Timed DLC Exclusivity Is Bullshit

Timed DLC Exclusivity Is Bullshit

There’s some new Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC out today, as you may have heard. It’s called “Jaws of Hakkon” and you can get it for Xbox One, PC, and… well, that’s it. Did you play Dragon Age on PlayStation 4? Sorry. No DLC for you this week.

See, publishers EA and Microsoft have come to an arrangement dictating that the folks behind Dragon Age can’t release their new downloadable content on PS4 just yet. As Microsoft announced during their E3 press conference last year, the Xbox gets “premiere content” for Dragon Age first, which means anyone who bought the game on PlayStation will now have to wait an unspecified amount of time to play this new DLC. It’s safe to assume that Jaws of Hakkon will come to PS4 eventually, but EA won’t say when. (There’s no word as to whether we’ll see this DLC on the PS3 and Xbox 360 at all, but at this point it’s more than reasonable for publishers to ditch last-gen consoles.)

Arrangements like this have become uncomfortably common in the video game industry, where “exclusive” is as powerful a buzzword as “visceral” or “nine out of 10.” Parades of suited execs take the stage at E3 and Gamescom to proclaim that their platforms will get all the Biggest Games, all the Hottest Exclusives, all the Premiere Content. Flashy gameplay montages and lofty promises are met with raucous applause from crowds of fanboys and executives with dollar signs over their pupils.

But when the hype stops sizzling, we’re ultimately left with the cold realisation that “first on Xbox One” really means “we are paying to make PS4 users wait.” When Sony talks about how Destiny is Best on PlayStation, what they’re really saying is that they’re screwing over Xbox users by carving out chunks of DLC. It’s a practice that’s been going on for years now, and though these companies have found ways to brand timed exclusivity deals as a positive — “look at us, we’ve got the best content!” — this is all just one big battle over who gets to deprive people of more stuff.

Adding insult to injury in this particular deal is that apparently there’s a clause preventing EA and BioWare from even mentioning the words “PlayStation 4,” let alone indicating at all when it will be out. Says executive producer Mark Darrah:

If you want to see just how frustrating this corporate silence can get, witness this email exchange I had this afternoon with a PR representative for EA:

Let’s take a step back and try to imagine what Microsoft could possibly be thinking here. What’s the logic behind forcing EA and BioWare to stay silent about an inevitable PlayStation release date? Do they think that PS4 owners will go out and spend $US410 on a new Xbox One and a new copy of Dragon Age because they don’t know when Jaws of Hakkon is coming to PlayStation? I mean, come on. Do they think that keeping a PS4 release date secret for a few weeks or months will sway new console-buyers into choosing Xbox? As Kotaku bossman Stephen Totilo points out, “This would be like not telling people in another country when a movie is coming out in their region for fear that that would stop them from getting on an aeroplane to fly to America to see it.”

This sort of timed exclusivity is a load of bullshit. Straight up. That’s not to say that exclusive console games are bullshit — platform-makers like Sony and Microsoft are certainly welcome to fund and develop games for their own consoles, especially when it leads to great series like Halo and Uncharted. That sort of competition is good for fans — if Microsoft’s bottomless bank account can help save Titanfall or if Sony’s stewardship turns Bloodborne into a phenomenal PS4 game, that’s a win all around, even if it means you have to buy both consoles. It’s certainly eyebrow-raising that the next Tomb Raider game will be first on Xbox for an unspecified amount of time, but the developers at Crystal Dynamics have hinted that the game might not have happened without those sweet Microsoft bucks, so again, we can see the logic there.

But when the big guys start opening their wallets not to create but to deprive, as Sony did when it convinced Activision to keep two out of Destiny‘s eight strikes PlayStation-exclusive, and as Microsoft is doing with this timed Dragon Age DLC, that’s when customers ultimately lose. Right now, Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s DLC is finished. People are playing it. And the only reason PS4 owners can’t get it yet is because Microsoft paid to keep it away from them.

Think about that, next time you hear Microsoft or Sony talk about exclusives at E3. Next time you see a suited executive brag about how all of the best content is coming to their console first, remember what it actually means: someone paid money to ensure that fewer people will get to play it.


