Critical Hit | Launch Day & Exclusive DLC

By Aria DiMezzo 09.02.2016 6

Rise of the Tomb Raider released onto PC on 28th January, 2016, and was immediately accompanied by six pieces of DLC. While some would make the argument that because the game initially launched to Xbox platforms, this doesn't make it "Launch Day DLC," that would be a mistake: it is Launch Day DLC, because the DLC was available on the day the game launched. That's simply what happened, and it is a problem that needs addressing. Welcome to another Critical Hit feature based on DLC…
Image for Critical Hit | Launch Day & Exclusive DLC
I would contend that, in such cases, the DLC should be shipped with the core game and included as part of the main package, because otherwise we're looking at US$30 of Launch Day DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is fifty percent of the core game's price again. All clever word games aside, this means that Rise of the Tomb Raider released on PC for $90, but players have the option of purchasing only part of the game for $60.

Would it be fair to the people who purchased the game when it was exclusive, to be forced to purchase the DLC while the other platforms got the DLC for free simply because they waited? I would say so as the players on the exclusive platform got to enjoy the game a month before everyone else did, so having to pay for DLC that was released post-launch is reasonable. There is a trade-off here: they got it early, and this means their DLC isn't 'Launch Day' DLC.

The issue isn't that DLC is bad, but it can be bad, and Rise of the Tomb Raider is a wonderful example of DLC gone bad, even though there will be plenty of Square Enix fans lining up to defend what the company has done. Since DLC first became a thing, though, players have lashed out against Launch Day DLC, and we've been afraid since the very beginning that exactly this would happen. Now that day is here: a game has launched with enough DLC to multiply its price by fifty percent. That day we feared of publishers leaving out entire game modes specifically to sell them to us on top of the main title is here; this is what's happened.

Image for Critical Hit | Launch Day & Exclusive DLC

By all rights, Endurance Mode should have been included from the off because it's an actual game mode. The idea that Square Enix would publish this and intentionally leave out a working, functional, and ready mode at launch so that it could sell it to us separately is appalling.

It doesn't change anything if Endurance Mode was created and finished after the game released on Xbox. The fact is that Rise of the Tomb Raider did not launch on PC until 28th January, which is perfectly in-line with the idea of exclusivity at its heart, which in turn means that the mode was ready, available, and deliberately excluded, despite being available, so that it could be used to make more money at the expense of consumers.

There doesn't seem to be much dispute that Launch Day DLC is bad. The only real question is whether the DLC that is available with multi-platform games on the days they launch is considered Launch Day DLC. There should be no debate here, because it's a tautology. The game launched on 28th January, and the DLC was available on the very same day: that, ipso facto, makes it Launch Day DLC, because "DLC that is available upon the game's launch" is the definition of "Launch Day DLC."

An outfit or two being kept behind a paywall would certainly be one thing, but PC gamers should rightly expect these things to be included as codes with the main purchase, as well - as Bioware did with Shale in Dragon Age: Origins, and as many other examples have done. Publishers justify Launch Day DLC as a method of recuperating losses incurred by used sales (which is utter nonsense - but that's another topic entirely), but, even then, the fact that something was cut from the game (Catwoman, anyone?) and locked behind a paywall is disgusting, and an inevitable conclusion to reach.

Image for Critical Hit | Launch Day & Exclusive DLC

This isn't what has happened, anyway. This DLC does not exist for the purpose of helping publishers get paid twice for one copy of a product, so that excuse holds no weight; if that was the case, the DLC would have been included when the purchase was made. Let there be no doubt: these outfits, extra content, and game mode were deliberately and intentionally withheld from consumers so that Square Enix could earn more money. It's not that the DLC exists that is the problem, it's more that there is so much of it, the price is so high for all of it, and that it's all Launch Day DLC.

At launch, the complete version of Rise of the Tomb Raider cost $90, but players have the option of paying only $60 for an incomplete version. That's the issue with Launch Day DLC: it redefines "the game" and "the complete game." At launch, the complete game cost $90, although a special exists where it can be had for $80, and that's still $30 more than any PC game has a right to cost. There is no licensing fee to Microsoft or Sony to be paid here, after all, and the entire reason that video games rose from $50 to $60 in the '90s and early '00s was to cover licensing costs to consoles; for more than a decade, PC was able to cling to its lower costs, but that is fast fading, too, for no other reason than they can charge an extra $10.

