Let's Talk About: The Stimulus Package & the Future of DLC

Listen. We here at TheXboxDomain.com aren't your financial advisers. We don't know what your situation is in terms of money. We don't even know for the most part what our own financial situations are.

What we do know, however, is that the Stimulus Package, and the fact that it sold over 2.5 million "copies" in the first week, tells grim tales about the future of downloadable content.

Downloadable content is one of the greatest and most innovative concepts to ever hit the gaming world. The fact that you can add hours to the replayability to nearly any game you buy nowadays is amazing. The world almost instantly witnessed the ugly side of DLC, however, as Oblivion's Horse Armor made gamers realize that developers could easily use DLC to exploit avid fans of their games.

For the most, though, DLC has fulfilled it's function. The most evidential example of DLC extending the life of a game, while making loads of cash for the developer, is the Rock Band series. The series currently has over 1,000 tracks available through DLC alone. Those 1,000 DLC tracks, which are priced anywhere from "Free" to $2 a pop, have had gamers spending thousands of dollars over the course of several years, but gamers still play that same old game years later thanks to those very tracks. The concept of DLC in music video games has successfully been implemented and, as a side effect, has also helped usher out the previous generation of consoles, with only the PS2 hanging on by a thread.

The worst thing that DLC does do, unfortunately, is make developers greedier. Remember back on the Super Nintendo when you used to play games over and over again just to unlock the alternate costumes for your favorites? Those days are now gone. Instead of making the costumes that are already on-disc unlockable through gameplay or code-entry, developers like Capcom can now charge money for them.

The idea of DLC has even sparked Activision CEO Bobby Kotick to state that he thinks that he could get away with charging a subscription fee for online play with popular titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. While most gamers already pay $50 a year to play ALL games on Xbox Live, Kotick thinks consumers would be willing to shell out more in order to experience the most popular game of the year.

At first, the idea seems absurd. Surely nobody in their right mind would want to pay an absurd amount of money for a feature that has always been included in previous titles for less or no money, right?

That was the thinking of most gamers until the Stimulus Package map pack came out for Modern Warfare 2 this previous week. Gamers were appalled that Activision would dare charge a whopping $15 for an average sized map pack. The price tag caused such a stir that many thought that Activision would finally be presenting a price that the average gamer would not buy into. That was, of course, until it was announced that the map pack sold over 2.5 million copies in the first week.

That number doesn't represent a success for Activision or Infinity Ward, nor does it represent popular opinion amongst gamers. Instead, that number could possibly come to be known as the turning point in DLC pricing. Now, instead of the next Call of Duty game releasing map packs for $10, Activision will know that they can get those extra $5 out of you. Then Medal of Honor and Battlefield begin doing it. Before we know it, Rock Band DLC tracks will begin costing $3 each, rather than the current average of $2 each.

What I'm really trying to get across here is that purchasing the Stimulus Package has put the future of DLC and potential online subscriptions on a very slippery slope. If developers begin to see that gamers are willing to pay $10 for maps instead of $15, they might begin to listen and actually lower the price.

If Activision releases five more maps for Modern Warfare 2 down the road, who's to say they won't charge $20 for them? Even if 500,000 of people that bought the Stimulus Package decide to draw the line when the packs hit $20, Activision will have still made $250,000 more selling them at that price instead of $15. It's all a numbers game. Therefore, the way to go about creating change in pricing is not to say "God! The Modern Warfare 2 maps are so expensive, they're lucky I like this game so much or else I wouldn't buy them." Instead, just don't buy them. I can guarantee you that all Activision sees when it hears complaints about the pricing of the Stimulus Packing is the $37.5 million it made in the first week alone.