Now the dust has settled on Rocksteady‘s Batman Arkham Knight DLC reveal, the internet is still aghast at the lofty price tag. Afterall, here in the UK, you can buy the game for around £44.99 (amazon.co.uk), whereas the DLC Season Pass will set you back a further £32.99 – almost as much again.
This is a lot to ask of any gamer – to pay nearly as much as a full price game for downloadable content attached to that game seems unreasonable. Here at TwinStick Gaming, we reeled as much as anyone – our wallets cried out in anticipation of the painful separation from our hard-earned cash. As die-hard Batman fans, there are at least two of our writers who know they’ll commit the money to the game and all of its additional content.
However, the more we’ve thought about it, the more we’ve realised there are two sides to this debate. There’s the consumer’s point of view and the developer / publisher’s point of view. We feel it’s important to understand both sides of the argument – so we can make an informed decision (or at least justify all the money we keep spending on Batman merchandise).
Arkham Knight DLC from the Consumer Point of View
This perspective is easy to get your head around. We, as consumers, want the full experience of the game – we want the full story and we’re willing to pay ‘full price’ for this. When we drop £50 on a game, we don’t want to discover there’s a chunk of content missing. After all, if you bought a book at the RRP and then found 3 chapters had been left out and cost as much again to access, we’d be pretty annoyed. Likewise with movies, imagine getting two-thirds through the movie, then the lights come up and everyone has to buy a new ticket for the final third? There’d be rioting in the foyer!
This may be an oversimplified comparison, but the consumers have a point. If we’re paying top dollar, surely we deserve a complete game? And that’s only half the problem here. Rocksteady have made a bit of a misstep here, not only have they announced the price of the DLC, they’ve also failed to announce what the actual content is!
Without these specifics, consumers are left pondering the worth of this £33 content. Rocksteady may have pledged ‘new content every month for the first 6 months’ – but if that content is a new character skin on month one, a new challenge map on month two, etc. Consumers are likely to feel pretty ripped off. Whilst this scenario is unlikely – in the past Rocksteady have produced some excellent DLC – it is indicative of the fear people will have when it comes to considering such an expensive package.
Even if the content IS of the highest quality, will there still be enough of it to justify the price tag? Last year when Naughty Dog released ‘The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC’ it was one of the best pieces of DLC we’ve ever seen – but it wasn’t worth £33. Six chapters of that caliber of content however, definitely would be! Unfortunately, the chances of that being the quality of every piece of the Batman Arkham Knight DLC is as unlikely as it only being skins and a challenge map.
The quality, in all likelihood, probably lies somewhere in-between.
Arkham Knight DLC from The Publisher and Developer Point of View
When you sit down and look at this, in the context of video games in general and in particular, the latest generation of consoles, this too doesn’t take much of a leap to understand.
Videogames are expensive. They’re an expensive hobby for you and I. They’re expensive to make. However, only one of these facts has changed exponentially in the last decade or two. Shuffle back to the SNES’ heyday – and our fledgling TwinStick writers (this one at least) was happily dropping his hard saved pocket-money on some VERY expensive games. Super Street Fighter 2 – £60, Donkey Kong Country – £60, heck – I spent £49 on the SNES version of Flashback when it first came out!
We expect to pay a lot for videogames. However, while production costs for videogames have increased rapidly and repeatedly over the past 20 years, the price of games for the consumer – has actually gone down. Granted, games are also selling quite a lot more (if they’re successful anyway) than they would have done back in 1994/5, but this is not a risk free business model by any stretch of the imagination.
Developers and publishers actually, realistically, need you to spend more on individual units to keep money coming in, keep investors and shareholders happy and – ultimately – keep their doors open. For every runaway ‘Rockstar Games’ success, there are more than a couple of ‘THQ’ tales of bankruptcy and liquidation.
Herein lies the problem. Rocksteady can’t just come out and say ‘right, we’re bringing a new game, to a new generation and we’re going to make all our games from here on have a price point of £89’ – that just wouldn’t work. Consumers definitely would not go for that. Even if the content they’re producing has that kind of production value, cost so much more to make – an £89 pricetag for games will just see gamers walk away.
So now they have an expensive product with a price point that can’t go above the price of all the other triple-A titles – so they have to think outside of the box. They have opted instead to offer the ‘core’ experience of Batman Arkham Knight at the regular price point – then created a host of additional content and features that add to the overall experience and charged the additional £33 for that content. Or, alternatively, to pick and choose the aspects of it that DO interest you and simply buy that content and leave the rest alone.
When you look at it in that context things start to make a little more sense. It still might not sit well with consumers, but it no longer looks like pure greed on the part of developer, Rocksteady or publisher, Warner Bros. Furthermore, it’s not as though there isn’t a precedent set for this. Call of Duty Season passes typically come in at £40 and few people bat (no pun intended) an eyelid. Perhaps it’s the fact that CoD delivers multiplayer content which has greater replay value than single player? But still, this is something that is already happening.
There is an additional factor that shouldn’t be over looked here. Rocksteady are one of the precious few companies who are really listening to consumers and giving them what they want.
What do I mean? Next Gen.
With every studio seeming to release games that are either HD remakes of older classics OR releasing a ‘next-gen’ game ALSO on PS3 and Xbox 360 – hampering the next-gen model so that last generation gamers don’t feel they’re getting a totally inferior product, Rocksteady are doing it differently. They’re saying: ‘you want next-gen experiences? We’re developing Batman EXCLUSIVELY for next gen machines.’ This means they are not hemmed in by old technology, they can push further and harder than 95% of the games hitting the market right now.
However, this comes with a MASSIVE downside for the developer / publisher because what they’re also giving up an enormous install base on PS3 and Xbox One. The combined sales of PS3 and 360 are pushing around 190 million consoles worldwide. The potential sales of the final installment of the Arkham franchise would have been HUGE if brought to last generation’s consoles too. Rocksteady have instead, refused to compromise the vision for the game and committed themselves to next-gen only development.
No-one will be happier to see the lightning fast sales of the PS4 and Xbox One than Rocksteady right now. With over 22 million PS4s sold alone, their game has a chance of hitting it relatively big – especially given the demand for high-end, triple A titles right now.
Springer’s Final Thoughts on the Arkham Knight DLC
Consumers HAVE to back developers that take these chances if games are to move forward and expand to their true potential on the next-gen consoles. The fact that Rocksteady are still offering the stand alone experience at a sub £60 price point should be applauded. The fact that they’re prepared to offer even more quality content to those die-hard fans that are willing to support them – but not be forced upon other consumers – is also something that deserves applauding.
Sadly, for me, the only thing they got wrong was to release the price point before the details. When the price is all people have to discuss, that’s what is bound to come under heavy fire. More details are starting to emerge (see Batgirl DLC), but people now need to understand the value of the content beyond supporting an awesome studio bringing us more of the Batman we love.
On the flip-side, maybe it IS better to get that Batman Arkham Knight DLC price out in front? Now when they release more and more details, hopefully the conversation will switch to ‘and you get ALL of that for you £32.99? That’s amazing!’
We wish you all the best Rocksteady, no-one wants this to be successful more than the gamers housed within the TwinStick Towers – we will watch future developments with growing interest!