Microtransactions: the disease or the symptom?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013 11:10 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Buying a triple-A game is now a slow drip-feed of your cash into publisher coffers. Brenna worries there may be greater concerns than anti-consumer fleecing.

Consumer disenchantment with the industry may not be the problem here, though – just the symptom of something far worse.

I don’t know how to feel about microtransaction DLC. I think the Hello Kitty and bacon guns in Black Ops 2 are great – a harmless bit of fun with a definite “take it or leave it” vibe. I’m grossed out by Gears of War: Judgment’s double XP, particularly in light of Kotaku‘s argument that multiplayer progression brainwashes us into spending. I have mixed feelings about Mass Effect 3′s booster packs, which can be earned or purchased, and are entirely randomised.

Mainly, my issue is that I don’t particularly enjoy parting with money. Who does? Microtransaction DLC – like heftier DLC expansions, online passes, premium services like Call of Duty Elite and Season passes – is designed, explicitly, to provide an alternate revenue stream on top of what the publisher, developer and retailer will earn from your purchase of a game.

Jim Sterling is one of just a number of vocal opponents to what is, essentially, a way to try and convince you to part with cash above and beyond the core game’s cover price, something that rarely occurred in previous generations. The argument “the games industry is an industry”, as expressed by Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski and many others, doesn’t hold water with Jim, and really, it often feels a bit slimy to me, too. End users paying more and more for what, as the console generation wears on, feels like less and less, because investors want to line their pockets? It may be the way of the world, but it’s not consumer-friendly, and increasing awareness of wealth disparity (“the 1%”) just shows this discomfort is growing. Consumer disenchantment with the industry may not be the problem here, though – just the symptom of something far worse.

Let’s look at EA, everyone’s favourite whipping boy these past few years. Microtransactions on everything (or not). A constant barrage of DLC including shortcuts through grinding for single-player games. Games as service. “Look at these corporate scumbags, bleeding money from the proletariat,” you sneer. “Minting it fist over stinking fist.”

Jim Sterling vents about how many of us
feel when asked to pony up again.

Only they’re not. EA hasn’t made a significant profit for investors in years. It’s pouring all its money into R&D and frantically exploring mobile, social and alternate revenue streams like everybody else. It’s afloat, and it’s making some great games that sell strongly (and others that aren’t and don’t, of course). But investors, the people who ultimately pay for development by gambling on a return, aren’t getting enough back. They just ousted their CEO for that very reason.

The problem is, traditional triple-A development is ridiculously expensive and its consumer base – hardcore gamers – isn’t growing as fast as costs are climbing. A solid game might sell 3-4 million copies. That sounds like a lot, but how much did it cost to make? That’s a difficult question to answer, but conservative estimates come in at well over $10 million. When you factor in all the costs you forget about when you’re screeching in rage at your $60 RPP (oh, Americans, the Australian editor sighed, handing over $110 for the latest Call of Duty) you’re not looking at a huge return – about 30% to the publisher. A 2011 Eurogamer article estimated that the cost of games development had increased five or ten times while sticker prices remained static, and with next-generation costs likely to increase (despite the wishful thinking of launch developers) that’s only going to cut deeper and deeper.

The big companies talk a good talk about having the digital transition figured out, but they don’t. Nobody in triple-A does, as Cliffy B said. Outside of a few stand-out cultural phenomena like Halo, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, triple-A isn’t bringing enough return on investment to keep the people with the money to pay for it on board. This is precisely why companies have moved towards a “fewer, bigger titles” model over the past decade. Even were publishers to declare their eyes newly scale-free and vow that from now on, It’s All About The Games, resulting in all we self-described hardcore gamers in comment threads fulfilling our promises to buy every new release produced – there’s just not enough money there. There literally aren’t enough of us who know how to work a control pad. It’s no wonder Microsoft went Kinect bonkers.

Even if all we self-described hardcore gamers in comment threads fulfilled our promises to buy every new release produced – there’s just not enough money there. There literally aren’t enough of us who know how to work a control pad. It’s no wonder Microsoft went Kinect bonkers.

Nobody is happy about this, about how the triple-A games industry works today. Gamers aren’t happy at how the need for alternate revenue streams affects them. Developers aren’t happy about having to work on increasingly narrow, dictated projects designed by committee and focus group. The publishers losing money aren’t happy. Even the ones making money are increasingly – and sensibly – worried about how to keep the creaking old ship afloat while frantically diversifying to a score of agile lifeboats (I see you there, Activision).

I’m not saying this excuses the business practices the industry has favoured over the last few years, or that “vote with your wallet” is the end of the debate. I’m saying these alternate revenue experiments are a symptom of something much more sinister than corporate greed. They’re a symptom of the teetering financial system which underpins business in general, and which has implications both global and personal. They demonstrate that the triple-A development scene is under pressure, and at risk. The industry has collapsed before, and could do so again.

To me, that’s much scarier than the idea of a slightly higher RRP for next-gen, or some cashed-up noob forking out for a better multiplayer gun than mine.

The resurgence of the PC, digital distribution, mobile and a flourishing indie scene show that games aren’t going anywhere, no matter what happens to the big publishers. But I like triple-A games. I enjoy the bombast and the spectacle. A gorgeous single-player experience like Tomb Raider; excellent multiplayer fun like Battlefield 3; a rare triumph in both categories like Mass Effect 3. I don’t want that to go away.

