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Buying AAA Games Feels Like Buying New Consoles Now

On 05/31/2014 at 01:21 PM by gigantor21

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Up until the PS2 days, buying games at retail was a pretty straightforward process. Most games were "what you see is what you get" affairs, where the game you picked up in the store that day was a locked-in, static product for the entire time you spent with it. Now? Not so much.

Publishers have fallen in love with the  "games-as-a-service" model. It's not enough to sell millions of copies, or even be a multimillion selling series, even on a yearly basis. No, that $60 disc must be a stage for multiple rounds of DLC, as well as the more controversial use of microtransactions. Take Two recently reported the latter made them $200 million dollars last year, largely from the paid credit system in GTAV.

That extra content is also used by retailers to drive business towards their stores/websites. The infamous chart of Watch Dogs Collector's Editions is just the most egregious example of a long standing trend. Not ONE version of the game offers the full slate of DLC and extra content even if you buy the Season Pass on top of it. The reason? Retailer, platform and region specific content.

When people bring up their concerns about such practices, game companies are quick to assure us they're cognizant of the potential pitfalls. That they're only trying to provide extra value to consumers. That the base game has more than enough meat on it's bones to justify building so much extra stuff around it.

I, for one, have never bought those reassurances. 

As it stands, buying a AAA game at $60 feels like buying a console at day one. You're buying the game and whatever extra content you might want at the highest possible price, just like a console and it's launch titles are at their most expensive. In both cases, you don't get a full sense of what either has to offer until well after launch. The specter of network issues and key features being broken or missing looms over both. More and more, lining up to buy a big new release at launch feels like a sucker's deal, whether it's hardware OR software.

I'm in a "Steam Sale Holding Pattern" on Watch_Dogs for the same reason I don't want either next-gen console until Christmas at the earliest. In both cases, I know I can just wait it out, and get more content with better performance at a later price. A big reasons the "games-as-a-service" model exists is to incentivise more pre-orders and early sales--to the point that they'll promote DLC before we even see proper gameplay, like Arkham Knight, Far Cry 4 and Evolve did recently.

But for me it's having the opposite effect. Often games will have so much more to offer at a lower price down the line that there's no reason to even consider a full-price purchase if I'm not 100% sure. Meanwhile, I'll gladly double dip at full price on something like Dynasty Warriors 8 XL without even thinking about it--let alone looking at what DLC offerings it has to make up my mind.

So how about you? Does the raft of content that devs and publishers push make you more gunshy about early purchases? Let me know in the comments.

EDIT: And then the minute after I post this, Gamestop puts up a listing for a $30 Season Pass for Far Cry 4. Would it kill them to wait until we see the damn gameplay? Or actually tell us what's IN the Season Pass before selling it. For fuck's sake...



Matt Snee Staff Writer

05/31/2014 at 01:36 PM

i don't really care about DLC, and usually get it when I get the game cheaper down the line (Like with DAO) or not bother it at all, like with Skyrim.  I think you're right though, a game has almost become a service, which kind of sucks.  Increased value is good, but I don't think that's what we're getting.  It's better to buy the game of the year version later.  I will buy Arkham Knight when it's new though because I love those games.  i don't give a crap about the DLC though. 


05/31/2014 at 01:53 PM

Same here. Arkham Asylum is one of my all time favorite games; I got the GOTY version on sale and still have yet to even TRY all the DLC that came with it, LOL.

It's just not much of a value add for me most of the time.


05/31/2014 at 01:45 PM

I actually have gotten to the point that if i know a GOTY edition is gonna eventually  release with all the DLC I will hold off and not buy. I actually havent even gotten Borderlands 2 yet and I was waiting on its GOTY edition which still doesnt include everything since they released DLC after it released but Im prolly gonna buy that down the road soon.

Im still buying early purchases but I am being more watchful especially with certain developers and game series.


05/31/2014 at 01:55 PM

I still buy stuff early, too, but that exact issue is why I don't do it as often. And when I do it usually has nothing to do with the DLC offerings that come with the game.


05/31/2014 at 03:58 PM

If it is not on a disc, I forget that I even have the content.  So, season passes interest me very little.  I don't mind buying games at full price, somebody has to, but I just ignore any of the pre-order offers on content.   I should have done BestBuy's offer for Wolfenstein and gotten a $20 gift card.


05/31/2014 at 06:05 PM

If I'm super excited about the game, I can put down $60 no problem. Beyond that, though, it's open season, LOL.

Super Step Contributing Writer

05/31/2014 at 05:55 PM



05/31/2014 at 06:05 PM

Thanks! :)


05/31/2014 at 07:26 PM

You will also notice a lot of games from the PS2 era packed a lot of punch. Many games back in the day had a plethora of "unlockables". Everything from new modes,new costumes,new maps,new weapons, to new characters. Now days more and more companies try to surgically cut that stuff out to be sold to us as dlc at a later date. As such I tend to feel like I'm not getting a whole product with many of the titles I pick up these days. (Though some nice exceptions still linger around to pleasantly surprise me from time to time)

In other words, I mostly am with you on this my friend. 


05/31/2014 at 08:56 PM

Yeah, I especially love how they pretend microtransactions are some nice convenience for those who want to unlock stuff early. For one thing, the game should be fun enough to want to earn that stuff normally, but...don't passwords and cheat codes fulfill that exact same role for free?

Of course, with that option they can't charge for the same content, which is what the REAL problem is. Not "wanting to give more convenient options" or whatever the fuck.


05/31/2014 at 09:19 PM

It would be much nicer if you bought the game for "39.99" then could get the DLC at your leisure. But when they charge "59.99" do you really want to pay "even more"?? Maybe some people are okay with it and they're allowed to be. But this is why I wait for sales and price cuts on amazon! Because of gaming's "modern business tactics" I rarely buy anything at full price anymore.