    • As a PC user i fully agree (i still find it weird to see sonic on a nintendo system) I still remember the bullshit deal that Bethesda had with mircosoft for fallout 3, New Vegas and Skyrim. Now as a PC user i wasnt effected by the policy for F03 because it used G4WL but when bethseda dropped it for Steam Mircosoft cracked the shits big time by forcing PC users to wait 30days at a minimum, though stil no where near as bad as what p3 users had to put with.

  • We saw this all over the last e3, execs reeling off a lst of exclusive titles, but neglecting to mention the big, fat asterisk of “for three months”. It’s sad that they have to stoop to that (right before they show a make-believe cgi trailer).

    As unfortunate as the dlc thing is, it’s hardly new. Microsoft has now been playing silly buggers with the cod franchise for five years or so. They’ve also locked out preview footage of other consoles, blah blah. They’ve also had reps crash competitor’s launch parties to spew marketing, and heavily circumvented the media blackout when it goes against them (destiny perfume?).

    The only decent guys in the fight are Nintendo, and they probably didn’t even know there was a fight. They just have actual exclusives.

    When did we let marketing aimed at us , take from us? Why do we pay these companies to do this?

    • I suppose it’s like the EULA issues that used to pop up all the time (how we actually never own any of our games etc.). By paying for a game, we’re inadvertently paying for these companies political campaigns with/against each other.

  • During the (dubious) heights of the last generation, there were (loud) whispers about DLC being used as a way to combat trade-ins and I saw mention of ’30/60/90′.

    That is to say, extra data that would be priced, marketed, and drip-fed to a game at three points – one month after release, two months, and finally, three months.

    Wasn’t every publisher in cahoots with each other doing this at one stage?

    That’s probably a reason why Nintendo couldn’t sign publishers to their systems, the Wii/WiiU console you own in your own home IS its own ecosystem, not designed to simply be a content hole.

    • Nintendo did sign publishers to their systems. Remember they had a “special relationship” with EA when the Wii U launched. Then nobody bought the games so they stopped making them.

      • To be fair, ea nuked their deal with Nintendo BEFORE the console even released, then set about a bizarrely vengeful smear campaign.

        Most wanted was an excellent, excellent port though.

  • *cough* Destiny *cough*

    6 months since launch and PS users still have exclusive access to about 4 exotic weapons, 3 multiplayer maps, and 2 strikes.

    (If my numbers are a bit off it’s because I play on xbox and I just have no idea.)

    • This doesn’t mean that the Dragon Age DLC is not evil. It just means that BOTH Microsoft and Sony are evil where DLC is concerned.

      The article mentions the Destiny “exclusives” explicitly.

  • Yeah the exclusivity stuff sucks. I’m semi-ok with timed exclusives (I’ll still get to play it eventually), but those deals like the Destiny content really annoy me. That’s content that I helped pay for (by buying the game.. the revenue is aggregated across features of course), but can’t ever play.

    It’s almost as annoying as the DA DLC being $20 (XBONE) or $30 (Origin).. It’s the first piece of single player DLC for a Bioware game that I haven’t bought on day 1. $30 is ridiculous for a DLC, that’s treading into expansion pack price territory. It’s 1/3rd of the retail price of the game ffs, but it’s not 1/3rd of the content size etc.

  • They paid money to make their console a more appealing choice, not to screw over the other console.

    Besides, shouldn’t all PS4 players be busy playing Bloodborne anyway?

    • Nope it’s too glitched out atm, could play the order if you feel like playing a 5hr cutscene fest…

  • “Do they think that keeping a PS4 release date secret for a few weeks or months will sway new console-buyers into choosing Xbox?”

    Potentially it will I would have thought, especially if you think this will happen in the future with more EA products. I think the larger point though is that there are now enough people who buy more than one console that giving an incentive to play the game on your console is perhaps worthwhile. That said, I still find this pretty reprehensible. Basically you are paying the same price for an inferior product if you bought this on ps4, as if there wasn’t already enough resentment for EA in the community.

  • I do feel for ps4 peeps, me and my fellower xboners had to suffer the same shit with destiny.

  • I own a PS4, would love an Xbone, but i think the whole timed exclusive idea is craptastic. The only benefit that i see from it is that if it comes out on the other console/PC first, then it gives me the chance to watch the gameplay vids of the content, and i can decide if it is worth the purchase when it does come out. The content is severely lacking these days anyway – Destiny – Oh wow 1 (2?) more strike and some guns. (someone feel free to correct me if i am wrong, i can’t remember).

