Timing is Everything

by Steve Bowler on March 18, 2009 · 4 comments

in general

I figured since it’s been awhile since I wrote something (enter excuses here) I’d take the easy route out and offer up a unique opinion on the whole DLC kerfluffle that’s going on right now in gaming news circles.

Hokay, so everyone is pretty much upset at Capcom for releasing multiplayer as DLC content, and then Capcom is indignant about it and claims that RE5 is priced correctly for the content at sixty dollars.  Everyone up to speed?  Good.

I was going to originally make this a piece laying out the ways that Capcom could be going about this.  It turns out this is a pretty simple thing to outline, and the end result is pretty much the same:

  • Situation A:  Capcom screwed up, and dind’t get Multiplayer done in time for the original product submission.  They used their one free patch to fix all of the bugs that came up during the submission process, and decided to finish Multiplayer with a B team while the A team was finishing the submission buxfix requirements, and release it as paid DLC (since their one free launch day bug patch was used up) to recover the cost.
  • Situation B:  Capcom is telling the god’s honest truth here, and decided based on cost-per-feature budgeting to release Multiplayer as paid DLC from the product’s launch/full production.

Invariably, we wind up in a situation that ends with “Capcom screwed up.”  Say what you will, Capcom, but the customer is always right (unless they call the cops because you’re out of McNuggets).  In your case, the customer is calling “shenanigans” on your selling what is commonly accepted as a featureset as DLC immediately following launch.

There’s a reason why they’re upset, and it’s not what you’re thinking.  People have a tendency, when angry, of not being very eloquent or rational.  Trust me, I’m an expert on being angry.  Here’s the thing:  they’re not mad you’re releasing Multiplayer as DLC.  They’re not mad you’re asking them to pay for it.  They’re mad you’re asking them to pay five dollars to get content that should have been on the disk if it’s landing one week after launch.  If you had waited three months before releasing it, or if you’d not charged money for it at launch, folks wouldn’t be complaining.

Your argument notwithstanding, you releasing it at launch tells us a few things.

  1. You feel it is content worth paying for, and is compelling.
  2. You feel that it will drive sales.
  3. You feel that if you released it three months later you’d lose your customer base.

Ostensibly, you should have just put it on the disk and charged $65.  You’d get a lot less pushback.  By doing it the way you did it, you’re admitting that your content is not going to last three to six months, and you want to get your money up front.

DLC can be for anything, but the successful models typically are ones that add value to the original product in a way that rewards players for continuing to stay with the game and play it.  The unsuccessful models are the ones who attempt to fleece money from the userbase immediately after launch for things that should have been in the box in the first place.  Not to beat a dead horse, but horse armor is probably the easiest example that comes to mind.

But it is worth noting that you’re charging extra money for access to another feature in the game.  This is no different than if you had locked out Co-Op and put a five dollar bill slot next to it on the main menu.  What if your game had Create-a-Player?  Would you have decided that was worth an additional five dollars?  Do you see where I’m going here?  You can’t just decide that a featureset is worth an additional five bucks and attempt to tack it on, or with-hold it from the player.

Well, I mean, you can, and you most certainly did, but the biggest mistake you can make here is take the high ground, defend your decision, and then wonder why you’re left holding your empty hand out while everyone else is running to the competitor’s product who gives their customers free updates, not to mention new features, maps,  and gametypes.

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