06/01/2014 at 03:01 AM

I used to think of the DLC as part of the main game and that I had to have it all to complete it, but now I see it as just extra and hold off until I've finished eveything in the main game. I worry about the DLC long term. What if you replace your system and then the DLC is no long available to download again. So now I just see the disc as the game and then the DLC is optional extra stuff. It's kinda annoying though. Then when the GOTY version comes out, I want that so I can have the DLC on a disc to have long term. Don't really like buying a game twice though just to have the DLC on disc though.

One thing though, I got all the Borderlands 2 DLC on sale, but when I talied it all up, I should've just waited and got the GOTY version on disc because it was a little cheaper. The convienience of downloading something quick is how they get you to spend more than you should.


06/01/2014 at 08:38 AM

Indeed, that's one of many ways in which games are losing the permanence they had back in the day. Between losing access to DLC and patches, multiplayer servers being shut down, and more and more games being built around online functionality with an expiration date, a lot of these Blu-ray discs aren't going to retain their playability as well as the CDs and cartridges of old.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

06/01/2014 at 09:19 AM

I hear ya!

It's a pretty big mess. You're better off not knowing about all of the differences and just buying blind. If you don't know you're missing out on the special in-game clothing and special area, you probably won't notice. Little goofy add-ons like that don't bother me much either way, I really don't like it when the foundational game experience is dependent on where you buy the game. The version of Dishonored I bought had a couple of extra (minor) power ups, and I wondered if that was making a difference in the way I was playing or how the game felt. I am pretty sure it didn't, but there's no way to know for sure. Same goes for multiplayer games where you can get exclusive weapons, armor, and abilities. Who is playing The Real Game? This probably isn't really a serious problem, but it just chafes a bit.


06/01/2014 at 05:12 PM

I just want there to be some consistency, you know? Like...all this sweet shit they pull with exclusive content makes it look like they're releasing incomplete puzzle sets, where you'd have to buy 4 of them from different stores. If that makes sense.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

06/01/2014 at 05:23 PM

It does make sense! That would be nice.


06/01/2014 at 09:53 AM

I'm with you on this. I don't buy any AAA game at release, other than from Nintendo, if at all. I generally only buy them when they fall to $20. Meanwhile, I'll cheerfully drop $40-60 on niche games and I'll really splurge on stuff like the collectors' editions Namco has been offering for the Tales series.


06/01/2014 at 05:15 PM

Yeah, $20 is often my celing for titles I'm iffy on. Especially now, since I end up buying digital more often than not, so I don't want to be stuck with an expensive stinker I can't trade in.


06/02/2014 at 11:43 PM

One thing I don't like about AAA games lately is that EA and Ubisoft (25% owned by EA) are always trying to shoehorn Origin or Uplay in. Not only is getting messages from Origin or Uplay disruptive to immersion, but I get tired of having virtual salesmen in my face all the time. I guess Blizzard does it all the time with nowadays and Activision had that Call of Duty Elite service that shut down back in February. I already avoid free-to-play games as it is. I don't want virtual hucksters in games I'm paying $60 for ostensibly so I can have a complete experience.

One game I'll think long and hard about buying day one is Fallout 4. Not because I don't want the game, because I do. Fallout has become one of those series like Final Fantasy, Zelda, or Tales that I know I want. But it's almost not worth it knowing that Fallout 4 will come out next year in a GOTY edition with all the expansion packs they've released for it. Not to mention Bethesda's infamous bugs. I won't have any similar qualms about preordering Tales of Xillia 2/Zestiria/Hearts R, FFXV, or Zelda Wii U.


06/01/2014 at 10:28 AM

I don't mid DLC that much atleast if doesn't make the normal product uncomplete or can be its standalone thing, but I do agree overall with your blog. Probably a reason why I could buy GOTY editions instead of the normal things.

Man, even if I love modern gaming, it's has gotten a lot more complicated (sometimes more for its own good).


06/01/2014 at 05:14 PM

I only expect things to get worse as time goes on. I don't buy the industry's claims that costs won't go up much; they said that in 2005, but GTAV ended up costing $200 million dollars. We're already seeing stuff like the $500 million Destiny deal from Activision just a year and a half into Gen 8.


06/01/2014 at 07:41 PM

I just heard Destiny cost over half a bil.


06/01/2014 at 07:03 PM

If a game doesn't come as described in your first paragraph, I won't bother. I've been lucky so far: I haven't bought any games that felt incomplete.  Maybe the fact that I mostly buy older PC games and only Japanese games on console has somethign to do with it, and I never buy Street Fighter shit anymore. I did buy the Dark Arisen release of Dragon's Dogma, but I still would have bought the "expansion pack" if had the original release; I just didn't have any money for full price games at the time.

Day one DLC, though? It can fuck right off.  I will not buy your game if I see that shit.  It signifies one of two things to me: either you don't care about game design as a craft and releasing a complete product, or you're trying to use some Pavlovian consumer marketing b.s. on me.


06/26/2014 at 02:51 PM

I'm with you 100% with this whole concept of "games as a service" concept. But given the lesser of the two evils and getting stuck with an online pass system, I'd rather take the service than the pass.

Plus I'm a patient man, I can hold out until I know for sure I'll be getting the best deal once all the DLC, extras and season passes are fully realized. that's how I finally got Bioshock Infinite, a game series I was throbbing to play but didn't gather the nerve until I knew what was all there in the end. Got the season pass on sale and the game itself for under $40. I consider that a win despite having to wait almost two years for it all.

If games are suckers to buy in on the online pass, we should expect this games-as-a-service" concept to stick around for awhile.

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