The march towards tiered game versions

9 November 2009
9:00 am

In the past I've discussed the habit game developers seem to have when it comes to releasing new titles with lots of bonuses to entice people to pre-order the game. Today I have something similar in mind: the subject of new games and downloadable content after release.

Dragon Age: Origins was rather unique in the fact that at its launch not only one but two pieces of downloadable content were available; The Stone Prisoner and Warden's Keep were two addons that added extra quests and content to the base game. While The Stone Prisoner was available to everyone who bought the game, Warden's Keep was only included with the digital deluxe version of the title. Anyone else wanting to play it has to purchase it for an additional seven dollars.

While DLCs aren't new in the least (or even unique to Dragon Age), one of the criticisms here has been that Bioware has been making content originally intended for the full game and cut last minute into cash-grabs after the fact to bilk players from real money. While this isn't a viewpoint I really agree with, DLC addons are becoming more and more prevalent and it is starting to feel like unless you buy all the addons, you're not really getting the full game. The Stone Prisoner isn't just a quest, for example, but also gives you an additional party member that can be picked up rather early if you so choose, while Warden's Keep provides a very handy base of operations from which to launch your travels through the main game. In both cases these things are optional, but without them it feels like you're not getting the whole experience.

We all remember, I'm sure, Oblivion and the complaints with the horse armor; at least here it feels like Bioware has provided some extensive and fleshed-out content that, for me, seems worthy of the cost.

Long gone are the days where the launch of a game represents the end of a company's costs towards it; now games have to sustain everything from multiplayer servers for online play or even social networks devoted to the title, so ongoing DLC releases represent not just an enticement for players to buy your game but a method for developers to get some cash even after their game is on shelves.

The biggest complaint with Dragon Age seems to be that the two DLCs were available on day one. I'm not sure what difference it would have mattered if they came out next month, but apparently there is one! All the same, it's all but likely that future games will continue this pattern of leaving some content to be downloadable addons after release, and it's also likely that some of these DLCs will be made available on the zero hour as well. Personally, I bought the deluxe edition of Dragon Age and I've definitely thought it was worth the cost, but clearly some customers feel that this is nothing more than an unfair money-grab to get some more cash after a game is released.

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