It’s no secret that the cost to produce games is on the rise, and developers have been looking for ways to monetize and recoup costs since before overpriced downloadable horse armor was available in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Living games have their own share of problems to worry about, but we aren’t talking loot boxes or microtransactions here. How does the developer of a single-player game ensure that they bring a profit in order to invest in better tools and talent for their next game? How do they not make the player feel nickel and dimed for content, allowing additional content to be truly optional in nature?
There’s a debate raging right now about games being “complete” and whether or not they are chopped up and sold for parts when it comes to DLC and additional content. What determines a complete and full game? Is there a benchmark in terms of play time/install size/number of polygons present? If a game gets a sequel, does that make the first game incomplete? If add-on content continues the story, was it clear that the game was cut up to be sold to players in multiple pieces? There are so many questions, but there’s no real set standard or rule book. DLC, expansions, and add-ons are up to each of the developers and publishers to do what they feel is best for their own profits and their players. It’s a balance that players tend to feel should weigh more heavily on their side, but that’s not always what’s best for business.
My personal benchmark is that a game should feel complete and whole on its own, whether players are aware of add-on content or not (Namely single-player releases. Living games are another beast entirely). Story points shouldn’t confuse, nothing should be left out, and certainly don’t save the big ending of your game strictly for those willing to buy the add-on. That’s not fair. It’s like buying a book, and then having to pay extra to get the last three chapters. To be clear, this is a generalization on a very nuanced discussion that has a million jumping off points. That’s why it’s a hotly debated topic among gamers and developers alike. If you don’t think there are tons of meetings between developers and publishers on this very subject–how not to piss off gamers while still making a profit–you don’t know business very well.
How Not to Piss Off Gamers While Still Making a Profit
Alright, now that we’ve all had a long laugh at that header, remember that Ubisoft revealed the season pass for Far Cry 5 today. Already I’ve seen internet warriors upset at additional content being added for a full priced game (among various other odd complaints about it), but Ubisoft really nailed it with this one. Let’s take a quick look at the three campaigns the season pass will include.
- Hours of Darkness: Players will travel back in time to Vietnam to battle against Việt Cộng soldiers
- Dead Living Zombies: Players will face hordes of zombies across multiple b-movie scenarios
- Lost on Mars: Players will leave Earth behind to go toe-to-claws with Martian arachnids
Now, I might be crazy, but unless Far Cry 5 takes a seriously weird turn near the end, I don’t think that any of these will be polishing up the story in the main game. They don’t seem to be filling in any plot holes, which leads me to believe that Far Cry 5 will stand on its own as a complete and full game without this add-on content. No one can argue that this was “cut content” repackaged as DLC (okay, I’m sure someone will try, but that’s just getting into conspiracy hatred of publishers and developers). If I’m in a restaurant, I don’t want to have to pay for individual aspects of my main course, but I expect that dessert will run me something extra if I so choose to order it.
Have you ever played a game and thought of other really cool scenarios that the mechanics could be applied to? I can guarantee that the developers feel that tenfold during the entire period that they are working on a game. DLC can be used to take the formula of the main game, and apply some unorthodox ideas for entirely unique and optional content. Red Dead Redemption did this with the Undead Nightmare DLC. Fallout has had some off-the-wall expansions before. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Far Cry: Primal were actually standalone games built around the concept of “what if,” so it’s not surprising to see that the developers are pushing those boundaries. The team behind Far Cry 5 gets to actually develop these bizarre daydream fantasies once the game is complete.
By doing this, Ubisoft respects the fans that want a complete game from the drop when they buy Far Cry 5 new on release day, but they also provide a gateway into additional content that people might be craving once that experience is done. It also allows for additional profitability on the development of Far Cry 5, without making players feel like anything was cut during development only to be resold to them at a premium. Aliens, time travel, and zombies were never going to be a part of the original game, so it’s either get them as DLC extras or don’t get them at all. I opt for having some desert on the menu.
That’s all to say nothing of the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Far Cry 3, which is being given as a bonus to anyone who orders the Far Cry 5 season pass. To be certain, gamers will still find something to cry foul about, but I find that Ubisoft has done an excellent job positioning the Far Cry 5 season pass as a purely optional, yet deliciously tantalizing dessert platter. That’s just the kind of palette cleanser that single-player DLC ought to be.