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Value/Price Positioning for DLC is “Generally” Negative

Yesterday’s posts about DLC can really be further clarified by looking at value/price positioning. A few basic ones include:

  • Less for Less
  • Less for the Same
  • Less for More
  • The Same for Less
  • The Same for More
  • The Same for the Same
  • More for Less
  • More for the Same
  • More for More

Before we go further, I want to quote one of the comments from yesterday. This is from a long-time poster named Shutter, who I really appreciate being one of our regular readers.

As someone who makes/sells games, here’s my question: If you don’t want us to stop putting out DLC, would you rather have the base game priced at $100, or for us to go back to Xbox/PS2 graphics and fire half the studio? Because those are the options without doing DLC.

DLC and loot crates exist because the current base game pricepoint doesn’t keep dev studios solvent for the non-CoDs/GTAs of the world. Yes it’s meant to get your money, but so is selling the game in the first place.

And as a gamer I’ll say that DLC is good and lets me play what I want at a price closer to where I actually value it. There are plenty of games that I’d like to experience but I don’t want to 100% (Hi Assassin’s Creed). DLC lets me play the game for the 10-20 hours that I care about, but not have to subsidize the people who are sinking 100 hours into the game to find every collectible.

I’ll also add, I’m perfectly happy for people not to buy the DLC attached to games I work on, if people quit buying it, we’d quit making it. But for all the bitching about DLC, the reality is that there’s a solid chunk of people who want this stuff and will buy an incredible amount of it, and they’re subsidizing the base game dev for the rest of us.

I really like this comment because it opens up the discussion for these value propositions. I’m going to use these value/price points in a slightly different way than usual since these are typically used to compare an offering to the competition or the market. I’m going to use them to compare to their base games. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do well enough to illustrate my point.

Would I rather have a base game priced at $100?

I usually have no problem paying ‘more for more’. That’s how I rationalize buying Apple products, BenQ monitors, TVs with the good Samsung panels, leather in my car, etc. I will pay more, but I expect more in return.

To me, this is what MMOs do in general. They cost more, but you (hopefully) get more. That’s why I’m okay with a subscription. As soon as that value/price position wavers, however, my subscription usually cancels.

For a single-player game, I’d pay $100 for a great game. Sure. My imagination starts to churn out all sorts of ideas like the next Elder Scrolls game or an even better Assassin’s Creed. I get lots of enjoyment out of those games and would likely pay $100 for the ones I knew would meet that ‘more for more’ value. If we pretend there’s no risk of a bad game, then Yes I would pay an additional $40 for a game with no DLC or mtx.

But since that risk exists, you’d be putting games into the same quadrant on the FCB matrix as an iPhone, and that radically alters my perspective. The purchase decision, for me, goes from almost-impulse to high-involvement. Do we want games in that category? This would make a fascinating blog post for another time.

I don’t like paying more for less.

This is where I always feel like the season pass is a scam. This is value/price trap where I always feel like the DLC never amounts to the value paid. The Destiny 2 DLC is mopped up in an hour or two. That was $20. That’s 1/3 the box price for the full game. Looking at it from that perspective, I just paid more for less. Reskins, pointless levels, and small maps. No thanks.

And to my point yesterday about DLC segmenting the community, the Destiny 2 DLC actually takes away features you paid for in the base game if you don’t also buy the DLC; That’s right, you can’t Prestige Raid, Nightfall, or do Trials without the DLC. They’re essentially locking you out of content you already bought. That, to me, is like ‘paying more for less’ to the nth degree or bottom line ‘more for the same’.

They want you to think it’s ‘More for Less’. They want you to think you’re getting more content for such a low price, but that’s a manipulation, not a correct way of evaluating the value/price position.

I Like DLC with a Positive or Neutral Position

As many pointed out — and I agreed — in yesterday’s comments, there are good value offerings in the DLC space. These tend to be more EXPANSIONS than DLC, though. They’ve just been categorized as DLC due to the nature of their release being digital these days. In many ways, I lump WoW expansions into this category. Comparing their value/price to themselves, the expansions are ‘more for the same’ or ‘same for the same’. If ‘same’ was good for you, then celebrate.

Elder Scrolls DLC tends to be be a great value. Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal was awesome value. I remember thinking the Mass Effect 2 DLC was good. Assassin’s Creed 2 DLC was really good — probably the best of the franchise with Black Flag having a good installment. The gems are there.

The Big “Generalized” Picture & Recent Trends are the Bad

This is where people like to jump in and say that I was generalizing yesterday. Yes, I was. Generally speaking, most DLC is hot garbage. Most DLC doesn’t fall into the positive quadrants. Most DLC falls into the negative areas. DLC is trending heavily toward a predatory practice — no, strike that, it’s already there. So when I say DLC is just as bad as loot boxes, I truly do believe it. They are both predatory by nature, rarely provide the value and positive emotion, and typically do not benefit the consumer.

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