Recent Day-One DLC and ‘On Disc’ DLC has caused some people to feel a little upset. Rightly so in most cases. What I’m going to explain to people is their arguement of ‘It’s on the disc’ is unhelpful and needs to stop. The practice itself could also do with dying.
So. You have bought a game. This consists of a plastic case, a (now) pretty slim manual and, of course, the disc itself. All of this is yours. Except, it’s kind of not.
Yes, you own all of the physical stuff. The disc IS yours. No one is allowed to take it off of you. What’s on the disc though. Not yours. You have no right to the code or assets that are on that disc. You see, when you bought all of the physical stuff you also bought into an agreement. An End User License Agreement (EULA). This is the real cost here. This is a sort of contract where you agree to some stuff and in return, the software publisher allows you to access and use the code.
This is pretty standard practice on almost all software sold. Yes, there’s open source projects and freeware out there, but even these have you agreeing to some sort of license. For example, the new Skyrim modders software requires you to agree to their EULA. As you’d expect. The thing is, the work you put into your mods all goes to Bethesda. Bethesda own all of the work you create and are free to do what they want with it (including ‘make money’) and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve already agreed to it. Open Source projects also don’t ‘give’ you much of anyhting. They ‘give’ you the code, but once again, anything you make isn’t yours for the most part. If you’re working on an Open Source project, odds are that they’re using this license which contains the following quote;
“This License does not transmit any intellectual rights on the Software. The Software and any copies that the Licensee is authorized to make are the intellectual property of and are owned by the Licensor. Any copies that the Licensee is permitted to make pursuant to this Agreement must contain the same copyright and other proprietary notices that appear on or in the Software.”
You see that? It essentially says the stuff that you make out of this Open Source project still remains the property of the people you obtained the project from. It’s not yours! Sounds like a great way to get free work done, no?
There’s also the idea of our ‘virtual goods’. People invest hours and money into on-line characters. World of Warcraft, the most popular and profitable of all of the MMOs has an EULA that most people have probably never even glanced at. Well, you might want to.
“All title, ownership rights and intellectual property rights in and to the Game and all copies thereof (including without limitation any titles, computer code, themes, objects, characters, character names, stories, dialog, catch phrases, locations, concepts, artwork, character inventories, structural or landscape designs, animations, sounds, musical compositions and recordings, audio-visual effects, storylines, character likenesses, methods of operation, moral rights, and any related documentation) are owned or licensed by Blizzard. The Game is protected by the copyright laws of the United States, international treaties and conventions, and other laws. The Game may contain materials licensed by third parties, and the licensors of those materials may enforce their rights in the event of any violation of this License Agreement.”
It turns out that you don’t even own the characters you create or the account they’re held on. All of your money just goes to Blizzard so you can access their stuff. I say ‘their’ stuff, even though it’s a character you’ve created. You just don’t own it, remember?
So, we all agree that the stuff on the disc isn’t yours. This doesn’t mean that I’m condoning the practice of ‘on disc DLC’ or even ‘day one DLC’ though. Far from it.
The idea of DLC is to add extra value. By having the content already made, ready for day one, or even worse, ready to put it straight on the disc, you’re actively withholding content from the already paying customer in an effort to eek out even MORE money. This leaves us feeling even more used. It’s not as if it’s being withheld as a bonus for the customer that’s paying for a new copy (Arkham City, I’m looking at you).
DLC can be done right. Look at Red Dead Redemption. Undead Nightmare gave a whole new experience, putting a fresh spin on an already excellent game. Time was spent on it after release, it was of a great quality, it was something new that the fans were asking for and it was well priced. It didn’t alienate the already existing customers and the people who bought it are getting a great new experience.
The bottom line being as long as people pay for it, day one DLC will stay. Feel free to be angry about this blatant abuse of the fan’s hunger for more, just don’t whine that it’s on the disc. Everything’s on the disc. It’s just that, well, none of it’s yours.