Pay twice for the disc: investigating Marketplace DLC

Half a dollar for half the disc, that's the deal, mmm'kay?In the wake of the fallout from the entire microtransactions thing, a Master Ninja (we’re not kidding – that’s his handle) from NeoGAF decided to dig around Marketplace’s downloadable content. What he found was that so far, in some cases, you’re just downloading a 108.00KB-sized key to unlock something already on the game DVD. Normally wouldn’t be too much of a problem, until Marketplace asks you to fork over a few Microsoft Points. That’s where the word wars begin.

Before we go on, it’s notable to mention the “categories” of downloadable keys aMJ drummed up for his analysis. We gotta because each “category” requires differing analyses (or outrage). If you’re interested, the via link below will take you to the list of games aMJ so far investigated, but for now, we’ll get back to topic.

  1. Downloadable Keys that unlock content ON THE DISC that you can ONLY get by PAYING MORE MONEY – e.g., Chomehounds downloadable parts keys, Godfather Favor Pack
  2. Downloadable keys that COST MONEY to unlock content you could unlock by ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GAME – which amounts to pay-for-cheats, e.g., Need for Speed: Carbon
  3. FREE Downloadable Keys that unlock content ON THE DISC – e.g., Ridge Racer 6 cars, Dead Rising outfits

Obviously the least “offensive” of the three DLC keys is #3, the free ones. This brings up the obvious question, though: If it’s already on the disc, why the need to download a key, even if it is free? Is it “encouragement” to sign up to Xbox Live? What happens if you’re the odd 360 duck who, for some reason, is not on Xbox Live? (Is there an option to download the key on a PC, then transfer it to the 360, like with the back-compat updates?)

It’s the other two that touches on a sore spot with many gamers. The first one really ticked people off because it essentially became “double-paying” for the content on the disc. As pointed out by commenters at Kotaku, and as we pointed out before, it’s probably because we’re used to last gen’s model of having more or less full access to everything on the disc, after paying for it at the counter. Extra content we pay for usually came in the form of expansion packs (or sequels) – and we expected that model to stick with Xbox Live, on the PC, and now with Sony and Nintendo’s counterpart networks.

More analysis of a half-bummed deal at the full article.

Half a dollar for half the disc, that's the deal, mmm'kay?In the wake of the fallout from the entire microtransactions thing, a Master Ninja (we’re not kidding – that’s his handle) from NeoGAF decided to dig around Marketplace’s downloadable content. What he found was that so far, in some cases, you’re just downloading a 108.00KB-sized key to unlock something already on the game DVD. Normally wouldn’t be too much of a problem, until Marketplace asks you to fork over a few Microsoft Points. That’s where the word wars begin.

Before we go on, it’s notable to mention the “categories” of downloadable keys aMJ drummed up for his analysis. We gotta because each “category” requires differing analyses (or outrage). If you’re interested, the via link below will take you to the list of games aMJ so far investigated, but for now, we’ll get back to topic.

  1. Downloadable Keys that unlock content ON THE DISC that you can ONLY get by PAYING MORE MONEY – e.g., Chomehounds downloadable parts keys, Godfather Favor Pack
  2. Downloadable keys that COST MONEY to unlock content you could unlock by ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GAME – which amounts to pay-for-cheats, e.g., Need for Speed: Carbon
  3. FREE Downloadable Keys that unlock content ON THE DISC – e.g., Ridge Racer 6 cars, Dead Rising outfits

Obviously the least “offensive” of the three DLC keys is #3, the free ones. This brings up the obvious question, though: If it’s already on the disc, why the need to download a key, even if it is free? Is it “encouragement” to sign up to Xbox Live? What happens if you’re the odd 360 duck who, for some reason, is not on Xbox Live? (Is there an option to download the key on a PC, then transfer it to the 360, like with the back-compat updates?)

It’s the other two that touches on a sore spot with many gamers. The first one really ticked people off because it essentially became “double-paying” for the content on the disc. As pointed out by commenters at Kotaku, and as we pointed out before, it’s probably because we’re used to last gen’s model of having more or less full access to everything on the disc, after paying for it at the counter. Extra content we pay for usually came in the form of expansion packs (or sequels) – and we expected that model to stick with Xbox Live, on the PC, and now with Sony and Nintendo’s counterpart networks.

There are those (on Kotaku’s comments board) who say that this download-keys thing is common practice with digital media, anyway, and it still goes back to the power of choice, so what’s the big deal? Here the Kotaku and NeoGAF comments – and our analysis – turns towards similar analyses from the Lumines Live! DLC. These comments say that it really wouldn’t be too bad at all – if it was advertised somewhere in the box or in the ads. Truth in advertising, the battlecry goes – and somewhere in Economics 101, some economist mentioned that the power of choice is is at its best with “perfect information”.

There’s another perspective from which we can observe this phenomenon: the game’s MSRP. If you’re forking over the MSRP (usually US$ 60.00) for access to, say, only 90-95% of the game, where before you would access 100% of the game, what would your reaction be? Conversely, the “full 100% game” actually costs more than the MSRP if you factor in the DLC keys. To be fair, there may be certain instances where the content of a game’s so good, it’s actually worth more than the game’s retail price, and the DLC is only a way to recoup the price of the extra effort. But those are certain instances, and even then this goes back to truth in advertising again. If we only knew this was so, we wouldn’t be grumbling every time we reach for the credit card (especially if the content deserves it; call it “tipping” the devs for a job well done).

If you’ve noticed, all this discussion centered on #1: content on disc ONLY unlockable by paying up on Marketplace. Much of this applies to #2 as well, although the groaning in this case revolves more around those who pay up to “hax” their game to the next level as opposed to working for it through the game. But this “pay-for-cheat” opens a whole new can of Locust-infested worms, which is the subject of a future article.

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