This sort of thing cannot be allowed to stand; in the end, it hurts everyone. A few months ago I learned that if a game isn't on sale on Steam for 50% or more off, then there's no reason to buy it since it will go on sale, and I'll save a lot of money just by waiting. I've said for years that there's no reason to buy inComplete Editions and non-Game of the Year Editions, because we know that before a game even launches, it won't be complete until months after its launch, and that DLC will be available. This is truer than ever: wait to buy Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC, and you will likely get the entire game and all DLC for $20. If publishers want me to start buying their games new again, they are going to have to offer more than an incomplete experience at exorbitant prices…

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Great article. My own two cents:

I see where you're coming from, and I agree on a lot of it (at least to an extent), but I can't agree with this:

Would it be fair to the people who purchased the game when it was exclusive, to be forced to purchase the DLC while the other platforms got the DLC for free simply because they waited? I would say so as the players on the exclusive platform got to enjoy the game a month before everyone else did, so having to pay for DLC that was released post-launch is reasonable.

I mean, if it had been six months or a year, I could maybe see this argument, but $30 extra just to play the game a month early? That would absolutely infuriate me. Then you have to think about the logistics of it; Microsoft essentially helped fund the creation of the game through buying an exclusivity deal. For better or worse, the game might not exist without Microsoft's input (Tomb Raider 2013 sold very well but was by SE standards a flop). If Square Enix then turned around and screwed everyone who bought the Xbox version out of $30 like that, that's a very good way to make sure that never happens again, and going back to how Tomb Raider was a financial failure for Square Enix, that could easily also mean the end of the series.

Given all that, maybe it's best to look at this on a case-by-case basis? For example, when Arkham City launched on Wii U over a year after it launched on every other platform, it included all of the DLC. That's a good move, since the game was so old there was basically no incentive to buy it, and everyone who had paid for all that DLC on other systems wasn't likely to feel cheated since they'd already long-since moved on to other games. But if that had happened a month after the game had come out? There would've been outrage.

Another example: Destiny. I bought the game when it came out, the season pass, and The Taken King, totalling about $140 for the game and all DLC. A year later they launched the Taken King edition, $60 for all of the above (now it's $40 at most retailers). Should I be upset that I overpaid? Not really. Besides all the exclusive founder's items Bungie threw my way, I put hundreds of hours into the game over that year, and the new edition brought in a lot of new players, which makes the game better for everyone. But if that edition had launched a month after I had paid $140, I'm sure I'd be fuming.

I think in the case of Tomb Raider, what we have is something more akin to the Bayonetta 2 situation. A lot of fans were upset that the game would be a Wii U exclusive, but that was the only way the game was going to happen. Similarly, Square Enix didn't have a lot of faith in another Tomb Raider; Microsoft stepped up to help produce the game in exchange for timed exclusivity. I really don't think it would be fair for Square Enix to then turn around and sell a cheaper and superior version of the game a month later for other platforms. It's also entirely possible that their contract legally prevented them from doing so.

tl;dr: I think a month is way too soon to give away all DLC for free. It's not as simple as "it's already made so it should be included;" for all of the shady things that go on with DLC practices, DLC is, in the end, a way for developers to make money for the work they do post-launch and encourages patches, bug fixes, new content, and sequels. One month is way too soon to be cutting off that revenue stream and would likely result in very poor post-game content, up to and including the cancelation of future titles.

That all said, you have a point when it comes to things like the type of DLC, its individual cost ($2.99 for one cosmetic item is ridiculous), and the amount of it, and there's definitely some middle ground. A much better example of how to handle launch DLC badly would've been Evolve, where there were hundreds of dollars of DLC for it on day one; something obviously designed as a cash grab rather than a much-needed revenue stream meant to combat poor sales figures. (You could argue that Square Enix has mis-managed the series since Tomb Raider sold extremely well but they still lost money on it, but that's another issue entirely.)

I'm not sure I agree with "the game" vs "the complete game" however; I remember when rumblings first came out about the extra dungeon in Twilight Princess HD, people on reddit were livid about getting an "incomplete" game. Isn't that sort of nonsense? Does that retroactively make all versions of Twilight Princess that we've all enjoyed for a decade suddenly "incomplete"? Of course it doesn't (not to mention how that bonus dungeon ended up being basically nothing anyway).

