Is Capcom, and The Game Industry, Backing Itself Into a Catch 22 Situation?

Super Version. Hyper Turbo. Ultimate. Game of the Year Edition. In the gaming community, these are identifiers of a game that has been updated. Super, back then, was really just something that was getting released on Super Nintendo. But now, Super is synonymous with an update that was unexpected after promises were made beforehand.  You can probably see which game I’m indirectly referencing and probably understand where I’m coming from. Before the situation we’re facing now in the gaming industry, Capcom led the charge in making updates to their games. However, back then they had good reason to.

The Satellaview in Japan gave gamers the ability to download expansions to some SNES games, like F-ZERO. Though popular, it wasn’t easy.

Games were released on cartridges and systems without hard-drives back in the 90s. While you had services like the SEGA Channel and Nintendo’s Satellaview (in Japan anyway), there was no way to really save what you downloaded, at least not without a ROM cartridge (like BS F-ZERO Grand Prix and Grand Prix 2). As awesome as it may have been to have DLC back then, it was far from feasible to do and virtually out of the question for most companies. For Capcom, the only choice they had was to make a new cartridge game for their Street Fighter franchise. It may have been annoying to anyone who probably just bought an older version of Street Fighter II, but most of us were kids living off of our parents’ money. We were not in the position to complain, lest we got a new welt on our ass. Coming into the next generation, Playstation and Saturn games still relied on new discs being made for any updates and expansions a game needed. For Nintendo, they had the 64DD and RandNet (again, in Japan). Like the PS1 and Saturn, it still needed an expansion disc to update any current games at the time. This would echo into the Sixth Generation of Videogames.

Come the Seventh Generation, we see the rise of micro-transactions, starting with the Xbox 360. The PS3 would soon follow upon release, and Wii would do this later on (though in a limited kind of way). Games no longer needed that expansion disc to fix something or expand on the game (unless you game was Guitar Hero III on the Wii). Not only could your game be fixed via a patch online (like we covered in our recent Podcast), you could buy more content for your game, like extra maps or characters. In my opinion, the idea of getting more stuff for your games is awesome. Keep in mind, I like the idea of dlc. The reality, however, is something that really curls my poo. Companies have gotten privy to locking out content that was on the disc by the time a game was released. The then cool idea of Day-1 DLC was then revealed to just be a ruse when gamers noticed how small some of the content would be when downloaded. Companies would deny that they were intentionally locking out content on the disc to sell to you later, but the small filesizes gave them away, and companies like Take-Two admitted to selling keys and not really content. Soon, DLC became somewhat of a taboo. Gamers bought a game but not the DLC, or gamers avoided a game as they felt it was, in a sense, incomplete.

The Sinclair Solutions DLC for Bioshock 2 was actually a key for a mode already on the disc

Then companies had an epiphany. Normally, a year after a game is released, either the price of a game dropped, or interest in the game fell off the radar. This was normal. But companies wanted more money out of these games for one more year. So what did they do? Why, re-release the game of course, with all the downloadable content they’ve been releasing for the game for the past year. This is to attract gamers who have yet to buy the game and are “waiting it out.” Lots of us wait it out. After Suikoinfinity told me how he felt about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and after I tried the demo, I decided to wait it out too as I don’t feel the game was worth $60. So these GOTY Editions are great for us (By the way, when I say GOTY Edition, aka Game of the Year Edition, it’s really just a blanket term and not necessarily assessing that a game has received a GOTY award). The “incomplete” game is now complete, and ripe for the picking. But not everyone is laughing.