I don’t like microtransactions and I’m unlikely to start spending money on them. I don’t think you should have to, either. Vote with your wallets, yes; be conscious of what message your casual purchases send, yes; but also, next time you sound off in the comments, don’t forget that hundreds of games and jobs are being gambled during a decade of incredible flux. There’s more than your Thursday night entertainment on the line here.


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  1. ps3fanboy

    its a disease, period….only cure is to stop buying or wait until they release a goty version with all included on the disc. if this don’t stop the industry douchiness, then i welcome the game industry collapse. after all games are not a necessity for life, it is only entertainment.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Maximov

    love the article pic, being russian and seeing russian coins, got me surprised )

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Gheritt White


    Thanks Brenna! Nobody wants an MTX/freemium or episodic shaped future, but equally nobody wants to stump up $40M-$80M every time you make a game with only a 30% chance of even covering your costs.

    Basically, we’re all fucked.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. noamlol2

    it’s the cancer of those rich greedy corporations

    the cure is just to avoid their games and buy from honest, kind developers like FROM SOFTWARE and CD PROJEKT RED

    #4 2 years ago
  5. viralshag

    You people act like you’re forced to spend money on MTs. If you’re buying MTs, buying all the DLC there is full price, spending extra cash on every game you have and you don’t enjoy doing it, the only problem is yourself.

    GIGA posted a great article of average salaries in the games industry. Maybe that’s where they want to start looking to save money as they certainly seem to be on the generous side.

    The boom gaming had would no doubt lead to a needed increase in industry qualified professionals which often means more competitive salaries. Now we’re over that hill, that boom, maybe it’s time for salaries to be adjusted accordingly.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. heroes159

    Very good article Brenna.

    @4 so you want to buy from the honest Developers ah ? did u even read the article

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Gheritt White

    @5: Salaries in videogames software development and publishing are a fraction of other software sectors, or even the movie industry.

    Only the suits and top level senior studio execs get rewarded especially handsomely. Everyone else is on below market rate salaries.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. No_PUDding

    Very good read, putting to text what a lot of people don’t want to say.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect development costs to remain the same (or go lower, as there is more freedom to release an AA game on a digital market place) this generation.

    I think of the previous generation as a massive R&D exercise.

    Companies went out of their way to create technologies for the future. And creating Frostbite 3 which will exist under ALL EA games, is an R&D cost essentially.

    That among a list of other cost-cutting efforts will make this generation less of a technical frontier.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. No_PUDding

    @7 Yeah so very true.

    And as you say it’s not a marginal difference.

    EA Spouse and Rockstar Spouse will happen again, for sure.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. viralshag

    @7, 2012 salary surveys show that a programmer with experience from 3-6 years will earn somewhere between $65k to $102k a year. That’s roughly £41k to £67.5k, regardless of which sector you’re in, that’s not a bad wage.

    The average US computer programmer salary is about $65k a year while the UK is £32k.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Gheritt White

    @10: £30-32K isn’t bad, no, but it’s hardly like we’re rolling in riches. When you consider the unpaid overtime hours we all put in every day, it’s not exactly unwarranted either.

    #11 2 years ago

    Tbh, I don’t think that employee salaries are the problem when it comes to spiralling games development costs.

    You’ve got companies who rent the most expensive office space in already expensive areas. You’ve got ever increasing marketing budgets. Lets also not forget simple things like bad planning and management that causes hundreds of wasted man hours in almost every dev project.

    The first company that I worked for in the games industry had a policy of hiring graduates, and paying us relatively low salaries, but that didn’t do much to keep overall costs down.

    Sure, salaries in the games industry can be relatively high, but I wouldn’t say that they’re the biggest spend, when it comes to the overall dev budget.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. lama

    its a cancer, thanks to the casual mobile gamer crowd.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Digital Bamboo

    Good article. Lots to consider this year in gaming.

    This reminds me I should buy Ni no Kuni soon. That’s def the type of project I want to support, and it wasn’t selling so well last I checked.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. SplatteredHouse

    Reaping what they sowed. Read the language used. Price protection, and so on.
    They first set off after pre-owned, did publishers. Now they’ve found a situation where, because they’ve played (their take on the concept of) DLC card as much that people now wait for sales, bundles, or whatever. Why is it on players to rescue disastrous development practice? They sell the box at 60, but really that doesn’t cover costs, so they increasingly rely on the day-one pack-in bubble to get by – to avoid resistance they may otherwise encounter by trying to, um, actually price the game according to what it’s worth (which larger publishers still shy from doing)

    So…If they can’t communicate to me the game’s value, if there’s no relative worth across games in the “AAA” space, or from the main publishers, why would I believe it ever to be worth any figure they select to price it at?
    Oh, and of course, they cut WAY back on demos, because woe betide they have enough faith in what they were selling to permit anybody not to buy it all but “sight unseen”.

    So then, somebody like Ubisoft decides to set Ass Creed up yearly to try to catch people (presumably, this way the price erosion has a short-term window of effect and more often that’s minimal, before the next game appears to sell back at RRP, and the previous one can bring in endless back-catalogue money)

    #15 2 years ago
  16. TheBlackHole

    My only really gripe is that new micro transaction models have seemingly started to replace single purchase, rather than being added as a separate option.

    I feel like publishers are missing a trick. Sure, make a free version that monetises the shit out of people if that’s how they like to play, but give a purchase outright option too.

    I wouldn’t pay a penny towards upgrades or lives in Candy Crush Saga – in fact I go a long way to not have to, including changing my phone’s date to speed up the extra life process. HOWEVER, If I’d played a demo, or the free version, I would put down anywhere between £0.99-£2.99 to own the game outright. There’s a lot of content in there and I think it’s probably worth even more than that if you consider how many hours of entertainment it holds.

