Exclusive downloadable content, timed or not, feels plain gross. It’s a business practice that doesn’t benefit the consumer at all, existing only line the pockets of publishers and console manufacturers. From their point of view I understand. Publishers, developers and hardware manufacturers are companies ran by real people with real families who need to eat, just like you and I. Giving you a fun product might be why many of them joined the industry, but the simple reality is they need to get paid. Thing is, I’d like them to get paid without resorting to abominable methods that hurt consumers, methods like platform exclusive DLC.
No consumer wins when DLC is exclusive – timed or not. Owners of the platform who get it first aren’t getting content earlier than they would if it released simultaneously, and other platform owners are slapped in the face with an arbitrary delay. The content is ready, they’re excluded from playing. The reason the “unworthy” are denied access is quite simple. A console manufacturer (i.e. Microsoft or Sony) have paid the developer/publisher a chunk of cash to bring DLC exclusively to their system. In effect they’ve offered the games creator a simple deal: ‘delay the content on the other platforms and we’ll give you big wad of cash’. Writing that makes me feel sick, it’s morally corrupt. Paying to limit an audiences enjoyment is disgusting. I bet you’ve never heard of a Kindle exclusive chapter for a book. Why? Because that’d be stupid. So why are games routinely subject to this?
Currently this topic is on my mind is because of a recent announcement. This week we got a fresh example of how disappointing exclusive DLC can be when Bioware launched the first story content pack for their popular RPG Dragon Age Inquisition exclusively on Xbox One. PC owners are next in line, but PlayStation 4 and last generation owners have been left out in the cold. Being left out feels awful. It’s even worse when you paid to buy the same price for the same game as consumers on the other platform, you anticipated the game as much as them and you stood out at a midnight launch just like them. And somehow depending on your console of preference you’ve been punished or rewarded.
It’s maddening, especially for something like Dragon Age where people specifically bought it for story; now PS4/Last gen/PC fans are forced to wait and miss the discussion, or spoil themselves to keep up. These people are Bioware’s fans, and that’s a seriously sick way to treat them.
Just to make clear I’m not singling out Microsoft, Bioware and EA. Last year we saw the same situation arise with Destiny on PlayStation platforms. Sony, Activision and Bungie jumped into bed with one another in a sordid threesome whose offspring was a stack of exclusives maps, guns and content for PlayStation owners that Xbox fans cruelly were denied. Both agreements make sense from a business point of view, but there also consumer unfriendly to a horrifying degree.
This is hardly a new idea. I remember buying Grand Theft Auto IV on PlayStation 3 day of release in October 2008. I can clearly recall my frustration and disappointment that the games DLC was all Xbox exclusive for an undisclosed period of time. Two years later the deal was up, Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and the Damned both came to PS3 and PC. Do you know what? I never played them, by then it was too late and exclusive content had robbed me of more time in a world and game I dearly loved. A game I loved as much as anyone on the other system, my only crime was the audacity to own a PS3 over Xbox 360.
I dream of a world without this diabolical practice. But how do we make that happen? The traditional way is to make companies hurt where it matters most: their profits. Don’t support their games, don’t buy exclusive DLC and tell them the reason why you’ve opted out of their game. Of course that’s hard to do here, after all exclusive DLC is almost a ‘can’t lose’ situation for the creators. The losses they make by delaying content on one platform is subsidised the by the lump sum given by the other in addition to sales of the content. Then when it launches on the other platform the creator makes up the loss.
This practice is one that can be stamped out only by uniting the gaming audience across all platforms. When exclusive content comes to your console first – don’t buy it. When exclusive content is delayed on your platform – don’t buy it. When that happens the audience will have the united power to say ‘no, we don’t buy your console for exclusive DLC’. The global gaming community needs to come together and ‘vote with our wallets’.
I’m no eternal optimist though. I know that will never happen, no matter how much I dream of the ‘timed exclusivity revolution’. I might not convince you, and I certainty won’t change the mind of the average Call of Duty consumer who just wants more maps to play with his friends. And I can hardly blame him, he just wants more. So too do I understand these companies need to make money to survive, I understand they they do this: morally corrupt, disgusting, sick, fan betraying, and stupid as it feels. Let’s just finish by me saying this, when Dragon Age Inquisition DLC comes to PlayStation 4, I won’t be buying it. We deserve our content all together, or not at all.
Viva la timed exclusivity revolution!