Game Company Stunningly Uses Downloadable Content For Good Rather Than Evil

Rockstar Games trotted out a downloadable expansion to Red Dead Redemption, its epic Wild West-set action game. What’s remarkable is that the download, which lets players partake in online co-op missions and adds Xbox 360 achievements and PlayStation 3 trophies, is free. And not for only those who bought the game new.

The DLC is a rare example of a game publisher using it for good rather than evil. Companies like EA have started to use downloadable unlocks that grant the ability to online play in sports games as a whip to lash gamers for buying used copies. In other cases, EA has given free downloadable expansions to those who bought games new, as was the case with Mass Effect 2.

Other publishers hold back content from the final game just to charge for it later.

Rockstar cleverly made this piece of DLC free, buying goodwill and grabbing some headlines for the game a month after its release.


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  1. duxup says:

    I’m surprised. I a few years ago I recall at one point a developer reported they were told by Sony and MS that they wouldn’t allow free expansions.

    • grucifer says:

      This (IMO) isn’t so much an expansion as it is an Add-On. But, to me an expansion could really be it’s own game (as is the case with TLAD and BOGT for GTA4.) I don’t mind paying for a content update that will add 10 hours or more of gameplay, but if it’s something small I definitely don’t want to pay. For example, I loved Mass Effect 2 but haven’t played any of the paid content because I don’t think they give you enough to warrent the $5 price tag or whatever it is.

    • TVGenius says:

      Not sure about the ‘no free expansions’ thing. Criterion put out a bunch of stuff for Burnout: Paradise. Anyone who owns that game (especially who had it from the start) will tell you that game set the bar very high for free expansions and DLC.

  2. dolemite says:

    I’m not sure if it is the fact I’m getting older, or the fact that games are coming with more DRM and less content, that I game about 1/3 of what I used to. There are a myriad of games released every month, and I haven’t been excited for a release in a long time. I’ve never played a cracked game, and I was an avid gamer, but these tactics of withholding content, or forcing me to be online to play a single player game, or preventing me from buying used games is forcing me to just find other hobbies. Kind of like how the RIAA killed my music-buying habit.

    • digital0verdose says:

      So you haven’t played RDR to see what is available to you and you are going to make a comment about with holding content. Brilliant!

      • dolemite says:

        Actually, I my interest is sort of piqued by RDR, but I’m waiting for a sale or something. I didn’t really care for the GTA type games, but this one looks a cut above. My comment wasn’t specific to this game, as I applaud how they are handling the extra content, but the fact that it is rare these days for a company to do something positive. I liked Dragon Age, but I haven’t bought any DLC, because it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth to charge someone for content you had ready at release. I still remember being shocked by the quest-giver in the camp that says he has a quest for you, but it’s going to cost you to do it (and he takes Visa). Or at least that is how it felt.

        • digital0verdose says:

          But you assume that the content that is being sold fell within the same development budget as if that content was never there. The point is that unless you have some financial insight as to what was originally posed as the extent of available content for the game release and what was put in place for additional content, you have no argument to back up your “feeling”.

          What you are left with as a consumer is to judge what you have available to you at the beginning and determine if it was worth the price. If it was, then you also need to judge if a $5 fee is worth another 5 or so hours of game play.

          The cost of games has not changed much in the last 30 years while the cost to produce has. If you really think that new business models that involve getting more money from the consumer are not going to come about then not only are you getting older, you’re not evolving with the world around you.

          Some times these DLC things are BS. But other times, they obviously aren’t. Bioware is a good example of it being worth the costs. Both Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 are perfect examples of reasonable paid DLC.

          • Beeker26 says:

            But don’t underestimate the importance of a “feeling”. If I “feel” like I’m being ripped off I’m unlikely to give that company any more of my money, even if, in reality, I wasn’t ripped off.

            So while, in the case of Dragon Age, they might have always planned to sell the extra content as an add-on, the way it was done put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.

            • digital0verdose says:

              Depends on your definition of “a lot”. Apparently the DLC movement is working as we are seeing more of it rather than less of it. That would mean that people find value in the additional content, regardless of how well they understand business and what it takes to keep things moving forward.

              • Beeker26 says:

                We see more of it cause there is no motivation for companies to NOT do it. There are no boxes, no discs, no warehouses, no deliveries, no retail contracts, etc. etc. etc. So even if they sell less of them they are still coming out ahead of when add-ons had to be retail boxed.

                There is such an overabundance of games available now at every gaming level people are being super-ultra-picky in how they spend their money. Even a hint of shadiness is enough to send many people to another title. DRM pisses off a lot of people, me included. Nickel and diming us to death after shelling out $60 also pisses off people. Punishing us for buying a used game, again, pisses off people. Does it piss off everyone? No. But with the game market being flooded and competition being fierce why would you want to alienate anyone at all?

