‘Sibley Put’ is where Josh Sibley, real American hero, boldly and unabashedly dissects the hot-button issues of modern video gaming and its surrounding culture. Everything he says is to be taken as personally as possible, so get those brows ready for some serious-ass furrowing. You babies.
Hello, internet. I’m writing this piece for the front page for you to read, rather than saying it on the podcast, because, well. I DID say it for the podcast, and our never ending technical difficulties ate it all right up. Since we here at JumpKickPunch are slowly trying to roll out content other than just the podcast for you, it was decided that I should word-erize everything that was eaten by the void instead.
On Wednesday when we recorded the podcast, I had nothing to talk about. At literally the last minute, like the world itself went “Oh shit, the podcast!”, the major gaming news sites dropped this in my lap. If you like reading me and no one else on the internet (and who can blame you), I’ll give you the basic gist of the linked article.
It’s about EA’s “Ten Dollar” initiative, which is really nothing new if you’ve been paying attention. Most gamers have already felt the effects, and EA’s already outlined their plans before, this was just them basically telling the world in a codified, cohesive statement. Basically, EA CEO John Riticello officially announced that every EA game from now on is going to have some online component, be that multiplayer, a regular DLC schedule, or both. This is a push they’ve invented in order to combat the massive used games market. If you’ve grabbed the console version of either Dragon Age or Mass Effect 2, you’ve already seen it in action: new copies of those have codes for free day one DLC. If you grab the game new, you get free stuff. You can still grab the content if you get the game used, but it’ll cost you. This way, EA hopes, they can make at least SOME cash even on used games. It’s a simple plan that seems to be embracing Valve’s forward thinking attitude: be a pal to gamers and they’ll be a pal to you.
Unfortunately, as soon as this info hit public, the internet exploded with fury. Displaying a totally predictable yet somehow still disappointing single-minded-ness, most internet dwellers saw “EA”, “Ten Dollar” and “DLC” in the same sentence and their brain immediately saw nothing but red and shut off. I saw everything from misguided, righteous indignation to people simply missing the point by one thousand miles. I saw people screaming that EA has no right to infringe on their right to buy and sell used games, as if EA had just lobbied to pass a law in congress or some shit. Even more hilarious, I saw people upset that EA has a problem with the used game market at all. I saw people vowing to pirate EA games from now on, or at the very least straight up boycott free DLC. I even saw people not understanding that this DLC wasn’t free on JUST day one.
In case you’re mildly retarded, let me explain why what EA is doing isn’t just not evil, it’s actually very beneficial to you and me. First off, this shows an attitude from EA that they’re trying to find a way to maximize their profits without going after you and me. For a major corporation to have that attitude instead of forcing things on consumers and telling them “just deal with it” (like DRM) is pretty remarkable.
The biggest argument I’ve heard against this whole initiative is that EA will intentionally hold back important chunks of games, just so they have content to toss up there later as a false “reward” to new game buyers. While I laud people for people keeping eagle eyes out for slippery slopes in this industry, I’ll explain why that’s unfounded (at least thus far) in a minute, but first let me quickly obliterate this objection very simply: even if they intentionally held back the entire second half of the game and they offered it as free DLC on day one for new buyers, who cares? You’re still paying sixty bucks for a full game. It’s free. Storage issues would be a bitch, but regardless it’s all reunited under one banner in the end anyway. Unless of course you DIDN’T buy it new, then you’re screwed. Of course, that’s the entire point of all this, to discourage you from buying used games. There’s really no good reason you can offer up as to why they should care about a used game buyer. You’re really no different than a pirate, at least to them.
While this is a very good example of a slippery slope, this is one of the few times where I think fears are largely unfounded. Look at this history of DLC: The first DLC that showed the world that tacked on digital content could be massively profitable was Oblivion’s horse armor. Fucking HORSE armor. A stupid, useless cosmetic addition to a stupid, useless game feature, and it SOLD LIKE FUCKING HOTCAKES. Now, DLC is everywhere, almost every game has at least something, and it falls into one of three categories:
- Nice, fun little free bonuses. a new outfit here, a new weapon there, a new map or game mode.
