Every so often a news article from a respected publication such as Polygon, Gamespot or IGN appears on my Facebook feed and I foolishly decide to click on the comments. This toxic breeding ground of vitriol is often exacerbated in articles that relate to DLC, season passes, micro-transactions and anything that means parting with more money than for what the base game costs itself. Now it’s easy to empathise with those who feel more than slightly put out at having to shell out further money than they’ve already paid at the point of sale, but is there any alternative in an industry with ever-increasing costs?
My first foray into video games started in 1997 when my parents surprised me one Christmas with an original PlayStation. Back then, games typically cost $850,000-$1.7m to make, with obvious exceptions such as FFVII and FFIX. However, adjusting for inflation, this would put the development cost in 2017’s money at still only $1.2m-$2.6m. Games were also pretty expensive back then – coming in at around $50 a pop, which converts to $76 in 2017, more than most people now pay for a newly released AAA game in their local Gamestop.
We all know that video games cost a lot more to develop nowadays, with huge blockbuster games like Call of Duty forcing companies to part with over $200m and other major releases ranging from $50m upwards, so it’s little wonder that game developers need to find money from elsewhere. Not only this, games nowadays need constant support post-launch. You may feel like you’ve bought a finished product but those patches, updates and servers aren’t free from cost. The team may be downsized, people may be laid off, but there’s still a group of staff working on whatever game you’re playing – single player or not, who need paying.
Now there’s certainly a case for how best to implement DLC and micro-transactions. Ubisoft have been lauded for their Rainbow 6 Siege DLC model, allowing all players to download new maps, but giving season pass owners slightly earlier access and unlocking all operators immediately instead of having to endure a grindfest. This way, people are not paying for extra content, they’re merely getting a ‘priority pass’ like you would at a local theme park. In Titanfall, a game that follows the Rainbow 6 Siege DLC model, cosmetic micro-transactions have recently been implemented and received warmly due to the lack of pay-for-an-advantage you see in games such as Halo 5 and Payday 2.
Destiny, on the other hand, a game that received such criticism at launch in regards to lack of gameplay is still angering people due to the fact that the game’s best content is locked behind its mammoth-sized Taken King and Rise of Iron DLC. But when a game allegedly costs $500m to produce, you need to do everything you can to squeeze every last penny out of consumers and prove that you can be trusted with the budget for a sequel.
Debate will rage on about the best way to implement DLC and micro-transactions, but when the price of purchasing a video game hasn’t even risen in line with inflation, yet production costs have gone up 5000%, it’s clear that they’re here to stay.