PC game), I doubt *any* developer would reveal what’s locked away in a game. That would be shooting themselves in the foot to come out and say “here’s some extra things already in the disc–that you own–that you’re not allowed to use unless you pay us more”.

    That’s the same as those HP processors that *can* work faster, but you have to buy an extra $50 card to access the power that it already has.

    Remember when you used to own things that you bought? Like I was saying, by making media a non-physical thing, this somehow becomes accepted.

  12. Map pack is a disgrace, 15 euros for another 4 mediocre maps.

    The only people doing DLC right are the boys at Rockstar. Every other DLC has just been disappointing 20 bucks for two GTA4 DLC’s that add 15+ hours each easily to singleplayer and also more multiplayer content. Bargain!

  13. …all of this coming from a man paying $10 a month/$60 a year for XBox Live Gold.

    Yeah, they charge $15 for a couple of maps because you just pay to play online.

    I’m not trying to be a PS3 fanboy, but just saying you can’t bitch about having to pay $15 for new content in a game and turn around and pay $10 a month just to be able to play the game online.

  14. man, less than $5 per map! That really hurts! .

    Never mind paying the people who worked on maps, and especially never mind to the servers they pay for to keep running. Or ya know, maybe to them it’s an extension of the game, people slowly stop playing because they get bored with it, new map pack, all of a sudden everyone is playing that game again. Much better than those other games you paid $60 for that are sitting on the shelf collecting dust.

    and to whomever said something about playing the same game in CoD games, you obviously haven’t touched the campaign in ANY of them. There are actually likable characters you get attached to.

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