In the wake of the various debacles surrounding Star Wars: Battlefront and its maligned sequel, I felt the need to examine the trouble of finding a balance between profit and pleasing the fans in the realm of gaming. Luckily, my gaming library and memory provided plenty of material for the topic at hand. The best example came in the form of XCOM 2, which I initially covered on this blog back when it first came out last year.
Without further ado, let’s examine the game’s season pass, why it strikes the perfect balance between the two elusive goals that I mentioned above, and how prospective developers can use it in their own work.
1. Gamers Don’t Actually Need It.
Before we move any further, it’s important to recognize the difference between a need and a want. When something is missing from the experience, consumers of any stripe may feel resentful and throw accusations of “nickel-and-diming” around. And for the most part, they’d be right. On the other hand, a complete experience tends to lend more credibility to any offer of DLC because it comes off as an extension of the greatness that preceded it.
XCOM 2 falls into the latter category because it tells a competent sci-fi story with no real loose ends. However, the modular format allows for all of that to change in an instant.
Alien Hunters and Shen’s Last Gift are prime examples of the principle. On a story-telling level, they provide some additional background for the player after their apparent defeat in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but not at the expense of the rest of the game. On a gameplay level, the introduction of three alien chieftains is balanced out with some interesting weapons and equipment.
Now that I mention it…
2. It Gives Players New Ways To Strategize.
The aforementioned weapons give XCOM some added teeth in the early game, but it comes with the stipulation that you must not lose the soldier carrying them. This adds a bit more weight to the masterful combat design by forcing the player to think about positioning, placement, and the overall flow of battle. Of course, a competent leader might not need the Frost Grenade or Bolt Caster to win the war, but each tool provides a unique benefits and drawbacks that will need to be weighed carefully.
The SPARKs are a different story altogether. These robotic units are quite similar to the MECs from XCOM: Enemy Within, so they can be an important asset throughout the campaign with the appropriate investment of resources. These decisions force the player to think about squad composition and their overall strategy. After all, heavy metal robots may look cool and do a lot, but where are they needed the most?
It’s up to the player to figure it out.
3. It Doesn’t Cost All That Much.
Consumers are a discerning bunch, so price is an important factor must be figured out on a case-by-case basis. This particular season pass debuted at $19.99, which is somewhat on the low end in the AAA gaming industry. To provide a sense of contrast, many other DLC packages cost upwards of $30-40 for similar content on Steam and elsewhere.
And for what? A few new maps and customization options? People can buy a new game at that price!
But that’s the issue with business in a nutshell. In the modern era, there are strings attached to all sorts of entertainment, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, consumers should be treated to a full meal with the option of some extremely tasty dessert.
Anything less is unacceptable.
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