Sleeping Dogs' New Add-Ons Are The Wrong Sort Of Downloadable Content

Like many of my Kotaku brethren and sistren, I really dig United Front's Sleeping Dogs. I'm taking my time playing it, doing a lot of the sidequests, and I can tell that when I do finish, I'll gladly pay for add-on content to expand the game.

And look at that, I'm in luck! The first pieces of downloadable content for the game just came out (so soon!) and… well, wait. They're weird. Only one of them is really "content" at all, and the rest are just .. well, here are the official descriptions:

Top Dog Gold Pack - $US2.99

Earn major respect by boosting your Cop, Face and Triad Experience Points and gaining new abilities. Gives you 8,250 Triad, 4,500 Cop and 4,500 extra Face Experience Points. For the ultimate in upgrades combine with the Top Dog Silver Pack.

The Red Envelope Pack - $US2.99

Need help buying that fast car, fancy threads or luxury items for your new apartment? For fortune and prosperity download the Red Envelopes Pack. There are 20 envelopes each stuffed with $US50k, scattered throughout Hong Kong, find them all and you'll net a cool 1 Million HK dollars to spend on whatever you want.

The High Roller Pack - $US2.99

Want that fast track to the in-crowd? Look like the real deal with the super fast, luxury Tuono vehicle and High Roller outfit. Plus, with an extra $US200k to burn you can be sure to get ahead and get noticed. Please note this pack gives you early access to the Tuono vehicle and the High Roller outfit, these items can also be earned through the normal game progression.

Top Dog Silver Pack - $US1.99

Boost your Cop, Face and Triad Experience Points to earn respect fast and gain new abilities. Gives you 5,500 Triad, 3,000 Cop and 3,000 extra Face Experience Points. For the ultimate upgrade combine with the Top Dog Gold Pack.

Retro Triad Pack - $US1.99

Go old school with a killer look and ride straight out of the 80s! New hair, accessories, clothes and boots are combined with an 80s style kung fu van to complete the look. Items come with their own buffs, increasing your damage resistance, Triad and Face experience and striking damage.

So, three of the pieces of DLC quickly unlock things that are already in the game, and one is basically just a scavenger hunt for more money. Only that last one, the retro triad pack, is actual new content.

Something about this hits me wrong. I know we've seen this kind of thing before -- paying to get through the game faster, free-to-play microtransactions, etc. And of course, no one is forcing us to buy this stuff -- it's optional. And heck, this article at Nightmare Mode puts forth the idea that this kind of thing is perfectly normal, and that really, "Everything should be DLC."

When I pay $US60 for a narrative about a Renaissance assassin I expect all the chapters to be included, instead of having the publisher hold 2 of the middle chapters hostage for more cash. But if there were a Final Fantasy game that offered me the option to pay to receive a side quest's reward (let's say it is a sword) instead of grinding through said side quest, I would give out my credit card number in a heartbeat! So yeah, are you hearing, SquareEnix? Want to get out of the financial mess you are in? Then become like Zynga!

I can't get with this line of thinking, not fully, anyway. As I looked at the Sleeping Dogs DLC, I couldn't help but think… "Isn't this what cheat codes are for?"

Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto games, which provide the open-world template upon which Sleeping Dogs is directly based -- have certainly never sold "Pay to progress" DLC. Want a ton of cash, or sweet armour, or all the guns? Here, enter any of these codes.

Imagine if Bethesda released Skyrim DLC that gave you a ton more money. In that game, I can enter any of these console commands to summon myself some gear, or a horse, or hell, anything else in the game.

I mentioned that I thought the game was weird to my colleagues, and Stephen challenged my thinking.

Stephen: You're against people who don't have time paying to get ahead in their single-player game? Why?

Kirk: I'm wrestling with how I feel about it. I don't mind it for the reasons you say, it's OK for people to pay to move faster, but also, aren't there cheat codes for this kind of thing? Codes that unlock gear in a game? Something about paying a publisher after the fact to unlock goodies in a game seems weird. Something something ownership of a game something tinkering something.

Stephen: So you're saying that if you pay for a $US60 game, you should be able to access all content immediately with zero sweat put into it.

Kirk: No.

Stephen: Then what are you saying?

Kirk: If you want to do stuff like unlock a late-game outfit or raise your prestige, there should be cheat codes for that?