        • Robofish says:

          Some DLC is lame. But I can say this game is worth 60 bucks.

    • Sbb says:

      Stuff like this allows the game to come out sooner and the developers continue working on it after it’s been released. Sometimes there are things they develop that are not free. You don’t have to buy those! Whether you do or not, the game is still a complete package in its own right.

      • Megalomania says:

        Resident Evil 5 had all the “Downloadable” content on the disc when it launched, you just had to pay for and download a code that told the disc to let you play it. Any more incorrect claims you’d like to make?

        • Moweropolis says:

          Speaking of incorrect claims, it has been debunked that it was simply a unlock code. If it were it would have been much smaller. Have you ever seen a small text file that was over 50kB or so? Don’t call out others unless you have the source link to back it up.

          P.S.: Here’s my source link

  3. NeverLetMeDown says:

    How is telling someone “the game is what’s in the box, if you want extra content, that costs extra” in any way evil?

    The incremental cost of providing everyone with free access to all the Consumer Reports reviews online is zero. So, does that mean that Consumer Reports is evil for charging for access to reviews?

    • VashTS says:

      Are, Are you serious? They are intentionally giving you 70-80% of a completed game, charging you full price, then asking for an additional 20-30% after you buy the game for the full game that should’ve been there to begin with. Wow, how is that evil…..that is a laughable statement.

      • Moweropolis says:

        If I have a car that has 3 tires on it, and I sell it to you as-is, how am I evil if I have a 4th tire in my garage? You bought the car knowing full well it only had 3 tires, you can’t yell at me after the fact if I sell you the 4th tire at additional cost. I never lied to you and let you think the 4th tire came with the deal, so you have no basis for feeling entitled to getting the last tire for free.

      • Baelzar says:

        Say what?

        You think you should pay base price for a car, and get every option for free then?

      • Pax says:

        Except what you pay for in the box, is 100% of the game.

        If you find that quality or quantity of gameplay to be unworthy of the money you paid, then your complaint isn’t about DLC, it’s about the BASE GAME not being worth the money.

    • dyzlexiK says:

      Actually, it would be incremental costs. Bandwidth cost money, and yes, it can be very expensive for a large site.

      Also, a more accurate example: If consumer reports gave 1/2 the articles on review for money, and then wanted more money for the second half, would they be evil?

  4. rpm773 says:

    I have this game. It’s great. I also have a 7 week-old daughter.

    Ergo, I have no time to play it, save for maybe 20 minutes a week.

    • Deezul_AwT says:

      No, you’re just whipped. I have two sons, 8 and 10, and a 2 year old daughter. And I have no problem playing RDR. In fact, my sons WANT me to play as they enjoy watching the game. Heck, I got my wife to sit for about an hour and watch it.

      • pandroid says:

        You know, I don’t have kids, but even I know there’s a pretty big time investment difference between a seven week old and a two year old. Like the fact that your two year old probably sleeps at night.

        I just really hate when people call other people “whipped”. Like sometimes life doesn’t require, ya know, sacrifices or something.

        • Deezul_AwT says:

          When GTA IV came out, my daughter was a few weeks old. I still managed to play it. I say again, WHIPPED.

          Yes, life does require sacrifices. But if all you doing is sacrificing for someone else, that’s not much of a life to live.

          • Paladingo says:

            So video games are more important to you than your kids, because lol you need to live your life. Check.

      • rpm773 says:

        You’re right. I need to try harder :)

      • Doug81 says:

        Just a heads up for those playing with kids around. In the Mexico part of the game there’s a cut scene you wouldn’t want your kids watching. John walks in one of the main NPCs and his lady friend.

    • Riroon13 says:

      I have this game. It’s great. I also have seven more weeks of vacation (I’m a schoolteacher).


    • DigitalShawn says:

      The ending of Red Dead Redemption is an awesome one, not to be missed, total shocker.

    • Javin says:

      I hate you all. I’m physically incapable of using a console controller. Rockstar has said they’re not releasing this game on PC, but I NEEEEEEEED it!

  5. VashTS says:

    I haven’t bought REDEMPTION because of the who GOTY edition thing and paying for DL content. It’s against my JEDI religion.

    I know Rockstar decreased game size from GTA III to GTA IV but still a massive game. BUt if they do not charge for any DLC I will actually not buy this game used, I will buy this game new and show support.

  6. Brian Cooks says:

    This might make me buy the game again if any of my friends are still playing it. I sold it the day after I bought it because the multiplayer was such garbage.