DLC isn't always chunks of the finished product since removed (it very seldom is, EA notwithstanding), it's add-on content meant to increase revenue for developers by extending the value and play time of the game for players, and the whole idea is that it's optional. You pay for it if you want it based on how valuable you believe the content is to you. I put so much time into games like Destiny, Fallout, and Skyrim that I don't care to pay an extra $20 every six months or so for another 20-40 hours of content, knowing full well that if I wait a year, that content will be free. I get to enjoy that content when I want, and I can rest easy knowing it's going toward development of things like Dragonborn (Skyrim) or Sparrow Racing (Destiny). Hell, paying $5 for Hearthfire in Skyrim ended up directly leading to settlement building in Fallout 4, easily one of the best features of that game; it's safe to say I always know I'll get my money's worth from Bethesda DLC. Again, it's a case-by-case basis thing.

When it comes to DLC, I think we've already seen the worst; things like the microtransactions in Dead Space 3 or Evolve at launch or past Call of Duty content, and in every case where a company has crossed a line, gamers responded, and that company backed off, even EA, who could definitely afford not to. We definitely need to pay attention and we definitely need to speak up when something isn't okay, but charging $30 for DLC that isn't even a month old... that just doesn't fit the bill for me.

tl;dr part 2: I agree with your overall sentiment, I just don't think this game is a good example of DLC gone bad, considering how close it came to not existing in the first place (which, again, is Square Enix's own fault, but that aside, this DLC is meant to make future games possible, and a month is just way too soon to end that revenue stream).

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing:

cracked: There isn't any evidence Rise wouldn't have existed without Microsoft's involvement, and CD boss Gallagher admitted as such. MS provided financial aid, and did the publishing and marketing, but there's no way a sequel to TR would not have happened without them. It's TR and Lara Croft; no matter how much loss TR did to SE, the series would always have continued with a direct sequel for sure. This is definitely not a Bayo 2 situation. Far from it, I'd wager.

That said, I agree with you that this does need to be looked at on a more case-by-case basis. I think if I'd paid an extra $30 for the sake of exclusivity for a month, I'd also be raging at that. I recently said in Anema's Rise review that I expected all DLC to have launched free in the PC edition, but I didn't realise how much of it there was, and I think the short time frames between Xbox and PC releases also has an effect. For the PS4 edition, yes, I absolutely expect that version to come with all DLC in a "Complete Edition" of sorts. In fact, I expect the game itself to release at a reduced cost (i.e. not $60), although I can see them going with $60 for the game + all DLC (I still think that's too much).

I think if the PC game wasn't due for another two or three months or more, then I definitely would have expected the DLC to be free. But I think when you also look at the type of DLC, then it's also a problem. Isn't Endurance Mode some sort of harder difficult mode, in a sense? That sorta shit should be patched in for free. It's not uncommon to see that happening in games today (or the opposite, with easier modes being released).

I don't mind paying extra for games/DLC I know will go on sale/release cheaper on other platforms in the future. It's the price I pay for playing them early. It's frustrating, but it's the nature of the industry today, and it only really happens with me for games I'm extremely into (although it's rare for me, since I don't buy many games new anyway; mainly because of what the article touches upon in games inevitably going cheap after not long). But the time frame is a key factor; I can handle it if it's like 6-12 months until the Complete Edition launches, and it's up to my willpower whether I hold out or not, then. I think in Rise's case, a month is too short a time frame to expect the DLC to go free on the later version.

The bigger issue is whether the DLC was developed to be specifically held back and released as DLC. It looks like this was the case. I think with 90% of major games today, all DLC is developed in tandem with the main game and purposely made as DLC. The fact we have launch day DLC and DLC releasing so close after launch is proof enough. Hell, a difficulty mode like Endurance in Rise is a prime example of stuff held back just for the sake of charging extra. You can bet your ass the next Mass Effect and Witcher will have story DLC. Probably even stuff like Mirror's Edge. It's just how it is. I honestly don't know if there's anything we can do about it. We'd have to stop buying the DLC itself, but I know for fact I am part of the problem. I will buy Mass Effect DLC if I invest heavily into the next game, and probably more so because I know what EA's practices have been like in never putting the previous ME DLC on sale; I don't think I could wait so long this time around to play them. I feel sick about it, but I don't see this trend stopping any time soon, unless we all pulled together to stop buying it...and that's not going to happen.

