Update: Several commenters have pointed out that the size of the download seems to indicate that your $5 gets you new code, not just an unlock key. The original post is below.
If you buy a video game, and later the publisher offers an add-on feature (like a new level or co-op play), you’ll almost certainly have to pay extra for it. This doesn’t seem that odd—after all, the publisher spent time and money creating new content for the title, and is now selling it to you. The newly “released” unlockable versus mode for Resident Evil 5—a feature many gamers felt should have been included with the game to begin with—was actually hidden on the disc when it shipped, and Capcom is charging US customers $5 to unlock it.
Capcom defended itself to IGN by saying they still required extra resources to develop the versus mode functionality,so it’s justified in charging extra. But in order to ship with the game, Capcom had to develop the versus mode functionality in tandem with the rest of the game, test it at the same time as the rest of the game, and package it with the rest of the game. It’s not in any way new creative content—it’s just a gameplay feature.
So is this really new content that’s worth paying $5 more for? Or did Capcom just look at the game, pick a component they felt they could turn off without harming the main playing experience, and then use that to spontaneously create another profit stream? Instead of creating and selling new content like Fable, Fallout 3, or Oblivion, they simply locked up part of the game’s functionality and are now selling the key.
Nintendo’s DS game Professor Layton and the Curious Village did a similar thing a year or so ago—the “downloadable” additional games actually shipped on the cartridge, even though you had to connect via wifi to access them. The difference there, though, was Nintendo didn’t try to gouge its customers to pay more money for content that was already on the game.
“RE5 DLC Already on Disc” [IGN] (Thanks to Toland!)