Marvel’s Spider-Man recently picked up a well deserved Game of the Year nomination, with Insomniac’s latest being nothing short of a spectacle of superhero video games. There is something that makes me skeptical about the game, though: Spider-Man DLC. It might seem strange, but with game prices being ramped up at over the past few years, DLC has the potential to be a little shady. I haven’t played The Heist yet, as I’ve been busy with other games. I do intend to play it, though, and that’s what I’m worried about.
Spider-Man went gold four weeks before its official release. For those who don’t know, this means that Insomniac announced that the game was finished and ready to ship. With stories of developers working until the very last moment before a game launches, Insomniac’s confidence is refreshing, especially given the fact that they are known for having great working practices—unlike those of certain other newsworthy studios who impose crunch on their developers. That’s not what this is about, though.
Two weeks before Spider-Man came out—two weeks after it went gold—Insomniac released their DLC schedule, featuring details on three upcoming DLC packs. Although this is a way to encourage people to buy the game, as it will be supported and updated to assure longevity, it’s also really problematic. I don’t want to point fingers, as that would be disingenuous. I do want to say that it seems a little odd, though.
BioWare’s landmark Mass Effect 3 had day-one DLC. The day you bought that game, you could buy more in-game content on top of it. Seems cool at first, doesn’t it? More Mass Effect for an affordable price is a killer deal. You’ve just paid for a full AAA game, though. If the content is ready, why isn’t it in the game?
Some of the most well received DLC ever has been released much further along in the life cycle of its corresponding games. The Old Hunters, Blood and Wine, and The Ringed City immediately spring to mind as critical darlings that genuinely built on a game that had been established months before. Blood and Wine in particular offers the player tens of hours of brand new content, with the option to indulge in tens more if they engage with side quests and exploration. You can buy Blood and Wine for a fiver most of the time. The Spider-Man DLC packs are $9.99 each. There’s something up with that alone, never mind the fact that the first one at least wasn’t in the game.
I really enjoyed the way in which Black Cat was teased after completing the collectibles hunt. It was lined up for a sure shot at success. However, it’s still difficult to shake the feeling that something disingenuous is at play here. Spider-Man is expensive—justly so, as it’s spectacular—but there’s no online component and many players online expressed dissatisfaction with the game’s relatively short length. More DLC remedies this, sort of, but only from behind a premeditated paywall. To go gold four weeks before the release is admirably bold and confident; why go gold, though, when you’re still working on the game? Maybe it would have turned out the same and the DLC schedule would appear as is. Maybe, though, something else would have been squeezed in. Who knows? I can’t critique this directly because no one knows, really. I can draw attention to my concern, though, as this is a growing trend in an increasingly monetized games industry.
Shadow of War—action RPG with a heavy dependence on microtransactions. Star Wars Battlefront 2—you know that story, I assume. I mentioned Mass Effect 3 earlier on. Alongside skyrocketing prices, which are understandably necessitated by an increase in production value, players are getting hit with pay-to-play like they’re the moles who have fallen victim to a two-too-many-sodas child’s whack. I completely understand and endorse the need to pay for what you get. What we have been fortunate enough to get in recent years has been a lot, and I’ve been lucky enough to have rarely regretted any game I paid for, be it AAA or indie. Day-one or pre-release announced DLC, though, I’m not so sure.
Some people appreciated the premature announcement of The Heist. I remember visiting reddit the day it was announced, as my skepticism has been on-and-off right from the beginning. People were so excited for the DLC before the game even came out. I’ll admit that I was, too. If this game is great, I thought, then extra content down the line would surely be fantastic. Now that The Heist is out, I really want to play it. I adored my time with Marvel’s Spider-Man. I feel like I’m unable to jump off the fence, though. I’m just kind of sitting there, appreciating the potential the DLC has, but thinking, this all seems to be adding up.