We’ve all grown used to game companies wringing extra dollars from their biggest fans by charging for downloadable content (DLC) after a game’s release. That’s not inherently a bad thing — just check out these awesome DLC expansions. Some recent games, like Overwatch and Titanfall 2, have been bucking that trend and giving all of their substantial DLC for free to everyone who buys the game. Unfortunately, Battlefield 1 isn’t one of those games. Here’s what’s going on, and why Battlefield 1 players are about to suffer as a result.
Paying for maps
The issue starts with charging money for multiplayer modes and maps. It’s easy to see why developers want money for this stuff — making it requires months of work by teams of developers. It’s not cheap to produce.
The problem with charging for multiplayer maps and modes is that it fractures the player base. Some people inevitably pony up the cash, while others don’t. If you don’t buy the DLC, you can’t play in those matches because you don’t have access. You’re locked out of a chunk of the online content.
The effect is that it shrinks the pool of players on both sides of the divide. People with the DLC want to get their money’s worth, so they often focus their play sessions on the new content. People without the DLC are stuck playing the original content that came with the game. The number of players on either side of the wall is smaller than the total number of people actively playing the game. Depending on how popular the game is, that can make it take longer to join an online game.
To avoid that issue, some game companies have begun trying new methods of making money after a game is released. In these games, everyone gets access to every new multiplayer map and mode, whether they spend extra cash or not.
One of the year’s biggest new online games is Overwatch, a colorful shooter with an impressive roster of larger-than-life characters. When developer Blizzard puts out new maps — and even new characters, like the recently unveiled hacker Sombra — they’re given away for free to everyone who bought the game.
Because investors need their profits, Blizzard came up with a “loot system” to keep players pumping money into the game. Players can buy loot boxes in packages that range from $2 to $40. Loot boxes contain random cosmetic items that make your characters or your profile look cool but don’t affect how the game plays. By making these additions cosmetic only, the game remains balanced, regardless of how much money you spend. This system is smart because it keeps money flowing to the game makers while allowing them to continue making content for everyone.
Rainbow Six Siege is similar in that it offers all maps to everyone for free. The paid DLC consists of things like new skins, instant access to new characters, and boosts to how much in-game currency you earn. Respawn Entertainment, the maker of Titanfall 2, is also offering all of the game’s extra maps and modes for free to all players. The developers are still considering whether or not to offer cosmetic items as paid DLC, but it seems likely.
Battlefield 1’s problem
Unlike those games, Battlefield 1 is going about its DLC plans in what now seems like the old-fashioned way. If you don’t buy the expansions, you won’t get the 16 multiplayer maps developer DICE plans to add to the game in the coming months. That’s the game maker’s prerogative, of course, and Battlefield fans have had no problem paying for DLC maps in the past.
But with other games trying new payment models (or, in the case of Titanfall 2, potentially ditching paid DLC entirely), it’s kind of a bummer Battlefield 1 fans will have to pay to access the upcoming online content. This method is guaranteed to split the user base, which isn’t good for either the players or the game makers.
It’s not the end of the world that Battlefield 1 is charging for additional maps. But if games like Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege can make sizable profits on their cosmetic offerings while giving additional maps away to everyone, maybe the next Battlefield game will follow suit.