Note: WriOps is the intersection of writing and opinions on controversial topics in the gaming industry. The opinion of this article does not necessarily reflect the official opinions of NextLevel Gaming Online as an organization.
One of the biggest issues of contention in the video game industry at the moment surrounds DLC. In recent years, game publishers’ practices of releasing DLC have come under heavy fire for one reason or another. Unfortunately, this issue has arisen for one of the leading developers of fighting games, NetherRealm Studios.
I’m a huge fan of NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat franchise, and a moderate fan of Injustice: Gods Among Us. I say “moderate” because while the DC fighting game received high praise from a large majority of fans and critics, I found myself in the minority with a middling opinion of the title. If I were to rate the first Injustice on NextLevel’s grading scale, I’d give it somewhere in the low 70’s. It’s not bad, but the game has so little soul that it fails to live up to Warner Bros. Interactive’s other legendary projects. It’s just mediocre.
In addition, I’m a huge DC fan, meaning that I want to see these characters portrayed well. And so far, NetherRealm is reviving my hope.
Even factoring in my quarrels with the original, I’ll be the first to say that Injustice 2 looks incredibly promising. The character roster removed most of the lame fighters and added some great new heroes and villains. The new customization system looks strategic and entertaining, even if it makes me worry about balancing issues. And the graphics. Oh, the graphics. I don’t even stake my enjoyment of a game on visuals, but check out Injustice 2’s major improvement over the horrible monstrosity the original title tried to pass off as Wonder Woman. I can’t help but find myself excited to review the sequel later this month.
Regarding the DLC issue, NetherRealm studios recently announced three new characters for Injustice 2: fan favorite Red Hood, classic Teen Titans member Starfire, and Mortal Kombat guest Sub-Zero. And boy, do they look spectacular.
Fans have been requesting these three characters since the game’s announcement, and NetherRealm is delivering. But there’s a catch. These characters are the first three of nine DLC characters to be released for the game, and they are only included with the Deluxe Edition and the Ultimate Edition, which will cost $79.99 and $99.99 respectively.
But frankly, the price isn’t the problem with this announcement. The problem is the timing. This first DLC pack is in mid-development and being advertised two weeks before the game is released. That means that rather than expanding on a tried-and-true title, this DLC is actually a prepared piece of the base experience, cut away from the main release and locked behind a door with an expensive key.
Back in the era of the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, DLC didn’t have controversy surrounding it all the time because the packs of content were expansions on complete games. If a game was great at launch, it usually performed well and its fans craved more. When this DLC released, it was building upon a pre-established foundation. It was an improvement on the product that served the fanbase, and as a result, it profited the industry.
A modern champion of this system is Grand Theft Auto V, or specifically, GTA online. Rockstar took its time to craft an ambitious experience that started a revolution among the general gaming audience. The game was a financial and critical grand slam, enough to incite emulations from other industries trying recapture that lightning in a bottle. Normally games of that stature only maintain a community for a short while before a sequel drops or another fad comes along, but GTA online released in 2013 and it’s still one of the best-selling titles today. Why? Because Rockstar’s DLC is offering support and keeping fans entertained. Regular expansions of genuine quality are keeping fans interested in a game they’ve collectively spent millions of hours playing, and the content is so desirable that players are upgrading to the new versions of the title for PC and next-gen consoles, along with purchasing optional monetary transactions for in-game currency. The game is good, and the DLC is making it better afterwards, serving the fans and making them happy. This is paying off in a legendary way for Rockstar, both in reputation and in profit. Other games that have accomplished this formula in recent years include Rainbow Six: Siege, League of Legends, and Hearthstone.
However, in the age of pre-ordering, season passes, and deluxe editions, this formula is beginning to become obsolete. Incomplete games are everywhere, separated from a bulk of their content upon release. Destiny’s experience was wide, but shallow, and only improved its narrative and other single-player content with purchasable expansions like The Taken King. EA’s Battlefront reboot only had maps spanning four of Star Wars’ famous planets without its pricey expansion pass, even when the original game covered dozens. I’m not saying that the price-gouging is this extreme in the case of Injustice 2, but the timing of this announcement declares something major: “This game was almost ready to include three more fighters at release, but we’re charging you extra for it.” It might not be as lacking as other titles, but the base game is still intentionally incomplete, nonetheless.
Pieces of a game that fans have been craving cannot be chipped away and sold as extra bits of content. If the game released, and the demand was high, then it would’ve been reasonable to create and add these beloved characters. Then it would’ve been confirmed that they were worth their price and fans would’ve extended the lifetime of the game. Instead, this already-developed portion of Injustice 2 has been restricted in order to squeeze a few more dollars out of the fans caught up in a storm of hype.
Again, this move isn’t terribly egregious price gouging. The game seems fleshed out, and it looks like it has the potential to soar where the first game limped. However, NetherRealm’s brash move to bait extra money from their supporters right out of the gate seems unreasonable, both from a fan perspective and a business perspective. If Warner Bros. wants Injustice 2 to have a long lifetime and a lasting impact with players–along the lines of DC Universe Online and Batman: Arkham Asylum—the game needs to put quality first, and the money should follow.
If you’re interested in joining the discussion about early DLC, leave a comment down below, or leave a note on our social media accounts. If you’re interested in reading another WriOps, check out our piece here on why games shouldn’t be pushed out early!