I remember that there once existed a time when gamers had to accomplish a feat to unlock additional content for a game. This was especially true in fighters, where you had to either win with a certain character or some other set condition to unlock more characters, stages, and sometimes character costumes. It added another type of fun factor to the game, long before Xbox Live achievements and PSN trophies came along. It was a very simple formula: player + win = content reward.
In current-gen gaming that formula has been augmented a bit, given the number of games that can be played online and consoles that come with built-in network access for communication and downloads. Sure there’s still unlockable content that you can get by achieving certain win conditions, but some of that has been separated from the game, giving a worthless achievement for feats of skill and publishing the reward as downloadable content – what gamers affectionately (or not) refer to as DLC. Instead of getting new content through play time or accomplishments, you download them from the publisher. And no, it’s usually not free. On top of the sometimes $60+ you could spend on the game itself and additional fees for online subscriptions, you’ll be forced to spend even more on certain downloadable goodies.
This is nothing new – on consoles it’s been going on since the release of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s another revenue stream that publishers can squeeze out of us, but we pay anyway (me included) because having certain downloadable vanity items is kind of fun. But the reason I bring this up now is that a specific game has run into some DLC controversy recently, not over simple vanity items but characters – the Capcom / Namco joint-property crossover Street Fighter x Tekken. Their plans for the game was that it would start with a limited number of characters, with 12 additional characters being available through DLC – for an additional $20 (at the current rate 1600 Microsoft points on Xbox Live). But they managed it in a very interesting way. The 12 DLC characters already physically come on the on the disc for anyone that purchased it. The DLC is more of an unlock code that allows you to access that data.
So of course many enterprising folks went ahead and made some modifications that allowed them access to those characters without paying the $20 for the DLC unlock. And I really don’t blame them one bit. They paid for the disc, the disc has the characters on it, so in my opinion they already paid for the characters. Of course this gets into a whole other discussion on software ownership and licensing that I’m sure I’ll get into at some point in the near future.
Now the twist – Tomoaki Ayano, the SFxT producer recently talked about the on-disc DLC issue and expressed his great disappointment at players hacking the game to play the characters in an interview with GameSpot. “Personally, I was really surprised when I heard the news that the characters had been hacked, basically. So I was pretty disappointed by that. I was really surprised at how skillful the hackers were, basically. But I was really kind of disappointed that it created this kind of environment where a bunch of players were playing the characters but a bunch were unable to play with them.”
What strikes me as interesting, and to be honest relieved, is that Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada doesn’t agree with that philosophy. “Tekken has never had DLC before and charged for it,” he told Edge during Namco Bandai’s Global Gamer Day event. “This isn’t really directed at Capcom, I have always said this, but I see the characters and their move sets as chess pieces – they are essential items necessary in the game and we would never sell any of those individually.” As Capcom’s running the show on this one, he fell in line with Capcom in his official sentiment. He explained that every player needs to have all the characters on-disc so people who don’t buy the DLC can play against people who did without eating up hard drive space. But it still looks to me that while he’s supporting Capcom in the decision, he’s simultaneously distancing the Tekken series from this issue. And I sure don’t blame him with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 just around the corner for North America, which will give access to pretty much every character in Tekken history.
While I can understand Capcom’s logic in adding the DLC content on the source disc, it still seems wrong on some level to charge people to use what they’ve technically already purchased. Especially when that content is 12 distinct characters including Sakura, Guy, Christie, and Lei Wulong. Sakura and Lei, more so than others with their franchise history, should never be paid DLC. With this one I’m definitely with Harada.
And to Ayano, after we hear you simultaneously admonish and praise those who hacked the disc, I pose a fundamental question – how did you not see this coming?