- Large additions that cost money and clearly were not just a chunk of the original game that was cut out. Things like Borderland’s The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and Burnout Paradise‘s Big Surf Island.
- Things that are very clearly a rip off and if you even consider for a second paying actual money (or Microsoft Banana Fun Bucks) for them, you deserve to get ripped off and no one will weep for you. See: Hard mode for Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 and everything Namco’s ever done.
Considering that the thing that opened the door to the trend was fucking horse armor, I think the game industry has done incredibly well by us so far. I think developers learned very quickly what people are willing and unwilling to shell out cash for.
People complaining about content being held back intentionally have largely been full of shit so far anyway. Think back to before DLC was a thing. You’d hear all the time about how your favorite developer had this rad idea for a game, but couldn’t get it working right in time so they had to cut it. Levels, weapons, vehicles and entire concepts are lost forever because there was no way to get them to the consumer after the deadline. Well, now there is. I’ve always thought DLC hasn’t gone far enough: Burnout Paradise had multiple free patches to the base game itself that corrected errors and just generally made things better. Brutal Legend is the most recent game that I thought could benefit from something like this: I would have bought an add-on chunk of single player story in a heartbeat, as the game has several gaps that needed filling (what they ended up doing was releasing a couple of worthless skins, a doo-dad or two that should have been in the game from day one, and a multiplayer map pack, as if anyone gives a shit about Brutal Legend‘s multiplayer). I don’t see why people are against more content for a game that they (ostensibly) paid money for the in the first place.
People who are against DLC in general as well as slippery slopers hated this announcement, but it’s too little too late as far as protesting goes. Horse armor is when you should have risen up as one and shot flames from your mouths. Now, it’s far too late. DLC is here to stay forever. These internet fools are too short sighted to see that now, the best we can do is make sure that companies are aware of when they do DLC right. As far as I’m concerned, free DLC is a pretty fat check in the “doing it right” column. Pretty hard to complain about free, although I’m sure a lot will try.
I don’t know about you, but I highly enjoy what EA’s doing so far. I bought Mass Effect 2 on day one, and I had a couple of extra missions and a new crew member just waiting for me when I popped it in. Was he intentionally held back? I don’t give a flying shit. He’s in my game now, and I didn’t pay one red cent for him. I was playing along one day and lamenting about how my class was shotgun based, yet all the shotguns in the game sucked dick. As if in response to my plight, one week after the game debuted, a free little pack appears that has a set of armor and a new, fucking awesome shotgun in it.
Despite all this, there is a much easier solution to the used game market, although it’ll never get implemented in a billion years. Yet it is there as an option, and it would wipe out the used game market overnight. The used game market is basically showing publishers what people are willing to pay for their games. Publishers since the dawn of time, with rare exception, have held to the belief that there’s one price for a new game: Sixty dollars. Gamestop is clearly showing you that there are games that aren’t worth more than fifteen, twenty bucks. If publishers like EA would price games according to a brutally honest opinion of how much they’re worth, rather than trying to pretend that everything’s worth sixty dollars, that would be it for used games. Why buy a potentially scratched up disc with no manual and no case for fifteen dollars when you could get it new for that price? The only people who are going to pick up something like, say, Dark Void for sixty bucks are people who you have fooled and who are going to be very angry at you and themselves very shortly. Had you charged only twenty bucks, it would be that much harder to complain.
I genuinely feel bad for EA, I really do. Any backlash they’re getting from this announcement is purely due to the perception of their brand name that they actively cultivated for fifteen years. Since Riticello took over, EA has made a real effort at actually being a good game company, rather than a slinger of shit. They’ve greenlit several original IP’s, saved a couple of original games from development limbo, and their big reward for all this is a steady, quarter by quarter drop in profits. The used game market is clearly where all that money is leaking to, and they’re choosing to combat it through gestures of goodwill to the consumer. That’s something I can get behind. Unfortunately, all it’s being met with is furrowed brows and bared fangs.
No one’s going to say this in any comment section, so I’m just going to come right out and say it: The only people who have a problem with this new initiative are pirates who haven’t figured out how to pirate console DLC, and poor people.