Since the advent of the current generation (PS3 and the Xbox 360), gamers have been inundated with an endless stream of downloadable content (DLC) that effectively turns their 60 dollar purchase into a possibly 150 dollar purchase. For the game companies themselves, this has been a great way to pick the pockets of the consumer, while putting forth minimal extra work.
In many cases, the DLC they are offering, is already included in the game's code, it was included in the initial release. Rather than offering it to us as part of our initial purchase, though they insist on us paying an extra fee to unlock this "extra" content. Some will argue, that this is a great way to get a game out, and also offer something up to those of us that are obsessive compulsive completionists . Others will say that the game manufacturers are blinded by the dollar signs floating in front of their eyes.
With "Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate", I see the future.
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate has done something I have never seen before. It offered up the base game (with a mere 4 characters) as a free download. Let me reiterate that with a little more emphasis. They offered up the base game as a FREE download. That's right. Not a demo, not a timed trial, a full game... for free. This offers up players the opportunity to try the game, with very few restrictions. If they like what they see, they can then go and purchase extra characters, at about 4 bucks a pop. Or they could purchase "Story Mode" for an additional 15 bucks. Basically, what this game has done is offered up an a la carte menu of add ons, so you can customize the game you want.
Now let's take that idea to the next level.
What if, a standard platformer tried something along the same lines? Purchase extra characters for a set fee, purchase the next level for a set fee, purchase special abilities for a set fee, but offer the base game for free. You'd get just the main character, with a single skin, and perhaps the first level or two, for nothing. IF you like the game, buy additional components, and continue on.
A model like this would benefit not only the game industry, but the individual consumer, as well. As we stand on the precipice of the next generation of games, where downloadable digital games, may very well be the future, a model like this would offer gamers the chance to try games, in the old downloadable demo model, and then pay as they go. So, at the end of the week, if I only have 5 bucks to spend on entertainment, I may choose to go for the next level of a game, rather than having to save up that 5 dollars every week for 3 months, I would be pumping my money into the game industry then and there.
Granted, this is not necessarily a new idea. In the end, I feel this is very close to the micro-transaction model championed by many free-to-play MMORPGs (Guild Wars 2 comes to mind). However, the model used by Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate offers up functionality as opposed to the primarily cosmetic options of the typical micro-transaction model.
Ultimately, this model offers up the greatest budgetary flexibility I have ever seen. In an increasingly budget-conscious society, I believe this model will encourage gamers to play the game they want to play, and offer them a new sense of control over the game they are playing.
I haven't even begun to offer up the greatest benefit of all for the companies themselves.
In a world where the draw of the established franchise overpowers the risk involved in innovation, this model would provide companies with direct customer feedback of what the customers like. Stepping back into the Dead or Alive arena here, let us assume for the moment that the company is working on Dead or Alive 6. Looking at the purchases, they see that Christie has been downloaded 70,000 times, while another character like Zack has only been downloaded 50 times. As a publisher, they might then realize that there are very few fans of Zack, and thus they should dedicate more efforts on a character like Christie, and possibly remove Zack from the roster for the new game. Not only will this please the fans, by making their purchases more meaningful, it will also benefit the game companies by allowing them to better cater to the audience.
When all is said and done, this may be the way to evolve gaming to the next level. What do you think?