Evolve’s vanity DLC costs more than twice the game itself

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The next big thing in multiplayer gaming, Evolve, is out – and it’s really fun when played with friends, or under the right, fortuitous circumstances. Back in January, Turtle Rock and 2K Games came under fire for the game’s DLC plans; a criticism that they took umbrage at. People are raging about the game’s DLC anew. The reason? All of the extra content in the game – the stuff not included in the season pass – would cost a player more than double the base game itself.

The folks at Shacknews did the math (because I clearly can’t), and found that the game’s superfluous DLC, tallied up, would come to a total of $136; more than twice the cost of the game. Before you raise your pitchforks, remember that this is all cosmetic stuff; skins and the like – which have no bearing on the game itself, and are only there for aesthetic purposes. [Edit] Shacknews can;t do the maths either, as their tally includes single and combo packs hich duplicates much of the content]

This is the sort of DLC I can get behind, because it’s not necessary, and is only there to serve as vanity fare for narcissists with more money than sense. Where I do have a problem with Evolve’s DLC is in locking characters behind pre-orders and season passes. It’s the same sort of thing that fighting games have been doing of late, and it gets right up my nostrils. Why all this DLC though?

NeoGAF user, Agrius, tried to explain it all last month – before being exposed as a Turtle Rock employee.

First lets talk about game prices. It is no secret that the amount of time and money it takes to make a game has gone up exponentially since the SNES days of 2D sprites. Creating 3D models with animation, 3D worlds and all the online components takes a freaking ton of work. This leads to huge budgets but the price of games has actually DROPPED by a significant margin over the years. The price of an SNES game on launch day was $50 or $60 depending on the game. If you adjust for inflation that is about $80 – $95 in todays money. Most games now cost $60 which is about two thirds LOWER than they were in the SNES days. In short we are getting a HUGE discount right off the bat.

Now lets talk about DLC. Since game makers can’t sell the games at a high enough price to make their money back they have to make that up in DLC. This obviously leads them to push DLC hard because they need it to sell or the game won’t make enough money. One of the most well loved and respected games this generation is League of Legends. They have over 100 different DLC champions now, each costing roughly $7. If someone bought all of them they would have spent over $700. Yet people are ok with this. Sure, you can unlock them by playing the game but the vast majority of people don’t have the time to spend to unlock all the characters. For most people, if they want to play a certain character the only option is the buy it and they do it all the time. Lets compare that to Evolve. They have 15 characters in the base game for $60. That is $4 each, cheaper than LoL, AND you get the rest of the game, all the modes, maps etc. The DLC characters, assuming you don’t preorder and buy the season pass, are $35 for 5 characters which is $7 each, roughly the same as LoL. If you pre-order that drops the price to $20 for 5 characters, $4 each. Using a little math and rational thought you can see that these prices are very reasonable, especially if you pre-order.

A common misconception with DLC is that it is done before launch, put on the disc, and then they charge people to unlock it. I will give you guys a little glimpse into how the game development process works so you guys can understand why this is. A character’s development generally starts with a design document and some concept art. From there it goes to modeling and programmers start working on prototype code using another model or sometimes just a sphere. After the model is done it goes to the animators to be animated. Once they are done the programmers hook up the model in game and get all the animations playing at the correct times. After that there is a lot of playtesting and balance work done. Then the AI needs to be done, if the game has bots. This whole process usually takes about 6 months, sometimes more. Marketing will usually start after the character is modeled. At that point they can start making cinematics and other promotional material. The announcement is made to “buy the DLC character!” but interally the character is most likely still 2-3 months from completion with lots of animation, playtesting, balancing and possibly AI to be done. Once all the content for the base game is done the build is sent to MS and Sony for approval. At this point DLC work has already started, with some of the models done and probably a prototype in place. A few weeks later they tell you that you weren’t approved and give you a list of things to fix, then you fix them and resubmit. More weeks go by then they approve you and the game has gone ‘gold’ and starts being printed on discs. BUT the build they printed had the DLC character model on it! The download is only a new EXE and a few script files, thus very small, and people freak out because “they sold us DLC that was already on the disk!!!”. The model was finished when the game was printed on discs, but it was MANY months from actually being finished.

So what about pre-orders? Most would say they are a scam to get you to shell out before the reviews hit. In fact they are something created by Gamestop and other retailers to help them judge demand and make sure they order enough copies. Do you notice that games hardly ever sell out anymore? It is because of pre-orders. Retailers are much better able to judge demand for a particular title if they push pre-orders. Retailers demand pre-order bonuses from developers to give people more incentive to pre-order. In exchange they create signage and other in-store marketing for your game. If you give them EXCLUSIVE pre-order bonuses then they will push your game for you even more. That is why so many games are doing pre-order bonuses, sometimes retailer exclusive ones, because it gives the title a LOT of cheap marketing. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with tricking people into buying bad games; that is what review embargoes are for!

It’s an interesting, inside look at how DLC is handled, even if it does seem to stem from drinking the marketing and PR Kool-aid. Evolve’s most egregious, dare I say anti-consumer marketing tactic is in its characters; locking certain characters out and only having them available for purchase or included in DLCs and season passes is just ludicrous. (Via Kotaku’s Jason Schreier)

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That’s not okay. Not only is it confusing for the average consumer, but it automatically segregates the player base in to haves and have nots. What makes it all so odd is that Turtle Rock and 2K have said that they’ll be offering all of the game’s upcoming maps for free, as a way to to stop the community from fragmenting. To sum up: vanity DLC, in the form of skins and other non-essential gear is perfectly fine. Locked characters aren’t.

Last Updated: February 12, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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