Microsoft forcing Epic and other devs to charge for DLC

Yeah, just points out that it would be better for the consumer if Sony were more competitive. Unfortunately, they aren’t.

Is the free DLC that’s been on Live before also free for Silver users?

Hey guys, for the sequel to our game that sold three million copies, let’s make it exclusive for a platform where selling the same amount would require the entire install base to buy two copies of the game!

Microsoft has built Live into a great service at considerable expense and risk. I don’t find it too outrageous that they demand that all DLC have at least a minimum fee or be sponsored in some way. I can see Epic’s desire not to fracture their audience, but they are directly benefitting from an online service that they haven’t spent any money building.

When will people realise that the internet is for everyone and that you can download extrastuff for your games for free… One of the reasons i would never buy a console with onlinecapability is shit like this…

While it is imperative that we all feel for those poor, misunderstood chaps over at Microsoft, I’d rather have the enormous added content for a game like Unreal Tournament 2004 that extended the lifetime of the game to awesome levels, at no additional cost.

At the same time, it costs time and money to make the DLC, so charging for it doesn’t seem too outlandish an idea, IMO. They should cut a deal like Bungie did, where the maps for Halo 2 were released for sale and eventually made free after a short time. Until Sony gets its act together and starts competing with MS on a level that will make them change their XBL rules to benefit the consumer more, it’s probably the only way we’re getting anything substantial.

I think you’re confused about who spent the time and money to make this content. Epic was the one who invested resources into it and they are the ones who want to release it for free. Not Microsoft.

Who pays for the bandwidth of downloadable content on Xbox Live?

In any subsidized sort of venture like game consoles, there seem to be two main “eras”: the time when you lose money to gain a userbase, and the time when you shift to making money from that userbase (which will still continue to grow).

Microsoft, I feel, is showing too many signs that they are trying to transition to the “okay time to start raking in the dough” part. They should still be firmly in the “let’s lose money to gain customers” mode. I don’t say this snidely as a customer who obviously benefits. I just feel that the downside to MS having a one-year jump on the competition is that they’re going to have to hang around in that first mode for a year longer.

The first map downloads for Gears were “sponsored,” that’s why they were free. XBLA games can’t be free, see the geo wars story for that. In fact, most marketplace content that is free is actually “sponsored”: someone foots the bill. Microsoft actually has a limit on how many of the themes and gamerpictures can be free! That’s why companies are charging for what are basically stupid freakin’ icons and wallpapers, the very materials they give away on the web constantly.

Why does MS do this? The GAF post pointed out why it’s “good for MS” but it’s more complex than that. MS’s larger publishers - they guys that outright own most developers and are fronting the development bill for the ones they don’t own - want to be able to charge for content. If a smaller number of popular devs, mostly who foot their own bill on development (id, epic, those kinda guys) start giving away free stuff, it sets a precedent and expectation. “How come the Gears of War gamerpics and levels are free but I gotta pay for the Madden ones?” Microsoft is, at the request of short-sighted bean counters and execs of large publishers, setting minimum standards that makes XBL a more direct revenue-generating thing.

Because sadly, if they didn’t make revenue this quarter from it, folks like EA and Take 2 and Vivendi and Ubisoft probably wouldn’t support it. And what’s more, it makes supporting the 360 a more revenue-generating proposition overall, which means more 360 games.

Now that’s the MS explanation, as I’ve heard it at places like Gamefest. I personally believe it’s short-sighted. Giving away content for games like Splinter Cell may reduce this quarter’s revenues, but it might also generate more SC sales in the long term - a healthier “long tail” for the game due to a stronger online community that is not fractured by the buys and the didn’t-buys. And that kind of strong(er) following tends to translate into stronger sales of the next SC game, and eventually into goodwill toward Ubisoft as a whole.

Hey, that’s the excuse for MS charging $50 a year for Live’s most useful features and access to some content early (lots of things go out to Silver members a week late or whatever). We can’t have that be the excuse for MS charging for everything. In fact, it’s yet another good reason for the Gears content to be free! After all, it’s extra stuff for online play. You strengthen online play and get more people talking about it, you start to convert some of those Silver guys to Gold.

This is sarcasm right?

This is no bullshit here. We pay $50 a year for the ability to play these games online. I really don’t see why publishers can’t decide what to give away and what to charge for on their own. Let the market sort out what’s worth the fee and what isn’t.

Amen.

And the market is. Microsoft is saying that they want money for any DLC. Whether the game company or consumer foots that bill, Microsoft is well within it’s rights to demand money to distribute the DLC.

I don’t buy the “EA vetoes it because it’ll make them look bad” reasoning. Did Activision giving away Enemy Territory or the Army giving away it’s FPS make Valve look bad when they sold Day of Defeat? We’ve already seen the interplay between free content and for-sale expansions for the past 15 years on the PC. Some companies give away gobs of shit for free, other companies charge $25 for a map pack and a patch.

I think this has the potential to turn into a good flame battle of a developer who wishes to expand their original IP and the market content provider who has a limited time of exclusivity built into Gears initial distribution model.

Epic has just started a very successful IP. So it is in Epic’s best interest to expand the Gear’s brand as far and as fast as possible by releasing free updates to extend the longevity of brand recognition. Fair enough.

Now this is all purely conjecture because I’m not privy to the initial Epic - MS agreement contract but, MS has “most likely” compensated Epic to initially limit its market penetration to a subset of the overall gaming marketplace. So from MS’s view the maximum ROI is initially within the xbox exclusive timeframe of the original agreement. MS of course wants to control the Gears DLC and price point to squeeze as much revenue as it can before it loses the xbox exclusivity and the initial market penetration point. Because all of us here at qt3 can pretty much predict that Epic’s “exclusivity price” will be much higher for the second iteration of Gear products now that the product was a big seller.

So both companies are looking to expand their respective market shares and generate revenue. But if Epic has accepted an exclusivity for cash clause, again this is conjecture, it’s basically MS’s option to charge for Gears xbox content. And if MS chooses to generate some DLC revenue because of the exclusive market share, I can’t just blame MS. Epic did agree to make this an Xbox exclusive and choose to limit it’s market distribution options by doing so.

Trust me, I don’t like this as a gaming consumer at all, but this is classic MS market manipulation. Don’t be surprised if you see Halo 2 - Vista OS bundles on an endcap at your local Best Buy the day of Halo 2 release.

-JetLagger
Long time reader, first time poster…don’t flame me too hard, it was a long day at work.

Is this actually news? I seem to recall “Microsoft won’t let them give it away” being used to explain why Bethesda was charging $2.50 for a piece of horse armor. I don’t remember if that was ever officially confirmed or if it was just Bethesda fanboys making excuses.

I think that’s the key question. I have no idea about how Live works on the back-end, so perhaps all downloadable content must come from MS servers. If that’s the case, MS is certainly justified in asking for at least a little money to host the content for a dev.

I think the ultimate and most powerful argument against free downloads is that it will prevent console devs from falling into the “oh well, we can always patch it later” mentality that so many PC game devs seem to have.

I think it’ll be even worse since I don’t see how the way PC development is handled won’t be carried on to consoles. What I mean is that it seems to me there will always be the kind of mismanagement that produces an end result similar to Vampire Bloodlines or other less extreme examples. Rather than preventing a game going gold before it is bug-free, it will probably end up being delivered with bugs that simply don’t get fixed.

Whether this results in people simply not buying buggy games that won’t get fixed remains to be seen.

Sure, and customers and developers are well within their rights to bitch about the policy in public. This is the market working.

It sickens me that anyone could defend this crap.