I am fine with certain types of DLC (cosmetic stuff at the right price, especially in F2P games), and I am fine with DLC made after development of main games (Mario Kart 8 seemed a great example), but there is too much shit DLC now. Sadly, it's not going to change.

I agree when it comes to Endurance mode; settings tweaks shouldn't be paid DLC. That said, I'm not sure about this:

I think with 90% of major games today, all DLC is developed in tandem with the main game and purposely made as DLC. The fact we have launch day DLC and DLC releasing so close after launch is proof enough.

If it's a digital-only game, maybe. But with most games, there's QA/testing, certifications, printing the discs, packaging, and shipping, all of which can take weeks to months. There's no reason for the development team to not be working on DLC in that time, and if they finish said DLC before the game is finished (which isn't difficult given how it gets to skip the printing/packaging/shipping stage), their choices are to scrap all of the finished post-dev work (not going to happen) or launch as day-one or close-to-launch DLC. Obviously there are cases where things were finished and removed to be sold separately (again, Dead Space 3 and Evolve) but 90% of DLC? Not sure about that. I can see maybe a majority of the launch content for the bigger studios' biggest games (EA, Activision, WB, and Ubisoft all have obvious cases of this, but also have some obvious cases of legitimate post-development DLC).

I will argue most day-one DLC (especially from smaller studios) falls into the latter; most development studios simply aren't large enough to be working on the base game and any substantial DLC in tandem.

Even digital games have to go through certification. Life is Strange for example, when episode 3 or 4 (I forget which) got delayed, it was finished about a month before it came out because there were some hiccups on the publishing side of things.

In the case of Tomb Raider, DLC didn't start coming out for about a month after the game was released on Xbox One, so I don't know how fair it is to say that it's "obviously" all content that was finished in time for release. I think it would be more likely that it's stuff they wanted to include, didn't have time for, and then cut so they could finish it while it was going through its post-game cycle (similar to Mewtwo in Smash 4, for example). We could argue about whether charging for that kind of content is justifiable, but again, I think it depends on the case; in the case of Mewtwo, since he ended up taking months to finish, I'd say it was. On the other hand, something as simple as Endurance Mode in Tomb Raider should definitely have been a free patch-in, being so slight and so close to release.

Still not convinced ALL of its DLC should be, though.

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing:

Aye, when I said "major games," it was the major publishers I was referring to - those you mentioned, like WB, EA, Ubi, Activision, etc. Change "major games" to "AAA games" if you like, although I guess I'm not keen on that term nowadays. Course, 90% even for those pubs is just a guess; I've got no evidence for that. It's just what it all seems like when I look at games released from the major pubs today: that they are making DLC right from the start, or at least, during development of the main game. I don't believe that the majority of the DLC made during post-development of the main game is enough time for them to whack it out and have ready in time for day one or right after. Maybe there are cases, and I can't say that with any evidence again, but it just doesn't seem like it to me with what I've seen.

You also have to look at what sort of DLC it is, and when it is story DLC, it's almost certainly a given that it was designed and in development from the start of creation of the main game. Creating a separate DLC that elaborates on the backstory or motives of other characters, or shows what another character was doing whilst the main character did their thing, seems to be a trend. I don't see them just whipping story DLC ideas up in a short space of time to launch not long after the main game.

Perhaps it isn't 90% for the AAA games, but I definitely feel the majority of DLC for these games is made in tandem with the main game. I really just wish I could experience full stories in one package like I used to.

( Edited 09.02.2016 03:30 by Azuardo )

Guest 09.02.2016#5

The key with DLC is did you get a solid game to start with. In most cases i think the answer to that question is yes. There are exceptions see mass effect 3 and streetfighter x tekking the mickey. Now as for launch day DLC, I don't mind it. Think of it from a publishers view. Chances are a game is for all intents and purposes is finished 2 to 3 months before the game actually releases. So do you pay the developers for 3 months to twiddle their thumbs or have them work on DLC. If said extra content is ready release it

How is it that Compile Heart, notorious for putting things like higher level caps, bonus dungeons and characters, and obscene weapons/money/exp/whatever, STILL manages to outdo major developers since it's DLC is 100% optional and doesn't impact the story? How do major developers not get this? Even P2W in a solo game isn't as bad as locking out actual game modes and story sections.


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