Buy Now, Pay Now, Pay Later -- Are Game Companies Ripping Us Off?

I won't lie, this news made me a bit angry.

See that door over on the other side? It's $5 to see what's on the other side.
See that door over on the other side? It's $5 to see what's on the other side.

On the surface it's a relatively good idea -- Gears, as a game which will undoubtedly be successful and played online for many months to come, is sure to have plenty of DLC already planned, so why shouldn't gamers be able to effectively "preorder" the add-ons for a lower price? There are doubtless those who will happily throw down 60 notes for a copy of Gears and then purchase the Season Pass without a second thought. This will put their total cost for Gears of War 3 up to the $90 mark but ensure they won't have any ongoing costs as new stuff comes out for the game. It's like the "lifetime subscription" option which a lot of new MMOs offer, only marginally cheaper. Except you're not playing a continually-shifting MMO -- you're playing a game which will apparently get four packs of DLC over its lifetime.

For a publisher to willfully admit up front that the game you're buying in the box on the shelf is not the complete experience, and that if you want to guarantee yourself said complete experience you should spend at least half as much again? That, to me, seems not only a bit rude but rather presumptuous -- particularly when the announcement of this additional content comes before the game has even been released.

So far as big-name games on the HD consoles go, that's the way things are going. It's enough to give you pause when a new game comes out -- on the one hand, you want to play the awesome new game that's just been released, but on the other, you'd quite like to wait until the game is actually finished. Publishers seem to see this "Season Pass" system as some sort of happy medium meant to placate people like me, but I don't buy it. Literally.

While I respect publishers' rights to want to extract as much money as possible out of their player base -- they're running a business, after all -- it's nice to be able to buy a game on day 1, open the box, not have to enter a bunch of codes and -- importantly -- not have to spend any further money up front to "preorder" stuff coming down the line which may or may not be any good. What if the proposed four packs of DLC for Gears 3 turn out to be complete garbage? That's half of a new game (or a copy of Deadly Premonition) down the toilet -- and as Microsoft reminds you every time you buy Marketplace content, there are no refunds.

Personally speaking, I find myself increasingly playing games which are either independently published -- and therefore, in most cases, done for "the love" rather than to follow an in-depth business plan (read: make as much money as possible) -- or on platforms like the PS2 and Wii where you buy a game once and that's it -- no further costs. Case in point: Xenoblade Chronicles. While the fact that it's on the Wii and as a result features low-resolution graphics may deter some, its gameplay is extremely solid and I know for a fact that it will offer me a complete, satisfying experience without an immediate $30 surcharge to guarantee I'll see everything the game has to offer.

DLC's not going away; I'm not so naïve as to believe that a few voices of dissent will change the way large publishers do business. But I do find myself wondering how many other long time gamers feel as I do -- that their passion and commitment to their hobby is somewhat being taken advantage of?

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Editorial: Buy Now, Pay Now, Pay Later

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