    I’m not the general populous, but I am a consumer and I WILL spend money if given the opportunity, I just won’t spend it any way you want me to.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. karma

    Hate them. Nothing else to say on the matter that hasn’t already been said, other than they need to go away from full priced AAA games.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Gheritt White

    @12: You worked at Rare or Free Radical? ;)

    @15: Nobody, but *nobody*, would purchase a game brand new if they were priced at $70-75 USD.

    @17: Nobody can afford to make all-you-can-eat AAA games on next-gen systems. See comment #3.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. DSB

    Preaching to the choir there Brenna.

    I think it paints a picture of a self-fulfilling prophecy. None of the publishers are willing to take risks and grow their market, so the market stays mostly level.

    Nobody is evolving videogames, videogames are left to evolve themselves. It’s a disastrous strategy for any company. You shouldn’t be after today’s customer, that guy is covered. You should be after tomorrow’s, who is still up for grabs.

    Who’s really to say that you can’t create a videogame equivalent of a Pixar movie? A game that is well and truly for everyone?

    If anything, publishers were lucky to be able to ape eachother as much as they have, for as long as they did. I think it takes more than that today.

    Everybody’s chasing the exact same buck they were chasing yesterday, and predictably that leaves less money for everyone. For an industry so greedy, they really do make a lot of basic mistakes.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. viralshag

    @11, But that is the choice you make. Ultimately if you’re unhappy with your job then you leave or look for a new one. I’m sorry if that sounds unsympathetic but plenty of people do crap jobs for crap money with long hours. Would you consider yourself to have a “crap” job in a “crap” industry?

    @12, I’m not saying that salaries are the be all and end all of the problem but dev team size for trip-A games have increased obviously that will have an impact. Especially on late projects, I won’t bore you with the math but lets a say a team of 50 with an average wage of $35k runs late by 2 or 3 months. That’s a fair bit of money.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. K-V-C

    there taking an advantage over us consumers and we are the reason there still in business da greedy shower of c**ts

    #21 2 years ago
  22. OlderGamer

    Brenna, nice write up. If I am being honest, I have been saying the same thing for a couple of years now. Albeit not as well put together perhaps.

    I do not feel the current model is sustainable. I think that franchises over staurate the market. And a lot of other things. But I have said them to a point whee I get labeled out of touch, cynicle, jaded, lost, etc etc. Nice to hear it from someone else.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. DSB

    @20 I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an industry that relies so much on peoples desire to work, over actually paying them for it.

    Honest pay for honest work should be a pretty basic standard in any market, but it isn’t in games.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. viralshag

    @19, How do you do that though? Publishers are limited to an audience based on the hardware. EA for example make games for PC, console, browser and mobile. Outside of that who else are they supposed to target?

    @23, That makes no sense though. As what they get paid is comparable to other industries. They work, and get paid for it. What more do they expect?

    #24 2 years ago


    Reflections Interactive

    #25 2 years ago
  26. DSB

    @24 They don’t get paid for it, that’s the point. They get paid for far less than what they’re actually doing.

    You won’t have to look very far to find people who have worked hundreds of extra hours and recieved very little in return for it.

    If people just went home when they stopped getting paid, the industry would collapse.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. OlderGamer

    To some degree DSB you have been describing(post 19)(salery aside) has been Nintendos aim with Wii and WiiU.

    Broader audiance. Cheaper games. Lite on the DLC(none on Wii). Inovative controls(both Wii and WiiU). Cheaper Hardware(WiiU prices are down to weak yen, imo). And most of all, and I am quoeting others “Last generations hardware, herp derp”.

    But in truth the dedicated gamers that frequent sites like this don’t want that. What they do not understand is that what they want to some degree is what is killing the industry.What they want is unsustainable.

    We can not have our cake and eat it too. If we want top of the line graphics those come at a cost. If we want big budget trip A those come at a cost too(not just price/dlc, but the fact that those have less risk, less inovation, and quickly become stale rehashed franchises).

    All of that are some of the reasons mobile and PC have both exploded over the past few years.

    But some of us, obviously already know and understand all of this. Sadly some of us don’t.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Gheritt White

    @24: I love my job, my colleagues and what I do for a living. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Nobody’s complaining here – *you’re* the one who said salaries are too high, not me. I don’t want/need to be paid more, all I was saying is that if I was – for example – working in online betting, I’d be earning twice as much. But then I’d also be working on online betting (and with the type of people who work there), which would suck major arse.

    If, however, you’re suggesting that people who work on the shop floor (so to speak) in videogames should be earning $5k-£10k less so that we can have cheaper games… well, go fuck yourself. I don’t think £30-£32K is unreasonable and I’m not pulling these hours or putting up with this level of stress for MacDonald’s money. The suits and higher ups, meanwhile, could always do with a pay cut, IMHO – and the same goes for any industry tbh.

    @19: That already happened and it was called Wii Fit. We all know what happened there… It was a bubble and it burst with Wii Music.

    @21: Please, go die in a fire. Or, y’know, educate yourself – you could do that do.

    @25: Cool (although I’ve never been to that studio).

    @27: EXACTLY.

    #28 2 years ago

    To be fair, games industry professionals do get paid a whole lot of money to sit at a desk and do what they enjoy.

    With regards to overtime, then it depends who you work for.

