It’s Not a Game. It’s a Service.

It’s finally taken hold, hasn’t it? This notion of video games as a service. It was only a few years ago that many of us were mocking the idea. “Treating games as a service? Like that would ever happen!” we scoffed. “Nobody will support that” we jeered. Yet, here we are. After years of getting used to DLC add-ons and eventually always online games like Destiny, what was once looked upon with trepidation has become just another part of the gaming landscape. In fact, DLC and its ilk have become so embedded in our modern gaming experience that it’s actually disappointing when a major game doesn’t have it. Truly, one needs only to look at the Mass Effect series in order to see how much our perception of DLC has changed over these past few years.

Late last week, EA announced that single-player support for Mass Effect: Andromeda would conclude with the 1.10 update. Whatever DLC had been planned would be scrapped and the game would forever remain more or less in its “base” state. Some received the news with an attitude of “good riddance”, but many others expressed feelings of genuine disappointment and even anger. No matter how good or bad the game actually was, DLC had been expected as a part of the Andromeda experience. It’s not a new attitude, but it’s still a far cry from the role DLC used to play in the series.

With the possible exception of the “Extended Cut” addition for Mass Effect 3, DLC wasn’t a demand or expectation for the original trilogy. Each game’s “base” state was seen as the complete game. The likes of Lair of the Shadow Broker, Bring Down the Sky, and Citadel may be considered essential to the overall experience now, but that’s a stance born from hindsight.  We never actually asked for any of them at the time. Those add-ons were simply bonuses; unexpected but welcome opportunities to spend more time with Shepard and crew as they undertook smaller, more self-contained, adventures. Perhaps some players were simply hoping to do the same with Ryder, but therein lies the difference. As big as Andromeda was, and it certainly was big if nothing else, many of us went into and left it already expecting more to be added.

I’ve been talking about this in terms of Mass Effect, but this is gaming now. Did you notice that I’ve been using the term “base” to describe the initial content of each game? It’s no accident, because I’m no exception to this new way of perceiving games. After years of DLC, post-release patches and playing the likes of Destiny, I too have come to see the launch versions of games as the starting point rather than the full and finished product. I expect to see post-release content. I expect to see updates and additions. I fully expect to be offered more game even if I’m perfectly happy with the game I got. Perhaps this isn’t the case for every gamer out there, but for myself and many others most games truly have transformed from singular products into ongoing services. And I’m not so sure that that’s a good thing.


What’s your take on the current state of DLC and the idea of games as a service? Is gaming better off this way or would it benefit from somehow turning back?

Lede image captured by Hatmonster

7 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m one of those cranky Mass Effect people, but not entirely because I wanted DLC for Andromeda. I wanted the whole gosh-darn game to be shipped at one time. I *hate* DLC and the DLC culture that’s cropped up, and..

    (takes deep breath)

    The developers, in my opinion, have sort of done this to themselves. They asked us to accept a new normal, as we eventually did, and now when they violate that norm, many people become upset. I’m not sure why they can’t ship completed games. Regarding Andromeda, why did people assume DLC would be coming? Because the *game itself* talks about how the quarians are coming. There’s a spot reserved in the cultural center for them. But why? Because the devs knew that folks would pay to see the quarians. This is the same nonsense they pulled with the “From Ashes” DLC in which a sort of important part of the plot was hidden behind a glorified pay-wall. And now with no DLC, the promised “full game” will never come to fruition.

    (takes another deep breath)

    Personally, I’d love if games were shipped with the full vision contained within it. DLC should be little bonuses or extra content, not stuff that is integral to the story (or, in my opinion) ever hinted at in the main story. Horizon: Zero Dawn has some DLC coming out, but as far as I can tell, it’s just “more things to do with Aloy!” not “a part of the story you needed for the game to feel complete.” Fine. If we can’t have “no DLC” then at least let’s have unintrusive DLC…

    Gosh, sorry for the wall of text, but DLC is sort of a sore point with me (not just because of Andromeda, I swear!)

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    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Don’t apologize for your text wall Athena, it’s a really well-put wall! 😀

      But yeah, you bring up a couple of important points. It absolutely isn’t just us feeling entitled to more content. The devs and publishers absolutely asked for this when they started pushing DLC culture and the idea of games as a service, just like you said. They wanted us to get into DLC, and have repeatedly pushed and even built games as launchpads for it. This change in perception is something they forced on the industry, not us.

      It’s just incredible to me how much things have changed over the last 5 years or so. We’ve gone from getting excited over DLC bonuses for complete games to getting any over the lack of DLC integral to the completion of a game’s story or feature set. That’s how out of hand it’s gotten.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kariyanine says:

        I think Mass Effect though is an extreme case because the game very clearly felt unfinished in certain areas. Similar to Destiny, it is clear that Andromeda wasn’t done and ready. It felt like things had been cut from the game, whether that was because they were unable to fit it in or it was planned as DLC from the get go is up for debate (I believe it was that it was actually unfinished). The fact that they are now ending all single player support for the game just makes those holes even more glaring.

        However both Horizon Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild are receiving/have received DLC and I wouldn’t say either of those games feels like an unfinished project. There certainly is a problem within the industry of releasing things before they are done, and while I understand the business reasons behind Andromeda getting released when/how it did, that doesn’t mean I have to like it (the practice not the game – I mostly did like the game).

        I’m not against companies trying to squeeze the most out of me as a consumer provided they aren’t actively attempting to sell me half finished products in the first place. And yes, shame on me, because I am going to buy Destiny 2 at launch even though Bungie/Activision burned me a little with the way they handled the first game.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

    I think games as a service are great for games that primarily play online. For something like Destiny, the ever changing landscape only adds to the experience and brings people together to take on new raids and bosses.

    For something like ME Andromeda, I don’t think it’s necessary and as you said, it’s a bonus, considering it’s a single player game and in my eyes, has no added benefit of any DLC additions. I think it stings simply because they said it’ll come but then cancelled it. Even if I were never to buy the Andomeda DLC, which I probably wouldn’t, it just speaks words about EAs thoughts on the series after this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. duckofindeed says:

    As someone who doesn’t want, and can’t typically afford, DLC, this whole concept bothers me. Gaming has always been an expensive hobby, so if it was hard paying for $50 games, it’s only getting increasingly difficult to afford $60, plus DLC. And for those of us who can’t afford DLC, we’re just going to feel left behind every time DLC is added to a game we own.

    Take Breath of the Wild, for example. Every Zelda game I own was complete the day I bought it, until this one. Now I would need to pay $20 for the DLC, making it an $80 game. Making games into a service has made them far more expensive, and that’s why this happened. Gamers didn’t support the idea, but companies did. So here we are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      While publishers were certainly more excited about the idea, us gamers have a share in the blame for this too. If we, as a group, hadn’t supported the practice by buying dlc and these service-oriented games then this wouldn’t be an issue. We may have been left little choice in the matter, but we still bought into it.

      Like

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