At last year's E3, Microsoft put as much emphasis as they can into getting people into the new face of Xbox live. Chat with friends in private chat rooms, send text messages back and forth, watch downloadable videos, download old and new games from Xbox Live Arcade and get original downloadable content for games. Microsoft was really pushing the boundaries of community here. However it is the lack of true community support that I find substandard.
The Xbox 360 launch and launch-window games probably benefited the most from downloadable content. Download videos to preview games, new map packs at a reasonable price for games like Call of Duty 2 was expected but what about the other things Microsoft promised us? When is Dragon Lady going to be able to make her own things for others to download? When can I wear a t-shirt on my game characters that she made? I know I would certainly like to make stuff that everyone else can download. When can I create original gamer pictures? How about letting us create new and exciting dashboard backgrounds on our PC?
See the thing about making the Xbox 260 a community system is that you are suppose to support the community completely. Not just give us stuff to play with for play with for a few minutes then move on. A community likes to make stuff that they can share with others, get feedback, and perfect their creations. But how can you do that if the tools aren't there for the community? If Microsoft gives us the tools that we need, then they're community would grow and become even more successful.
The biggest issue however lies with the downloadable content for games. After EA came out and announced their download content for Madden 07, I started to think that we are being taken advantage of. Pay to play with content that was unlockable in past Madden games seems very unfair and gimmicky. Why would you force the consumer to buy something like throwback jerseys and old stadiums? If I paid $60 for a game, I should not plan to spend $5 to $10 more just to get content I had in last years game which also cost me $60.
However its not just EA that seems to be haggling their consumers. Bethesda seems to be pulling off the same thing with mirco transactions for Oblivion. Pay $2 for horse armor or $5 for one quest that can be finished in less than half an hour. Or pay another $5 to now be reawrded with finding spell books and tombs in dungeons. If you ask me all of this seems like stuff that should've been included in the game before release.
It doesn't stop there with just Bethesda and EA. Sega is finding ways to take your money with lack luster downloads for the game Chromehounds. In order to upgrade your mechs with new armaments you will have to pay around $1 to $2 for separate mech parts. Arms, shielding, weapons, generators, body armor are not sold in packs but sold separately. Last I checked however chromehounds wasn't selling to well either. Could the pricey download content be a reason?
Some companies however seem to have a better idea of how they distribute their content. Ubisoft and Activision has made the downloads for their games worthwhile by creating mappacks with multiple maps for multiplayer. All of this is for a reasonable price of around $5 and adds more than it takes from the consumer. However good transactions like this have been happening long before the Xbox 360.
Remember when Xbox Live hit and Mech Assault was the game that pushed it. Mech Assault had donwloadable content that you could pay for and some of it was free. Some of the maps where no more than $2 a piece and others were free. Other games soon followed with this idea in mind. Unreal Championship allowed you to download tons of maps and Halo 2 had some free maps available for download and some you paid for.
But this latest trend of giving gamers only a little content that you pay unreasonable prices for is not going to stop anytime soon it appears. In fact Sony has already taken steps towards this strategy with Gran Turismo for the PS3. Sony announced that there will be two versions, one with limited cars and the other with limited tracks. Both of which will have the gamer downloading and paying for cars and tracks for their games.
While I know we cannot stop this growing and disturbing trend, we can raise our voice and tell them that we do not accept this. While it won't stop it, we can limit companies from trying to sucker money from us with lackluster content. Make the companies realize we won't tolerate half ass mech upgrades or buy a 10 minute quest with no reward. This is what a community does.