    In about 9 years in the games industry, I probably only ever worked a combined total of about 20 hours overtime. One of the reasons for that was because I almost always finished my work on schedule.

    The times where I did have to work extra hours were usually because of poor management from producers, or naive designers biting off more than the studio could chew.

    Even when I did do extra work, we were provided with free takeaway, which was always nice.

    On the flip side, I’ve worked in the same studio as people who had to work 7 days a week for 3 months straight, to meet deadlines. Those deadlines were tight as they were, because of bad management, as mentioned before.

    Basically, I don’t think that you can say that the industry is like this, or like that. Almost every studio is different, with different work ethics, and different management staff.

    People get paid a lot, and I think that’s justifiable, because the games make a lot of money.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. redwood

    the problem is the budget.. games cost waaay too much, so we have all these pricing issues, and monetization schemes.. slash the budget>make quality>sell games at 40 bucks or even 30 bucks and u will move more copies..simple..

    #30 2 years ago
  31. viralshag

    @26, I’m going to have to disagree. I know plenty of people that work beyond the hours they officially get paid for and do it because that is their job. It’s this strange thing called sucking it up and doing the job you’re paid for.

    And like I said, if you don’t like that then leave the company you work for and find a company that treats you better or start up your own company with all the good intentions of world. If you really think working unpaid overtime is something new then I really don’t know what to say.

    @27, That “strategy” worked somewhat with the Wii but has yet to be seen with the WiiU. The “broader audience” have hardly jumped at the chance to become a part of the WiiU movement yet so I think it’s a little early to say they have the right idea.

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Gheritt White

    @30: Enjoy only games like Braid, Limbo and Trials HD from here on out, then.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. DSB

    @31 Well, my country is built around unions. Not paying people for the work they do is often punishable.

    Contract work is always going to be different, but you have to be a certain sort of crazy to work 100 hours for what adds up to less than minimum wage.

    @29 Yeah, the closest you’ll get is probably the IGDA survey from 2004, which probably isn’t exactly representative of the industry today. Back then 48% responded that they’d done unpaid overtime.

    Of the remaining 52%, most were paid in time off and 20% were paid partial compensation.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. viralshag

    @33, You are paid for the work you do, that’s why it’s called a salary. And based on what GW and GIGA are saying, what they’re asked to do isn’t unreasonable.

    And no, it’s not crazy to do that. I get paid a decent wage and I like my job. When I’m expected to pull in extra hours or weekends, I have no problem whatsoever.

    @28, I’m not saying YOU on that end of the scale (let’s say 32k) should be paid less. What I was originally getting at is year on year of experience salary increases seem to quite large. From three years or less to four to five years there’s a jump of about $15k which is a fair amount and for supposedly the same position.

    Based on what information I have found and seen, all I’m saying is it seems to be a lot more generous than some people make out. I always thought you guys were paid peanuts. And I obviously made wrong career decisions. ;)

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Old MacDonald

    Game publishers control the budgets; they’re not going up because of some weird natural laws, it’s a conscious choice the publishers are making, and it may very well be the wrong choice.

    So to defend unethical business practices because of increasing budgets is just plain silly.

    And besides, what is at stake here is not just some jobs. It’s the future of games as a real medium. Are games going to be designed as services where their main function is to keep us playing and paying for as long as possible, or are they going to be designed as self-contained experiences that can compete with movies and books as a major narrative medium?

    #35 2 years ago
  36. OlderGamer


    “@27, That “strategy” worked somewhat with the Wii but has yet to be seen with the WiiU. The “broader audience” have hardly jumped at the chance to become a part of the WiiU movement yet so I think it’s a little early to say they have the right idea.”

    I think it all comes down to price point on the hardware side. Combine that with cheaper hardware on the market with large libary of cheaper/used games and it is next to imposible for the WiiU to compete.

    Just for fun, I am predicting the same problem to hit both PS4 and XBnxt. Decent launches, stalled in the months post launch. But it all, again comes down to price point. 400usd+ hardware is going to be a tuff sell. Esp in a world where more users spend more time on Netflix then playing games with their current hardware. Meaning that, in many peoples minds, they already have a nextflix/media player…why spend 400usd+ on a new one. Those folks aren’t concerned with the latest greatest hardware or the versions of games that will graces them. I am also betting that many franchises will be on the current crop of systems as well as the new ones, and will prolly sell more on the current systems too.

    Will be interesting to watch.

    #36 2 years ago
  37. DSB

    @34 To be covered by your salary it would have to be included in the contract. It quite often isn’t, if that study is anything to go by, so arguably it isn’t covered by anything beyond the hours you’ve already signed up for. In which case your “salary” actually risks dropping below minimum wage.

    Which is of course illegal, but that just goes to show that there are some pretty crazy demands being put on people in the industry.

    #37 2 years ago
  38. ojinnvoltz

    the industry has to get out of the mindset that it needs to spend as much as it does. Publishers should be smarter with their money. CD Project Red had a fraction of Bioware’s money and they made an unarguably better looking game than the Mass Effects and, in my opinion, a more compelling gameplay and story experience.

    #38 2 years ago
  39. viralshag

    @OG, You may well be right but like I have said before I don’t think price is as big a turn off as you think. You just have to look at Apple to prove that mindset doesn’t exist in a LOT of people. Their main audience will happily upgrade to whatever they release – mostly in terms of the iPhone. And even on a contract, which is usually 18 months (in the UK at least) people will always pay to upgrade if not sell and buy privately.

