With third-party exclusives slipstreaming the saola on the rotten road to extinction, platform holders are putting a much greater emphasis on exclusive DLC deals. Typically, these arrangements ensure that content remains restricted to a particular system for a set period of time (sometimes indefinitely), with financial incentives and cross-marketing commitments making the pledge particularly compelling for multiformat publishers. But do these contracts ever influence your purchasing habits, or are they merely frustrations that prevent you from obtaining the content that you want?
Sony’s no stranger to these types of deals. Shortly before the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009, the manufacturer confirmed that the PlayStation 3 version of the game would allow you to play as the Joker, a bonus that was omitted from the Xbox 360 version. This had a profound impact on the game’s sales, with the title performing noticeably better on the Japanese company’s console, despite multiplatform titles generally selling worse on the PS3 at the time. The console later got a couple of additional challenge maps, which remained exclusive to the system in North America only.
And this flags the issue with the shady practice. The abovementioned content actually launched on Microsoft’s system in Europe, meaning that Sony’s investment was purely intended to keep it off another platform overseas. The firm arranged a similar deal for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, with its ‘exclusive’ virtual reality missions only launching on the PS3 in North America, but deploying on all systems elsewhere. With the content already built and released for other consoles, both examples essentially entailed the platform holder paying the publisher to stop others from playing it. But is that fair?
Of course, it’s not like Microsoft is exempt from such practices either. Its long term contract with Activision means that PS3 owners are frequently forced to wait a month for every Call of Duty add-on pack. There’s no reason to believe that the content couldn’t launch at the same time on Sony’s console, other than the Xbox maker’s bank balance. The Redmond-based firm has also been fairly prolific at securing deals for titles such as Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 6, and more. It even splashed out on timed exclusivity for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, an expense that was later rendered needless due to the games technical challenges on the PS3.
And this trend is likely to get even more heinous moving into the next generation. Sony has already laid its cards on the table, confirming that the PlayStation versions of Bungie’s upcoming Destiny will ship with exclusive content. Furthermore, both the PS3 and PlayStation 4 editions of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will come with an additional hour of gameplay. Microsoft, meanwhile, is rumoured to be partnering with EA – and we’d be shocked if it didn’t have several high-profile DLC deals in place ahead of the announcement of its own next generation console in May. But do these strategic alignments actually impact your purchasing decisions?
Aside from the abovementioned Batman: Arkham Asylum example, it’s hard to get a feel for how effective these DLC deals actually are. Call of Duty tends to sell better on the Xbox 360, for example, but is that down to the timed exclusive content, or the strength of Xbox Live and the type of audience that the system attracts? Microsoft would probably argue that its deal with Activision has helped to cultivate that install base on its platform, but we’re not convinced. Does anyone really buy into a console knowing that they can purchase a map pack a few weeks earlier than on an alternative system?
We suppose, if nothing else, the deals augment each manufacturer with an opportunity to boast – and with the lines between the various consoles being blurred, that may be considered a worthwhile investment. But with the net results merely agitating other consumers, we wished that Sony would point its cheque book elsewhere. Exclusive content should help to define the ethos of a system, not be the product of slimy schmoozing sessions with third-party publishers. Sadly, we can’t help but feel that this practice is only going to get more and more prevalent as time goes on.
Has a DLC deal ever influenced your purchasing decision? Have you ever found yourself drawn towards the specific version of a game due to its inclusion of exclusive bonus content? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
Do DLC deals influence your purchasing habits? (21 votes)
Yes, I buy whichever version of a game has exclusive or timed exclusive DLC
Sometimes, but it depends on what the content is
Never, I buy games for my favourite system – irrespective of added incentives
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