Exclusive Downloadable Content – Friend or Foe?

Guest Post: Josh McPherson

January 27, 2008 Bethesda released some the “Liberation of Anchorage” expansion for the critically acclaimed title Fallout 3 for the PC and Xbox 360 exclusively. As someone who absolutely loved this game, I was left feeling like I was being left out in the cold after hearing the news from Todd Howard, game producer, which stated there were “no plans” for the PS3 to receive this expansion pack.

This got me thinking about the industry and the trends that appear to be forming. Games cost far too much to make them exclusive to just one console (save for first party titles like Resistance or Halo) so where do the console manufacturers go now? The answer appears to be simple. Exclusive downloadable content. Sometimes the exclusive is timed and now with the gaming industry in cost savings mode the cost of development kits may become a factor in the development for DLC content and expansions fully exclusive to one console. The PS3 Developer kit is quoted around $10,250, comparing that to the Wii's developer kit at $1,700, and the lowball quote of $100 from Microsoft for the PC and Xbox 360 developers kit. Likely the higher development costs combined with the new trend in cost savings and layoffs, will drive developers to these lower priced kits as they begin seeking any kind of edge over the competition.

Bethesda isn’t the only company partaking in this new trend. RockStar and even EA have gotten into the mix with Grand Theft Auto and Mirrors Edge. February 17, 2009 RockStar will be releasing the Lost and the Damned expansion exclusively for the Xbox and EA brings us a time trial map for Mirrors Edge in a “Timed Exclusive” form on the PS3.

Part of the reason for releasing DLC, in a lot of cases, is to expand the storyline and keep the game fresh on the minds of gamers and in the gaming news circles long after the release. Of course there’s always the wonderful side effect of generating more money (Rock Band and Guitar Hero have that market cornered right now).

This clearly has a lot of people feeling agitated and unloved. Do the game publishers really have so much money that they can pick and choose who will get to continue to expand and enjoy the games they love or did Microsoft really pay out so much money just to pigeonhole gamers into buying their Xbox 360 console? Do the millions of potential DLC buyers not count in the grant scheme of things?

There have been a few cases where the DLC was only made available to owners of different consoles in the form of a re-release “Game of the Year” edition with the content already included. What about the people who own the original release because they thought your product was that good they had to have it right away? Do you really want to buy another copy of the game?I’m not so sure that I like the way things are going. Not everyone has the ability or the money (especially these days) to own more than 1 console. Is it really necessary to have exclusive downloadable content in the age of fewer exclusive titles? If so, then why not make it a “Timed Exclusive” for a period of a few weeks (ala Resident Evil 5 Demo, Rock Band 2 release)? I feel this new trend is hurting the people who make the difference… The gamers.

What do the rest of you think?