    Personally, and this isn’t a dig at Ninty, I think there are more people waiting for a new Xbox or PS4 than there were waiting for the next Wii. I think for Ninty fans the Wii gave them what they wanted, for the other millions it was something fun but not something they’re in a rush to relive. And I think that’s because the WiiU is more like what you can get from current consoles (which there’s a good chance they already own) compared to the newer consoles which will no doubt leave the door open to a lot more possibilities.

    @37, Well at least in the UK you will often have to tick and sign a waiver or something along those lines that “you are willing to work beyond the hours you are contracted” and I think it’s well within your right to say no but at the same time I’m willing to do what’s necessary to get the job done, as long as I think it’s a reasonable demand.

    To use GW as an example, he obviously does and that’s his choice. The pros of the job obviously outweigh the cons.

    #39 2 years ago
  40. salarta

    When it comes to costs of making games, ultimately the problem is the attitude that video games should be treated like an interactive imitation of Hollywood. We’ve seen it with DmC, Tomb Raider, FF13, the Resident Evil games, just about everything “big” coming out. Video games aren’t treated like video games, and the existing IPs and characters are treated like shit by new people coming on that see those games as nothing more than an opportunity to force their fannish desires on an existing IP rather than actually creating a brand new IP where things they want to do would be a lot more appropriate.

    Games used to get sequels and spinoffs, and hit or miss, they still retained appreciation and respect for what came before. Today, the attitude is that everything before this generation sucked. Iconic female characters were brainless bimbos with guns that need to be made to look weak and scared as their core identity for them to have “character,” while formerly average men need to look and act like steroid abusers without much thought or emotion in them. There’s an inherent hatred of past video game culture coming out of companies, and unfortunately, consumers are lately promoting such behavior through their purchases. Until consumers start showing that they actually appreciate and respect existing IPs, and demonstrate that video games don’t need to be like Hollywood to sell, companies are going to keep making games that treat IPs poorly and operate under Hollywood-based assumptions.

    When it comes to DLC and microtransactions, most of what’s coming out is blatant abuse of the system. They purposely withhold weapons, costumes, etc in order to make more money from people willing to part with it. I always abhor when companies make things you can get in the actual game or “stat boosts” into paid DLC, especially if it’s done with single player games, because to me it’s basically “pay to cheat” or “pay to not have to play the game you just bought.” What’s the point of even buying the game if you’re going to pay for stuff you can earn by playing the game on Easy for a couple hours?

    There are rare cases where DLC is handled well. My two common examples are Folklore and Valkyria Chronicles. Folklore’s DLC packs were about 4-5 dollars, but they included a new Folk, a new costume, and new quests with storylines that lasted for a few hours and introduced brand new characters that didn’t exist beforehand. There was a lot of value provided. Valkyria Chronicles, on the other hand, had DLC tailored SPECIFICALLY to what fans in Japan said they wanted, something that could only be done after the game released. Fans said they wanted to be able to actually play as a Valkyria characters in gameplay, and many people liked Selvaria, so they made DLC where you could play as Selvaria in Valkyria mode if you did everything right. The Edy Squad DLC came about by Sega polling fans for their top five favorite non-main characters on the playable roster; there’s no way Sega could have guessed which characters fans would have wanted most.

    The best, most justified DLC practices would be to provide content that’s based entirely on consumer feedback. Ask fans who their favorite characters are and make DLC about those characters. Ask fans what kind of map they want and make a map based on their interests. If fans are upset with how a character was treated in the story, make DLC that treats the character better and undoes the problems of poor treatment from the main game. If they’re not doing it based on consumer feedback, then they’re essentially trying to make people pay for content that would have already been present on the disc in past generations.

    #40 2 years ago
  41. OlderGamer


    Alot of what you said makes sense. The problem tho is that often time DLC is considered before the game even comes out. It is a treadmill. And is often developed alongside the game before the game release. And IMO, that in and of itself is part of the problem.


    “When it comes to DLC and microtransactions, most of what’s coming out is blatant abuse of the system.”

    Just like you said.

    #41 2 years ago
  42. GwynbleiddiuM

    Now these are the articles that I like to see from you Brenna. It quite excellently sums up how most of us feel.

    I think in between investment and development there’s a lot money spent that are unnecessarily filling all the wrong pockets. Most of you pointed out those areas and I couldn’t agree more. This is why during past few years some of the developers broke free from publishers and are seeking investment elsewhere, like crowdfunding and kickstarters. I’m fairly sure that it’s as frustrating for them as it is for us.

    And I just don’t particularly want to talk about microtransactions, pioneered by EA, they have it in almost every fucking game. There’s this feature in FIFA 13 that you can download user generated content through EA Sport’s Creation Center website, I was looking for Iran’s Pro League that someone put a lot of effort to create, I downloaded it, and downloaded Japan’s National Team (My second favorite Asian national team, first is obviously Iran) and after the download was over I was informed that I have downloaded the maximum allowed ‘User Generated Content’ and now I have to purchase more slots through the FIFA 13′s store. I mean what sort of madness is this? This I’m sure is just a start, in FIFA 14 probably, after paying a 60$ USD for the game, to be able to play the damn game they’ll shove some manner of subscription down our throats.

    I’m sure if I try I can give more example of how publishers are taking advantage over popular franchises with this blight that is called microtransaction. I can accept that in a free to play MMO environment where there are high amount of server costs, but in a game that I mostly play offline or with my brothers, or a few friends online that is outrageous.

    @DSB well said all around.

    @40 Great post bro.

