If you’re anything like me, you’re probably banned from every Waffle House in the county. If you’re anything like me in an entirely different way, you’re likely shaking with barely-contained excite-jitters over the fact that Mass Effect 3 is only a week and a half away at this point. Now, I’ve never been one to hide the fact that I’m an intense Bioware fanboy – from the first Neverwinter Nights to Dragon Age to The Old Republic, I truly feel they’re one of the most inventive and inspiring companies in the market, constantly pushing the boundaries of what a ‘video game’ can be. And even though they’ve churned out massive hit after massive hit, it’s arguable that Mass Effect is their magnum opus. The epic space adventure RPG first started in 2007, and introduced a vibrant new universe in which Humans were the new kids on the galactic block, striving to make a name for themselves. The player steps into the shoes of the heroic and ambiguously gendered Commander Shepard, as they go around to thwart evil armies of robots, and punch reporters.
From a stellar story, to deep RPG customization, to smooth shooter combat, Mass Effect has earned itself a place in video game history. Yet in the minds of some, all of that could come crashing down around Bioware’s feet due to greedy business practices. Spurred by a video posted by gaming commentator TotalBiscuit, the gaming community has been up in arms the last few days over the notion that Mass Effect 3 will ship alongside a “Day 1 DLC” pack entitled “From Ashes.” The DLC features one new character for your squad, one new mission, and one new outfit for everyone in your squad. It comes included with the Collector’s Edition, and will cost $10 for everyone else. This isn’t the first time Bioware has pulled something like this, either – their last single-player game to hit the shelves, Dragon Age II, also included a special Day 1 DLC character. Now, however, people are cancelling pre-orders, threatening to boycott Mass Effect 3, and claiming Bioware is dead to them unless they change this policy. So…what’s going on?
What the gamers are saying:
Much like King Theoden being driven to madness by the incessant whispering of Wormtongue, so has Bioware fallen under the corrupting influence of EA. EA – the folks known for releasing games like The Sims one chunk at a time over the course of 10 years, while charging full price for each chunk – has started to convert the once great Bioware into just another soul-sucking corporation, pulling us in with shiny colours, then running off with our wallet while our guard is down. One common argument, true or not, is that Bioware had already finished Mass Effect 3 in it’s entirety, including the section featured on the DLC, but EA told them to rip out a chunk of necessary gameplay and sell it separate for more money. This is the start of a slippery slope – if now, suddenly, games can cost $70 instead of the generally established $60, what’s to stop games from releasing TWO day one DLC packs for $10 each? Three? What if we start getting sold incredibly bare-bones products that we can’t particularly enjoy unless we shell out twice as much as the game itself cost to get all the content packs? Video games are still a relatively new industry – we, as the consumers of that industry, have a duty to stand up and say we demand to be treated fairly, or we won’t buy your products.
What the developers are saying:
Mass Effect 3 has been finished for months. The process of game design happens in many subsequent steps, and when one team has finished their part, that team is usually then assigned to other things. While the QA team tests the game to make sure there are no major bugs or problems, the developer team can either be fired, or put to work doing other things. These ‘other things’ are frequently DLC – and if it’s short enough to be finished and tested in time, there’s no point holding onto it for an arbitrary amount of time. So, it’s released alongside the game as an added bonus. Don’t want to buy it? Hey, no problem! The game is already huge and complete without it – you won’t ever be thinking, “hrm, some plot point seems to be missing from the middle of this game.” If you do get the DLC, then it’ll be a nice, extra bonus, especially for the more die-hard fans. Fans of Mass Effect, that is, not Die Hard.
So, what do YOU think? Do you believe Bioware has started paving the way for video game corporations to bleed us dry in order to play a game we want? Or do you think DLC is a nice added bonus for those who want it, and those who don’t shouldn’t worry so much?
Me? I’ve no intention of boycotting Mass Effect 3. I’ve invested far too many Potent Emotions into my canon Shepard. I need to know how the reapers can be defeated, how the Salarians and Krogan can come to a peaceful agreement, and how Ashley will react to meeting my new girlfriend, psychotic biotic Jack. $10 may be a bit too much for me to want to spend on one character and mission, though, so I’ll probably pass on the DLC. And if people feel outraged enough to try and hurt EA where they’ll feel it most – their pocketbooks – then more power to them.