Those who bought a game early are going to be pissed that a GOTY edition has been released. These are people who bought a $60 dollar game and probably spent another $20 more on DLC. That’s $80 dollars there, $20 away from $100 (before you know it, we may have to start putting mortgages on games). GOTY editions, which  probably have $20 dollars worth of DLC in the game disc, unlocked, get sold for the same price as what they were when they first launched (sometimes lower). Capcom is more than guilty of this kind of practice. While yes, they’ve been doing this since Day 1, they really had no other choice. Even Street Fighter III still probably needed new disc releases. But now, they have the means to update and add to their games online without the need to make entirely new game discs. But, Super Street Fighter IV was revealed, and what might have been great in the 90s is now a ripoff today. This week, Capcom has made a lot more fans upset over their revelation of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Those who bought the Collector’s Edition of MvC3 are even more upset over this revelation. Both SSFIV and UMvC3 are priced at $40 dollars, which could make some say, “But they’re cheap! STFU, you’re gonna buy it anyway!” or “Geez, aren’t you privileged for getting the collector’s edition!”  However, they are unaware of the bigger picture at hand.

These GOTY editions and Super Versions have made gamers more cautious of becoming early adopters. Clearly, late comers seem to be reaping the benefits as they’re getting everything early adopters have been paying for, practically for free. Soon, these early adopters are going start waiting it out too. If enough of these GOTY Editions come out, you’re going to see a huge migration of early adopters become late comers. This will become a problem as companies gauge early adopter sales on whether or not a game is a success or a failure. You see what I’m getting at here? On the gamers’ side, if you buy a game early, there might be a better version later. If a better version does come out later, you just wasted money on an early version. On the industry’s side, games will become failures because people will be too scared buy early for fear that a newer, better version of a game will come out. If a game fails, there may be no GOTY edition. Everything will be stuck at a stalemate, and potentially lose. Hence, a Catch 22, on both developer and consumer sides.

This is a different situation than, say, if there is a sale on clothing, or a car. Clothing is a necessity. A car, in some states, is a necessity. A game is not. A game is that thing we play when we want to escape, kill time, or play with a friend. Do we need games? No. But we need clothes so that our wangs aren’t showing in public. We need a car to get where we need to. We need a house so that we have a roof over our heads when we sleep.  So what if you bought that expensive-as-hell Armani coat early and suddenly it’s on sale for dirt cheap now. You got yourself a coat to stay warm, so you can’t complain. Us, as gamers, we don’t have that kind of defense. So when buy a game early, only to see a better version get release a year later, we will get pissed and we have a right to be pissed if we so choose.

LittleBigPlanet saw the release of a Game of the Year Edition, which touts on the box as have $30 worth of bonus content on the disc.

So how can companies prevent a situation like this from happening? Well first, utilize the internet. I mean really utilize. All those dreams that companies had to try to better their games in the 4th, 5th, and 6th generation are now reality in the 7th. You can make expansions available online. Need to tweak most of the whole cast in a fighting game, or correct that sound problem that popped up when you released the game? Fix it online. You can keep you GOTY edition, but make a massive sale on the DLC you made over the year. Thank the gamer for buying your game early with a gift. Maybe have Makoto in Blazblue free to buy when BlazBlue Continuum Shift II comes out (it didn’t happen, but I wish). Maybe make all that DLC free for a limited time for those who bought a game within the first month of release. Would I call for an end to GOTY editions? I would, if it weren’t for the fact that there are still gamers who don’t have easy access to broadband internet. So this is still their way of getting everything without going online.

Second, delay a game if you need to. I’m not sure how many companies had this problem, but don’t release a game with content missing that we end up paying for later. As Daikuma said in our recent podcast, it’s not our fault you messed up. If you have a character that needs fixing, delay the game and fix it. Want to add a map but there won’t be enough time to finish before release? Delay the game, or make the map free for early adopters regardless of whether they bought the regular or collector’s edition. Finally, for First Party companies that host these online services, monitor what third party companies are doing. While maybe they won’t since they make revenue off of hosting fees, no one will be laughing when no one buys DLC, and a company has no way of paying the hosting fee. And really observe when a company is selling a key, as DLK is viewed by a majority of gamers as a scam and, though far-fetched and beyond belief, the FTC could get involved and investigate both the seller and the host.

Could this create another catch 22 situation in the online space? Maybe, but for now, let’s just worry about what’s happening now. And when the time arises, I’ll be back to make an article like this one and make crazy suggestions that companies can do to make good face.

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