    #42 2 years ago
  43. salarta

    @41: Yep, that’s perhaps the biggest problem at the moment. Companies are making DLC concurrently with the game, with the explicit intent of making it something people have to pay to get. To a very small extent, I can understand that having a delay can turn some people off from buying DLC of a game they feel they “beat” months ago, but I’m sure that’s rare. If the person liked the game, then when the DLC comes out has little impact on whether or not they’ll buy and play it.

    Ever since video games became mainstream, companies have been essentially taken over by corporate minds that decide things only by what they think will make more money from an assumed target audience of teenagers. What’s happening with games like DmC and Tomb Raider is the exact same thing as what happened with Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street: remade fitting assumptions of what they think will bring a greater financial return based on what’s popular with kids today. I’m hoping poor sales lead these companies to show more respect for what came before, but with the way consumers behave, I have a feeling that’s not going to change. We’re just going to see increasingly soulless business practices that people eagerly throw their money at the company to experience. Consumers will get back what they ask for.

    #43 2 years ago
  44. zinc

    Gonna have to start my videogame doomsday prepping…

    £50 should get me an ole Xbox & a bundle of games.

    #44 2 years ago
  45. The Dude


    “When it comes to costs of making games, ultimately the problem is the attitude that video games should be treated like an interactive imitation of Hollywood”

    I’ve felt this for a long time; I think you’re very much correct with this point. I mean, I’m all for cinematic games. Great. But unfortunately big-budget, Hollywood-esque titles are seen more and more as the “norm” for what videogames should be. If it’s not a heavily story-driven, cinematic experience it’s childish nonsense that won’t sell.

    #45 2 years ago


    Actually, I like DLC.

    It usually helps to keep the game fresh after putting a lot of hours into it.

    If it’s made at the same time, then it’s probably more likely to feel a proper part of the game, rather than something tacked on.

    #46 2 years ago
  47. OlderGamer

    I agree with you some what G1GA. But I think it really depends on the game. For a Battlefield or COD then DLC is often in the form of new maps. And that does freshen things up. Also for a game like Rockband, DLC was a great and welcome addition.

    But not every game fits those molds. Plus, it should be pointed out, DLC and Microtransactions aren’t always the samething.

    Also my Madden Football doesn’t need DLC at all.

    #47 2 years ago
  48. salarta

    @42: Thanks! I can get carried away and overly emotional on some subjects, but I’m glad that at least some of what I’m saying makes sense to other people. :)

    @45: I don’t think modern games are even story-driven. They’re typically a lot more contrived and thoughtless than games were in the past. Though I bought and played it, Resident Evil 5 is a terrific example. The team blatantly had plans to make a big deal about a “partners” theme, yet utterly failed to drive the theme home. The team also had an excellent opportunity to utilize Jill Valentine’s suffering as she was controlled by Wesker to build up drama, raise the stakes and tell the story of what it’s like for Jill to be forced to help someone else tear down her whole life’s work since Raccoon City. Instead, Jill was used as a mix of villain and damsel in distress, entirely there for Chris’ “suffering” of grieving her assumed death and being the big strong man that rescues her. The stories of the most popular modern video games are vapid and disrespectful to their roots, yet praised like they’re complex masterpieces that echo through eternity.

    It’s sad because we could demand so much more from the industry while also respecting the roots of that industry, but we don’t. We can make amazing stories while utilizing the interactive nature of the medium, rather than merely the technological capabilities to make an interactive Hollywood film. But we don’t do that. We encourage the latter and disregard the former.

    #48 2 years ago
  49. salarta

    @47: PAY $5 TO PRESS X TO JASON!

    #49 2 years ago
  50. Gheritt White

    @35: “Are games going to be designed as services where their main function is to keep us playing and paying for as long as possible, or are they going to be designed as self-contained experiences that can compete with movies and books as a major narrative medium?”

    Yes to the former, no to the latter. I’m sorry, but that’s the future… and it’s very fucking depressing. I signed up to make blockbuster epics, not bite-sized F2P bits of a game. It’s all to do with monetising the Agile production method and since it looks like that actually works, that’s where the business model is moving towards. Sadly, business models fund development and nobody wants to bet the farm every time they release a game and wind up like the next Midway or THQ if it’s not a blockbuster success. Good for gamers? No. Good for devs? No. Good for the industry? We’ll see.

    @38: I literally have no idea how CD Projekt RED do it. Must be financed through venture capital.

    @39: Actually, I’ve been in the industry for about nine years and earn less than £32K. Admittedly, I’ve had to take a pay cut here and there so as to better align my skills and quality of life. Nevertheless, I don’t mind working late, on weekends or during crunch – in fact, I think that secretly quite a lot of us devs relish it. There’s something alluring about the siege mentality it brings with it.

    @40: The biggest problem with games isn’t DLC or MTX, you ignorant biased halfwit, it’s the fact that games haven’t increased in price to the consumer in real terms for over ten years. Just because you’re erudite, doesn’t mean your analysis is correct. There is NO inherent hatred of past video game culture at any of the companies with which I’m familiar – just ‘cos YOU don’t like something, doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same. I adore the direction of the new DmC and Tomb Raider – please try and be objective before spouting such utter tripe.

    Additionally, that DLC practice of incorporating fan feedback you mentioned? Well that happens every day on MMOs like EVE Online and MOBAs like DOTA2 and LoL, which is *precisely why* everyone’s moving towards a F2P model and videogames as a service – it’s been shown to work, be profitable and also be wildly popular.