  7. LatinoGeek says:

    I won’t buy it (RDR) unless it comes to the PC (Or Mac). And only then if it does not contain SecureROM. (Steam’s DRM is ok by me as it’s not as intrusive.)

    I’m tired of developers treating it’s customers like criminals with over-protective DRM.

    • Deezul_AwT says:

      And I’m tired of the constant “I won’t play if it has DRM” comments. We get it. You won’t buy it. Someone will.

      • Skankingmike says:

        they buy because they see shiny things and want to touch. then they realize the headaches and then find out later how much crap DRM causes. Especially on PC gaming. You cannot stop pirating it has been around since you could and will be around long after.

      • Pax says:

        Nonintrusive DRM is good. I don’t mind being asked to input a “CD-Key” once, I don’t mind having to put a disk in the drive.

        Intrusive, obstructive DRM that takes an obvious stance of assuming you’re a pirate,a nd then DEFYING you to prove otherwise? Not so good.

        Intrusive, obstructive DRM that not only calls you “probably a thief” when installing the software, but then REPEATS the insult at periodic intervals? LESS good.

        It’s not about whether or not there’s DRM in place, for me at least. It’s about whether or not it would be EASIER to have stolen the stupid software in the first place. Any time a legal copy of a game is harder to install (and KEEP installed), than a pirated copy … the DRM has gone much too far.

  8. SnoopyFish says:

    It’s free because it’s not very fun lol.

    • Smashville says:

      Yeah. That’s why pretty much every review site calls it “one of the best games of all time”.

      • SnoopyFish says:

        The game itself is fun as hell. I own it and played the s**t out of it. But this free DLC pack is using the same exact maps doing the same exact stuff everyone has already done either in single player or online in their possies. It brings nothing new to the table. If they actually charged money for it, it wouldn’t not do very well.

        • Smashville says:

          I actually wouldn’t know. I’ll be honest…the first one sucked balls, so I’m kind of surprised to see such good reviews out of the new one.

    • Pax says:

      Not all games are for all people.

      I am now deeply disappointed that I already sent back my (rental) copy of RDR. It was a great, fun game. One I could see myself _purchasing_ some time, perhaps.

  9. Pax says:

    The article lambastes companies for DLC content that is free with a new copy, or purchasable if you have a used or rental copy.

    And I disagree with the idea that such practises are so terribly wrong.

    Keep in mind, I AM A GAME RENTER. I have a high-traffic, 4-games-at-once account with where my “game queue” rarely drops below 30 Xbox-360 titles waiting to be delivered.

    My opinion is, if a game developer wants to find a way to perhaps eke out a few dollars from used-game buyers or renters, then I’m GLAD. I’ve bought DLC for games I didn’t own – several of the weapon packs for “Dead Space”, for example. Also the DLC for both “Left 4 Dead” and it’s sequel “Left 4 Dead 2”. And the DLC for the first “Mass Effect” game.

    Of course, I do think that the price point needs to stay low; when I had my rental copy of “Mass Effect 2”, I refused to pay $15 to access the Cerberus Network; that’s a third the price of the game itself, and not a good purchase. If it had been, say … $8? I probably WOULD have bought it.

    Such things – when priced to sell, and when not designed to hold back MAJOR elements of gameplay and/or content – are in my opinion a way to keep these development houses financed, so that they put out new and good-quality games for me to play … without my having to spend fifty or sixty dollars “sight unseen” on a game I may love, or may HATE.

    I can rent a game, decide how much I like it – if only a little (“Dead Space”, good for one or two play-throughs IMO), I can buy a few DLC items to spice the game up a bit. If a LOT (“Saint’s Row” and “Saint’s Row 2”, for example), I’ll go ahead and buy the whole game, AND the DLC offerings.

    Either way, the developer gets at least SOME money from me … but at the same time, I never again have to run the risk, at least on Consoles, of paying fifty dollars up front … for a game I wind up hating. _Every_ dollar I spend, is on something I _like_.

    And I can’t call that anything but win-win.

    • Kilawat12 says:

      You say win-win, I say nickel and diming.

      • Pax says:

        So, who is it that shows up at your place, and holds a gun toyour head and FORCES you to buy that DLC?


        Yeah. Didn’t think so.

        You think a given piece of DLC isn’t worth the pricetag? Don’t buy it.

        You think a given base game, isn’t worth the pricetag? Don’t buy it.

        You think the cumulative price of a game with all of it’s DLC is too high for what you get? DON’T BUY IT.

        And in fact, I did exactly that very thing, myself – I decided that the Cerebus Network (ME2) wasn’t worth an extra $15 to me, so … I DIDN’T BUY IT.

        See how that works?