Stephen: Because there used to be? Or is there another good reason?

Kirk: Because, on principle, you should be able to access the stuff if you WANT it, but to get the "true" experience you play the game. But paying more for "downloadable content" that is not actually content is weird. It's not new, I realise, it's in a billion games. But sleeping dogs isn't free-to-play, it's a full-priced singleplayer only game.

Stephen: So in your gamer bill of rights, there would be a cheat code for every game that unlocked everything? Or just in games where the publisher might have considered charging for those unlocks?

Kirk: There would be cheat codes for everything. Take skyrim. On PC in skyrim, I can just enter console commands and conjure anything I want. I don't, because I like playing the game the way it was intended. But it'd be ridiculous for Bethesda to release a DLC pack that just gives me like, 1,000,000 gold pieces.

Stephen: What would the cheat code be for getting a fireflower in Mario?

Okay that last part was just Stephen being Stephen. But the question remains -- where is the line? When does DLC feel like a cash-in, and where does it feel merited? I think that when it comes down to it, downloadable content should include, well, content.

Square Enix, the publisher of Sleeping Dogs, had a similar setup with Eidos' (great) open-world action game Just Cause 2. That game also got a whole bunch of small, cheap DLC. But all of the DLC for Just Cause 2 involved actual content. Guns, tools, vehicles… heck, I even bought some assault rifle or something once because hey, it was a dollar! I'll pay a dollar for a cool gun in a game I really like.

But if it's just in-game money, or clothes I'd unlock later… something in my video game DNA rebells at the idea of having to pay to unlock that stuff. Video game ownership has become a complex issues in this age of downloadable games, but I don't think it's too much to ask that if I bought a game, I should be allowed to access all of it if I want to. I'll almost always prefer to play the game the way it was intended, but come on, game-makers -- leave me some cheat codes.

If I'm messing around in a game world and I want to conjure a tank and some money for myself, I should be reaching for the console commands, not for my wallet.


    Kirk Hamilton is right, it's a terrible approach. The person who wrote the other article is an idiot. Paying to win is NOT the way to improve the final fantasy games lol.

      Absolutely, but let them do it anyway. So long as we can get whole experience the "old fashioned way" then I'm fine. Putting me in any kind of mulitplayer with pay to wins? Fuck you.

        Providing they don't start increasing the length of the grind just to encourage people to pay to skip it.

    this is the same reason I rarely spend money in a free-to-play game
    more power crystals? more money? I can play through and earn those myself
    but I'll happily buy a cool skin in league of legends because to me, its a cool little extra

    There is nothing wrong with this. Someone wants to cheat, they buy the DLC. I don't care: they're cheating.

      Do you feel the publisher should have a monopoly on cheat codes for their games? Would you equate someone cheating to get more money in the game they bought the same as someone who pirated the game simply because the developers have put a price on cheats?

    It's a little bit crappy, but as Stephen illustrates, nothing fundamentally wrong with it. As long as it's made clear what you are buying and that it's not required to complete the game. Pay to advance (NOT Pay to win) or some extra skins/items are really harmless ways to get a little extra cash.

    Is it just me, or is Kirk's entire argument based on the idea "boosting should be available through cheat codes."

    Where exactly, is that industry rule laid out?

    Cheat codes are great, but they're not why you buy and play a game. Therefore they're not essential to the game. If a developer includes them, that's great! Thanks guys, we love you! But just because some developers included cheat codes, doesn't mean ALL have to.

    Now that we've past that little sense of self-entitlement... DLC.

    DLC can be whatever the devs/pubs want it to be, and we can chose to buy it or not. If they release DLC you don't want, don't buy it. If a lot of people don't but it, maybe they'll do it differently next time.

    pretty easy to just ignore this sort of stuff... they aren't forcing anyone into it and if anyone buys it without reading the description they're an idiot...

    there are far too many of these packs for sleeping dogs, which is a shame cause its a great game and really not that hard to earn money and progress in (at least i'm not having any trouble about 5 or so hours in)

    i do think of these as paid for cheat codes... except its not quite as awesome as old school cheats lol

    Totally agree with this article. I really dig this game, but at the risk of sounding elitist, REAL gamers don't want to 'skip ahead' in a game... I want to work up through it... But I would love buffs or new vehicles, especially in a game like this... I won't buy most of the dlc purely because it progresses the game for me. I want to do that myself. If they sold items without the XP boosts I'd probably buy more.