    The rest of your posts are just bullshit and I’m really glad you don’t work in design or nothing new would ever get made. You’ve literally no idea of the level of passion, determination and commitment it takes to make a game like DmC or Tomb Raider. I’d much rather people try and do something new and risk failing than just pander to an ever dwindling audience of precious fanboys such as yourself.

    Now we’re in a position where failing once costs you the company, so naturally people are more risk averse. It’s amazing DmC or Tomb Raider ever got greenlit, frankly. I certainly don’t see companies taking those risks in such a cinematic fashion in the future.

    A largely episodic, freemium shaped future at that

    I think I’m going to have a little cry now.

    #50 2 years ago
  51. Dave Cook

    @49 Incorrect. It’s “Pay $24 for the season pass so you can pay $5 to press x, then another $5 to say Ja-” The second syllable is another $5.

    #51 2 years ago
  52. Dragon246

    I will agree with Viral here in principle, and stick the old line up again- vote with your wallets.

    Again, I see this “industry crashing” thing more made up than reality. Reason? Simple. Industry is much much more than EAs and Actis and other big pubs. Even if all of them fail, “industry” will survive.
    Will movie industry fail if all movie studios fail, no. Others will take their place.

    In short, industry is much bigger than triple AAA pubs. You can see that in Sony’s approach to indies.

    Btw, I am not buying DS3 and don’t spend on any silly micro-transactions, so I agree they aren’t consumer friendly. But in order to change that, you need to vote with your wallets.

    #52 2 years ago


    Stuff like Madden/FIFA/etc doesn’t, sure I agree.

    But as an example, I really had loads of fun with Midnight Club LA, finished every mission, and unlocked nearly every achievement.

    When they released a big DLC pack for it, I was able to enjoy it again like I had when I first bought it. A new area, new missions, cars, etc.

    Online games, open world games, story driven games, etc, are all types that DLC can help to refresh, if done properly.

    #53 2 years ago
  54. OlderGamer

    Cyber bulling isn’t cool Mr. White. Besides this is the internet, you are bound to find people that both agree and disagree with just about every post and poster.

    While you might not agree or even like what he has to say. I agree with alot of his principle posts. So do other folks it would seem.

    #54 2 years ago
  55. Gheritt White

    @53: Only the big pubs can afford to make AAA/cinematic HD games though. It’s great if all you want to do is play stuff like Fez.

    Me, I like my blockbuster all-you-can-eat epics and nobody knows how to fund them these days unless it’s a CoD, AC or GTA.

    #55 2 years ago
  56. Lengendaryboss

    @53 If only more publishers follow the lead of Rockstar, release quality DLC e.g. TLAD + TBOGT and quality games RDR, GTA and Max Payne. Now most of the time DLC is on disc (pay to unlock), sometimes its clearly cut of the game (pay to gain) or sometimes its a rip off (pay the price). I wish we get our monies worth.

    #56 2 years ago
  57. salarta

    @51: Got me again, Flash!

    If you catch that reference I will send you an imaginary kitten. :)

    @52: That’s a good point to make too, and something I try to remind myself from time to time for why another video game crash could be good for the industry (but probably not most people employed in it). Video games can be created by a single person; they don’t need huge teams, that’s just the assumption made presently due to the emphasis on making Hollywood-like games. Unless we had an actual apocalypse of some sort, video games will continue to exist in some form.

    And I hope more people do learn to vote with their wallets. I get the impression a lot of people here know to do that, but other sites have people that will complain about a game, then rush out to buy and play it day one just so they can complain about it some more. Then buy all the DLC packs, and complain about those too.

    @54: While I thank you for stepping in and standing up for me, White’s comment is in large part because of a lot of my extremely emotional comments I made in the past on other articles. I’ve been extremely vocal about how much I loathe the direction of specific games, and he’s mad that I’m both vocal and extremely judgmental about those games and what I believe people buying them are essentially saying they think of various concepts and what to see done to them in the future.

    I understand if you feel differently about defending me there after I’ve said that, but I felt I should try to show a little fair perspective for his comment.

    #57 2 years ago
  58. Gheritt White

    @54: Edited out. *This* was a bullshit post!

    #58 2 years ago
  59. OlderGamer

    I don’t think anyone is having a problem with the people working on projects., i think it is the suits calling the shots.

    Lest for me, I have nothing against the hardworking folks making the Madden, BF, or Real Racing. I think they do great work. I like those games. But the biz models that get put into place really rub me the wrong way. That is me personaly ofc.

    #59 2 years ago
  60. The Dude

    @58 There is truth in what Salarta says though (not not all of it ofc). Just because you disagree, he’s clearly not a “sniveling twat”. I work in the VG industry too, in one of the Japanese pubs, and from my experience chasing after what EA/Ubisoft does is priority.

    #60 2 years ago

    ^ Definitely.

    That’s why Square Enix bought Eidos, and why Wada put so much importance on moving out of Japan and into Western markets.

    Clearly it didn’t quite turn out as he intended.

    #61 2 years ago
  62. DSB

    It’s always about production values though. Why is that Gheritt?

    It’s a bit like argueing over who has the biggest, finest canvas or the rarest, finest paints.

    Surely, at some point you begin to figure that what you put on that canvas, and how you use those paints is pretty important too.

    Not that I don’t see the benefit of having huge budgets, it allows guys like Levine to screw around and scrap the first five versions of his game, but I just don’t see it as the be all and end all, and arguably it leaves the door wide open for waste.

    #62 2 years ago
  63. Gheritt White

    @59: Fair point. You know I like your posts, I’ve said as much in the past.

