By Andrew Wang
Many, if not most games nowadays have some form of downloadable content or microtransaction system that is implemented after release. There are countless different variations, but what is the best model for this type of content that follows the purchase of a $60 console game? I will be ranking some major titles from recent years on a scale of 1-10.
But first, let me describe what I believe is an ideal post launch DLC and microtransaction model for these games.
- All extra content that is added to the game (such as new characters, guns, maps, modes etc.) should be free for everyone. So selling map packs as DLC is a big negative, because it leads to a very fragmented playerbase which leaves fewer people in the non-DLC matchmaking modes. Eventually everyone has a harder time finding games, and that’s when people stop playing altogether. When DLC is released to everyone, the community stays together and shares those experiences with each other, thus strengthening their overall attachment to the game.
- All microtransactions and randomly generated loot items must be cosmetic only and do not affect actual gameplay in any way. This is so that everyone will be kept on an even playing field. Nobody wants to play a $60 game in which those who spend additional money have an obvious and objective advantage over those who don’t. If spending more dollars can lead to obtaining better guns (ahem Call of Duty, more on that below) then the game loses credibility and this level of unfairness causes frustration amongst its players.
So with those two major criteria in mind, let’s rank a few games in order from worst to best.
Call Of Duty: 1/10
Universally recognized as having the worst and most price gouging DLC format for a $60 release, CoD does just about everything wrong. Yes Activision makes a ton of money from these purchases, but a large percentage of the community hates what is being done and demands that the company change its ways. My virtual scale only goes from 1-10 otherwise this would easily be a 0.
Every Call of Duty game in recent years has had a season pass which includes four DLC packs and costs $50. If you buy the map packs separately they’re $15 each. Then on top of that, the game has supply drops which are opened with in-game keys. Alternatively, “CoD points” can be purchased with real money and then spent on these supply drops as well. The biggest issue with their implementation is that drops can contain actual guns which change the gameplay and give those who have them a discernable advantage.
This problem was most egregious in Black Ops 3, a game in which multiple guns were added to the lineup but were only available through opening supply drops. Luckily Infinite Warfare seems to have learned (for now) and has been adding in guns that are unlockable through completing in-game challenges. This is much more fair and should definitely be the way of the future for CoD. Still, it does not diminish what came before and the damage that has already been done, especially because so many people are still playing BO3.
Battlefield One: 4/10
This game’s DLC model has two huge drawbacks. The first is a paid season pass which includes new maps, guns and extra content. The second is an option to buy class and weapon “shortcuts” which essentially defeats the purpose of playing the game. It also gives people who buy them a major advantage because they can instantly have access to all the best guns and equipment in the game.
Of course those who play long enough can eventually unlock everything, but ranking up in BF1 takes a long time, so trust me it makes a big difference. The reason why this game does not get a 1/10 like CoD is because its battlepacks do not include actual guns. Still, it is holding onto bad DLC habits from the past and should evolve in the future for gamers to further embrace the Battlefield series over its competition.
One of the biggest hits of 2016, this game does its DLC right and follows a model that is effective and fair. All of the add on content such as maps, modes, and heroes are released for free to everyone. It also has microtransactions and loot boxes containing random items, which thankfully are cosmetic/customization only.
Here is solid proof that if people enjoy a game, they will buy its virtual currency for real money to enhance the experience further. In my opinion, the only thing holding this game back is that loot boxes are a little too difficult to earn through actually playing and leveling up. But again, it completely fulfills my two main criteria so I can’t go lower than a nine.
Halo 5: 10/10
For a franchise that is supposedly way past its prime, Halo does everything right when it comes to microtransactions and post launch DLC. It has an in-game currency that’s very easy to accumulate (ahem Overwatch, more on that above), and everything obtained in the requisition packs are either cosmetic or consumable items used only in the warzone playlist.
All DLC content is free, and there’s a ton of it. That’s why the game clocks in at an astounding 97.7 gigabytes, which is one of the largest install sizes ever for a single game. There have been constant updates and tweaks, balancing the game while adding in new maps, modes, weapon skins, and much more. Given all this, Halo 5 is at the top of my list and should be emulated by other games as much as possible.
So that’s my take on how these games fare when it comes to their ways of handling post launch content and microtransactions. Some are great, and some are awful. I would hope that in the future, gaming companies will come to see that free content coupled with strictly cosmetic micro-DLC is the best way to go, both for the players and for the industry.