  • Disagree.

    Consoles used to be completely split with exclusives.

    Now, 90% of the games come on both systems, with faster/slower DLC being one of their only ways to gain a competitive edge.
    The publisher is happy, because they are releasing for both systems, and the console manufacturer is happy because they’d paid less for ‘timed’ content, but it still gives them something worth marketing.

    Stop being god damned communists. We’ve never had it better. Suck it up and wait a couple months, or do what we had to do years ago and buy every console.

    • I somewhat agree. It seems expected these days. I would say these types of tactics are more to sway a consumer who is yet to buy a console at all. If your favourite franchise is Dragon Age and you are yet to buy a new console then this would definitely be something to consider when tossing up between the two.

  • As Kotaku bossman Stephen Totilo points out, “This would be like not telling people in another country when a movie is coming out in their region for fear that that would stop them from getting on an aeroplane to fly to America to see it.”

    Hah. Or pirating it.
    Would that it were so simple for console DLC. That’d get them sitting up and paying attention.

    I’m strongly in favour of consumer-friendly approaches to money-making. This is not. When publishers take anti-consumer approaches, I’d rather the power to fight back be in consumer hands. And not the piss weak ‘don’t buy’ bullshit. That shit is obviously not working.

    • The ‘don’t buy’ approach works perfectly. The thing about it is that for it to work people need to not buy.
      What is piss weak is the don’t do this or I won’t buy it rhetoric and then buying it anyway.

      • Well, that is one of the problems. Microsoft changed their consumer-fucking approach pretty damn quickly when PS4 pre-order figures took down their pants and shat in the mouth of xbone preorders.

        The problem with a boycott is measuring it.

        The MS/Sony was pretty clear-cut thanks to competing figures. How does EA know how many people are boycotting them? Who do they compare to? They don’t. They can’t. They have no way of knowing how many people want to play the product but aren’t buying it…

        …except for piracy, of course. Those people are interested but not paying. Which still isn’t a great indicator. Maybe the objections are price point or availability or DLC practices, there’s not an easy way to tell aside from changing behaviour and monitoring the piracy level.

        But at least they know there’s a demand. It becomes visible, unlike the invisible hypothetical boycott. Something in their lizard hind-brains screams, “lost sales!” Which makes them think that the only thing they care about (the bottom line) is under attack.

        It’s much easier to ignore a child who wants to go to the toilet than it is to ignore one who stops giving a fuck and goes where they are. And next time you’ll probably pay more attention to when they say they need to toilet.

  • It convinces me… to stick with PC versions, and thus avoid this anti-competitive garbage.

    “We have no information at this time” – either EA’s too lazy to add “to share” to their weasel words, or they jumped so hard at MS’s money that they didn’t even ask how long the ‘exclusivity’ deal lasts. I’m not sure what sounds more EAish.

  • The only benefit I can see is that many people only have one console connected to the TV at a time. So if they have the xbone connected then any multi platform releases that come out are more likely to be purchased on xbone.

  • “…at this point it’s reasonable for developers to ditch last gen consoles.”

    No, in this instance it isn’t. The game released on last gen as well as the other platforms. Bioware is still setting targets for last gen players in their multiplayer events. The reasonable thing would be for them to release the DLC accross all release platforms (especially 360, which despite having Xbox in the name still doesn’t have it).

  • I find the Destiny situation more distasteful because unlike Dragon Age, both Xbox and PlayStation users can buy the Destiny DLC packs at the same time, yet they come with more content for PS4/3 owners (or less for Xbox users if you look at it that way) until an ‘undisclosed’ amount of time later.

    As I’ve been saying for a long time now, it feels less like Company A paying for more content than Company B and more like Company A paying to make Company B customers miss out. And that’s the sad thing, in this war the customer is the casualty.

  • I know this will have zero effect on what EA and Bioware do but as a private protest my PS4 copy of DA:I has been traded in and I won’t be supporting this or any other Bioware franchise in the future. I have been a full paying ME and DA gamer for years but this is simply deplorable. How this timed exclusive crap is supposed to be good for the gaming industry and gamers I’ll never know.

    • “We dropped character origins from the DA series because we didn’t like the analytics of how many people played all seven through to the end of the game”… so they’re worried about spending time on content people might not see, but are more than happy to make sure others can’t see content?

      Oh right, because juicy bribe.

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