A very clear pattern is emerging. Lately, prior to the release of a AAA game, the publisher will often announce the downloadable content it has planned for the game, and players will get upset. They get upset because they don’t want to hear about a game’s add-on content before they’ve even had a chance to play the game itself. The latest of such incidents includes Warner Bros. and Batman: Arkham Knight.
Arkham Knight is set to release on June 23, but already Warner Bros. has announced that the season pass, which gets you all of the game’s downloadable content, costs $40. You can preorder it already.
That $40 is an add-on cost that comes on top of the $60 retail price for the game. So if you want access to the entire game, you’re looking at spending at least $100 (it will cost more if you buy the DLC piecemeal).
A hundred dollars is a lot to ask for a single game, but making matters worse, Warner Bros. has offered only a vague explanation of what will be included in the season pass:
This season pass for Batman: Arkham Knight delivers new content every month for 6 months, featuring new story missions, more supervillains invading Gotham City, new legendary Batmobiles, advanced challenge maps, alternative character skins, and new drivable race tracks.
Is that worth $40? Who knows. We don’t even know if the game itself will live up to the high-water mark left by its predecessors. Even if it does, the idea of paying $40 for vague DLC for a game no one will play until June is kind of nuts. Many fans are not pleased.
Over on NeoGAF, user louiedog wrote, “Why would I buy this now and not wait until the first big piece is out to buy it, if at all? The previous games in the series didn’t have crucial DLC and certainly wasn’t worth $40.”
Polygon put up a poll asking if readers plan to buy the season pass. Of the 17,000 people who voted at the time of this writing, the majority (34%) chose the option “This has actually made me decide not to buy the game in the first place. Yuck.”
Some people on forums have more long-term plans for the game. They do plan to play the DLC, but are willing to wait until the release of the inevitable “Game of the Year Edition,” which will include all of the DLC.
This pattern of fan outrage at DLC announcements has played out with many games over the past few months, including, most recently, Mortal Kombat X and Evolve. Those games revealed their DLC much closer to their release, so it’s possible the Batman: Arkham Knight issues will be forgotten by the time its June release rolls around.
And there are good reasons for the existence of DLC. It costs a boatload of money to make a first-rate video game these days. Those costs simply can’t be covered by a game’s $60 retail price alone. Game publishers count on a portion of players to enjoy the game enough that they’re willing to purchase additional content. It’s money publishers count on. Doing away with DLC would mean games would either have to be less ambitious, or cost more up front.
Even still, $60 is a lot of money for many gamers. The primary reason gamers complain about DLC announced before the game comes out is because they feel like they’re getting less than the full package when they buy the core game.
That makes sense, but publishers also have a good reason for announcing DLC before releasing the game: If they don’t, lots of players will trade the game in to places like GameStop when they’re done with it. Then GameStop will sell those used copies instead of new copies, and game makers won’t make any money off of those sales.
Like it or not, used game sales cut into game makers’ bottom lines. By announcing DLC before the game comes out, publishers ensure that the people who enjoy the game will hold onto it so they can play the DLC. Then not only do game makers make money on DLC sales, but because there are fewer used copies on the market, more people buy the game new.
So let’s assume DLC is a given in the current video game market. How should gamers treat it? The best thing for customers to do is to hold off on purchasing DLC. Wait until one or two pieces of DLC come out, and then judge if you think the season pass is worth buying or if you should buy the pieces you want individually. Chances are you’ll spend less than $40. And if you do splurge on the season pass at that point, at least you’ll know what you’re getting.