    Wait, we have to pay for a collectables hunt? With no achievement attached too?

    Wow. When developers realize they can charge people for cheat-codes again (see, back in the day 1900 numbers told you a cheat to put in - which doesn't work now because y'know. Internet), I wonder how hard they'll go after the folks who make Trainers?

    Also, still kinda waiting for some REAL DLC. Like, I dunno... maybe some thing explains how those 2-minute conversations we got with the girls ended up being committed relationships that allowed us to get angry about cheating.

    I mean, I sure hope they didn't get Emma Stone in to only read a dozen lines...

    If it's content on the disc, for no reason should we be given the option to pay to access it. The only way to unlock content without 'earning' it should be through cheat codes only, but their inclusion isn't, and should not be mandatory.

    singleplayer game? I couldn't care less. Do this in a multiplayer game and I will complain loudly

    It's not a multi-player game, so if someone wants to pay to get ahead, then let them. It's not my cup of tea, but that's fine - I won't be buying them.

    I think maybe instead of paying for all that stuff, why not include them in some free update where it adds more lockboxes and you find them through that or some other way. Just easier and more enjoyable way to get content :)

    If a game's fun and designed well then earning in-game currency and power-ups shouldn't be a chore.
    If a game isn't fun, then why play it?
    I mean to each their own, but it seems like you're only cheating yourself out actually playing the game with this DLC.

    This is more about how you treat your customers. Squeezing them for cash is not good business in the long run. Everyone is the loser here. The publisher is basically saying 'let's see who's impatient enough to pay money to rush through this game'.
    This is also shows another problem with current game designs. Devs not trusting their games enough to open up the options earlier and allow users to play as they like. A good replayable game is one you can play a variety of different ways from the start (e.g. dota).
    I wish devs would stop resorting to grinding designs where they try to appeal to gamers addictive habits, following a drug dealer business model.
    Make as many options available at the start and focus on making the gameplay fun and replayable.

    I noticed Rainbow Moon did a similar kind of thing, only offering a few amulets as new content while the rest of the DLC could be attained by grinding. None of it was cheap either! I can see why it's done people just don't have the patience or the time to grind or do heaps of side-missions and they're ok with paying to boost their skills up and breeze through the game, but to me it just feels like I'm cheating myself and ruining the experience of the game as well.

    While I wish developers wouldn't do this, I guess the best I can do is just vote with my wallet and not buy this kind of DLC.

    I saw that DLC this morning and found it strange too. As already noted you don't have to pay for any of this, but it's still seems strange to me. Even if it was 50c, if I could get something just by spending more time in game I'd do that.

    I very rarely bother with cheat codes, but if the day ever comes when someone has to pay for big head mode, I think the universe may well explode...

    The problem is cheat codes are gone. Back in the day (here we go) I'd pick up a ?Nintendo Mag with pages and pages of cheats in the back or sometimes even a little extra booklet with the cheats for every game eyou've ever heard of. Paying for cheat codes is bullshit. Cheat codes are fun, why do you care if my single player guy is OP, sometimes that's half the fun. Stuck? Frustrated to hell on a ridiculously hard bit? Fire up the God mode vent some rage on those NPC fools. Game got a big old glitch that tottally fucked you? No clip that shit.
    Back to sleeping dogs, the limited edition is god tier bullshit. The advertised Police car, unique firearm and outfit are only useable within one small sidequest mission (and you don't even get to drive).

    This sort of thing just seems to cheapen the experience... ironically, by making it more expensive.
    "Aww, did we give you too much content? Pay us and we'll let you skip some."

    Something about that just seems... off. I suppose it's because from their point of view, consumers will buy what they want, and from our point of view, they'll only produce DLC that we'll want to buy. There must be people buying this type of DLC, else they wouldn't be making it, but it's not for me.

    this game just needs some DLc that opens the world up to co-op

    Having burned through this game over the weekend, I find the strong focus on in-game money and XP in this DLC rather bewildering. Without giving away spoilers, certain collectable based side missions reward you with truckloads of cash, and are repeatable/numerous, so you can earn several million through them whilst still enjoying the main story arc.

    for the money/xp dlc, wouldnt it be cheaper to use a trainer to get the same amount?

    These are not DLC. Down Loadable Content requires Content. Unlocks are not Content.

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