Gamers find prices with extra levels

Gamers find prices with extra levels

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When you buy a video game, you expect to get all of it. But extra charges for downloadable content have customers wondering if developers are playing fair, writes Alvin Yuen

Gamers who battle their way to the end of Assassin's Creed 2 face a final, unexpected, challenge - two missing chapters.

Game developer, Ubisoft, has said the missing chapters will be available as a download, but at a cost. In a similar move, Capcom offered a new 'versus' mode for its Resident Evil 5 game as downloadable content - or DLC - for US$5.

DLC was one of the hottest topics of debate on gamer forums last year. Downloads have been a feature of the gaming industry from the beginning, but now gamers are beginning to question whether developers are charging for content that should be included when the game is first bought.

Bioware outraged some gamers by charging for DLC for its role-playing game, Dragon Age: Origins, from the day it was released.

According to 18-year-old Michael Lau, this was an intentional money-making move by the developer. Gamers across the world made the same point on forums, noting the DLC was promoted in the game itself through conversations between characters. 'I feel they did that on purpose, to get more money for their product and I think it's a rather dirty trick - yet a smart one,' says Lau, who has competed in the Hong Kong preliminaries of the World Cyber Games.

Gamer Ringo Fung Wai-yin, 19, agrees, pointing out that, while some DLC is worth paying for, some is 'blatantly just about making money'. 'Ultimately it's frustrating for me, when I have to buy something that I feel I should already have - if its content that's already been developed and is on a disc you've bought ... you should be entitled to it for free,' he says.

Controversy raged over last year's release of Resident Evil 5's versus mode. Gamers alleged that the 'miniscule' size of the DLC - just 1.86MB - meant that the DLC was not a new mode of game play at all; rather it was simply a key to unlock content already on the disc released a month earlier for US$60.

Capcom has denied these claims. Christian Svensson, the game developer's vice-president for planning and development, said on a company forum post that the DLC was too big to be just an unlock key.

'Keys are 100 kilobytes or less. It is not a key. We have said in the past, it uses assets from the disc [like levels, models, audio, etc], but the code is new and does not exist on the disc,' he wrote.

Nevertheless, many gamers remain suspicious of Capcom, arguing - whatever the DLC actually is - they are being forced to pay for a mode that should have come with the original release of the game.

Meanwhile, it seems DLC is here to stay, and most gamers admit there have been DLC expansion packs that were worth every cent charged to download them.

'I really think DLC is the same as expansions you download instead of going out to buy,' says Lau. 'The real deal comes down to how much the DLC actually offers you. The StarCraft: Brood War expansion pack was great and I would be willing to pay for it, and the same is true of Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, which was also a great improvement. But, if the DLC is just some maps or a small modification, it isn't worth it.'

For Lau, game developers are shooting themselves in the foot if they charge for content that should be included in the original price of the game. He points out gamers across the world communicate with each on forums, and it's their loyalty that decides the success of a product.

'If a company is going to offer DLC, they had better be sure it's worth it, because the future of games is in the players' hands now - they are the ones that keep the game alive.'

Additional reporting by Chris Taylor

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