The free content situaion for PC gamers is great. Maps, levels and other small content are usually given to player community for free from either the developer or the community itself. When developers give away free content, it was like they were saying “Thanks, for buying our game. Here’s another map or two to make your purchase worthwhile.” Relationships between the players and developers were formed. Developers knew that these acts of kindness will convince their players to come back to their games in the future, because they will get their’s money’s worth and probably a little more.
Unsurprisingly, console manufacturers and developers have embrassed the idea of additional downloadable content, but unlike on the PC platform, a majority of the content is being charged for. I do not expect everything to be given to the player community for free, but I do believe that there are certain pieces of content that the developers or console manufacturers should just give away. Multiplayer maps are such pieces of content.
By selling multiplayer maps, the player community is needlessly fragmented. Not everyone will fork over the $12.40 CAD (800 MS) for three additional maps. Their reasons for not paying may or may not be cost related, but the fact of the matter is: the player community will be fragmented. The fragmentation may not be harmful to a large community with tens of thousands of players, what happens when the numbers are lower? The number of people playing the extra content may be reduced, then the player may be stuck playing with the additional content once every 8 or 10 games? Certainly not fair for those who paid to play with the new content. What good is the content when there is no one to play it with? It doesn’t need to be this way: everyone could be enjoying the content.
Who’s Being Ripped Off?
Team Fortress 2 and Valve have quite the predicament coming up. Will they charge for their upcoming maps? The PC player community are getting maps for free, but what about the console community? Valve want to give it for free, but it’s not their call apparently. How can a developer give something for free to a set of players and charge another set of players? It’s just not fair for everyone.
I’m not even factoring the cost of some of these map packs. $12.40 CAD cents for a pack of 3 -4 maps? Paying 20% the price of a retail game for a map pack?
Who to blame?
Microsoft. Maybe even even Sony. Microsoft wants to keep downloadable content as a source of revenue. By allowing one developer to give free content, Microsoft will be left in a precarious situation. Do they play favourites and only allow some developers to please their fans with free content? Why not just allow everyone to give free content? Oh, that’s right: source of revenue.
If you’re wondering why Microsoft is the primary target, it’s because of stories involving them and Epic, Valve and other third parties who want to give content out for free are so prevalent. Sony maybe just as guilty, but when you have free map packs on PSN with no quips from the developers concerning price; it’s hard to hold things against them.
Fortunately, there is middle ground. Developers can give away free content AND charge for it. See Bungie’s Halo 3 Heroic Map Pack situation. Release the maps for a price where the most dedicated (and appreciative) players can pay for the additional content now and then release it for free several months later. The community will be fragmented for a brief period of time, but it will rejoin eventually with extra content for everyone. This practice also allows both the players and developers to show their appreciation.
What should you do?
While it’s not my place to tell you what to do, I do wish to urge you all into sending a message by not buying these map packs. I’m tempted to buy some of these map packs myself since they are remaking some of my favourite maps, but I’m not endulging. I just think of the reasons I stated above and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”