    @62: Competition. Quality costs money from a technical stand-point – features cost time and money to implement and test. And I agree – I seriously doubt that BioShock Infinite will break even, let alone turn a profit.

    @Salarta: The most pertinent thing I’ve said was about your preference for DLC based on fan feedback, which is why everyone’s chasing the MOBA model, i.e. freemium.

    #63 2 years ago
  64. viralshag

    @GW, Just so we’re clear I wasn’t having a dig at you or your job earlier. It was just part of my thoughts on the industry and this is the internet so why mince words. ;)

    And I could totally see that part of the job being a part that is difficult but satisfying. Part of me loves being overly busy working late nights. It makes the end of a project that much more rewarding and/or satisfying. Or if it’s been bad, just a nice relife to see it over.

    I think publishers should look to retail to claw back some money from second hand sales. My idea was that they keep online passes but this is something retail would have to cover. All games should come with a disclaimer stating “this game should not be sold without an active online code”. Upon trading a game in, the retailer has to re-register the game or follow a similar process to what we would do if buying a second hand game.

    That way they would still have to offer a second hand game at a lower price, as you would probably buy new if not. The gamer still pays the same or lower price for a second hand title and avoids online passes. The publisher can ask for $12-15 from the retailer over $10 from the gamer. This is more than a gamer pays for the online pass and less than the retailers makes from a pre-owned sale. Plus publishers would make something from every resale.

    Pubs win, retail wins, gamers win.

    #64 2 years ago
  65. OlderGamer

    “Upon trading a game in, the retailer has to re-register the game or follow a similar process to what we would do if buying a second hand game.”

    One of the best damn ideas I have heard in a long time. Well done.

    #65 2 years ago
  66. viralshag

    @OG, the beauty of it is their infrastructure wouldn’t need to change that much either. It’s almost the exact same process just with money coming out of a different wallet.

    Obviously the retailer would have a problem with taking a hit to their pre-owned profits but let’s face it, they make an absolute killing from it anyway. And the trade-off could be less lost money to pre-owned means more money to make new games to sell.

    It would simply be a tipping in the scales of who pays for what with us paying a little less and money simple moving around a little bit differently between pubs and retailers. Let’s face it, they’re in a symbiotic relationship and need each other.

    #66 2 years ago
  67. Gheritt White

    @64: Seriously, that’s a GREAT idea. But I doubt retail would go for, as you’d be asking them to pay for a service they currently monetise for free.

    And no offence taken, honest. I love this site and its community (Erthazus aside, but def including Salarta). And I also love being able to swear and shout and call names and be childish behind an anonymous handle, as I’d never get away with it IRL.

    You scabby cunt.

    #67 2 years ago
  68. OlderGamer

    It is a good idea. the only down side might be older games that are used for 10usd or so, those might about double in price. But pretty small issue.

    lol @ Gheritt ;) Don’t we all!

    #68 2 years ago
  69. viralshag

    @67, Haha thanks. I thought no one knew about my scabby problems… :(

    And see #66. That would be the biggest problem but I don’t think it’s impossible. Like I said, one can’t live without the other and at the end of the day, the more money the publisher has (hopefully) the more games they would produce. That’s ultimately good for both I would have thought.

    I seriously think the games industry lacks in some decent business sense and management. There is clearly poor decisions made when it comes to certain areas, like advertising and how much they pay for it for example. And like someone posted before, I think they have simply gotten complacent and expect to spend big bucks just for the sake of it.

    @68, That is true. So let’s say there is a timed limit that goes with the game. Maybe trade-ins within 6-8 months.

    #69 2 years ago
  70. salarta

    @59: While MOST of my problem is with the suits, in some cases I do have problems with the people that actively create the games. Toriyama is one such example. I have no problem with creators realizing their creative vision, when that creative vision does not involve ripping apart everything that defines an IP and its characters just to force a new direction they personally fantasize about. I consider such actions on par with glorified fanfiction, and in many cases for recent video games I will actually value fanfiction far more than anything “official.”

    I honestly, seriously think that at this point, with how things have devolved this generation, companies may as well hire actual fanfiction writers at this point. At least with fanfiction writers, you’ve got people that actually appreciate and respect the IP and its characters, and have a better understanding of what needs to be preserved. If that were not the case, they wouldn’t be writing fanfiction of the game to start with, because why waste time writing fanfiction of something you don’t like and that you won’t make money or gain prestige from making? People that aren’t such fans are far more concerned with “reinventing” the IP to fit their personal ideals and interests, what would get them to buy a series they never cared about at any point previously.

    And hiring former fanfiction writers actually works out well. Doctor Who had a successful relaunch, and that success is owed to Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat, both people that were long-time fans of the franchise and who started their writing pursuits via Doctor Who fanfiction. The current industry approach is to just hire famous names or promote certain people and assign them to write something that they don’t value and respect for its own already existing merits.

    #70 2 years ago
  71. digitalAngst

    Good job linking the 1983 crash :) I must confess I am eagerly waiting for a crash of 1983 dimensions. If there is one entity that needs a Reboot it’s the video games industry itself.

    #71 2 years ago
  72. Joe_Gamer

    You had me right up to the point where you called Mass Effect 3 a “rare triumph”….Well, I suppose low expectations are the key to a happy life…The middle class is comparatively poorer than ever and that means less money for any businesses who depend on the “masses” I doubt it will change anytime soon either.

    I think the rich have gotten TOO good at getting richer.

    #72 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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