In­ter­net killed the video star

GAX (Malaysia) - - COLUMN - By Sharmine Ishak

The ad­vent of the in­ter­net has changed the face of video games. Where gam­ing was once a so­cial con­ven­tion con­strained to the television box in our liv­ing rooms, the in­ter­net has now opened us to a world of in­ter­con­nected ex­pe­ri­ences that en­ables us to play with just about any­one and ev­ery­one around the world.

But be­yond the mul­ti­player pos­si­bil­i­ties, the in­ter­net is also re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a par­a­digm shift in how con­tent is con­sumed and de­liv­ered to con­sumers. Pre-in­ter­net games typ­i­cally did not fea­ture ad­di­tional con­tent post-re­lease, and developers then cer­tainly spent as much time as they could to weed out all the bugs be­fore launch. To­day, stu­dios have the com­fort of be­ing able to patch and fix games months, even years, af­ter they’ve gone gold.

This mod­ern ap­proach to con­tent de­liv­ery, fa­cil­i­tated by the in­ter­net, opens up new gate­ways and gam­ing busi­ness mod­els that would oth­er­wise be im­pos­si­ble to ex­e­cute with­out con­nec­tiv­ity. Gamers would be most fa­mil­iar with paid down­load­able con­tent (DLC), which ex­pands on the ex­ist­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, giv­ing them more to look for­ward to when they’ve com­pleted the main game.

From episodic con­tent that fur­ther fleshes out any ad­di­tional story, to stand­alone game modes that change the way a par­tic­u­lar ti­tle is played, DLCs help developers keep their games fresh long af­ter re­lease. It’s not un­com­mon for games to­day to in­cor­po­rate sea­son passes – a con­cept that has only be­come more wide­spread over the last decade – pro­vid­ing gamers ac­cess to a se­ries of up­com­ing paid DLC.

The big ques­tion, how­ever, is what con­sti­tutes DLC, and what should be part of a game at re­lease. More of­ten than not, DLCs feel less like add-ons de­signed to en­hance game­play, but more like key con­tent that should have been part of the main game.

Whether it is the retelling of a story from an­other per­spec­tive, or bonus mis­sions that add more depth to the lore, these ex­ten­sions aim to pro­vide gamers a com­plete ex­pe­ri­ence, yet one won­ders why developers con­ve­niently leave these por­tions out. If this was to give them more time to cre­ate con­tent orig­i­nally planned for the game, why then would these DLCs be made as paid con­tent, if not for milk­ing the cash cow? Giv­ing play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to try a new char­ac­ter or at­tain spe­cial weapons not es­sen­tial to the vanilla game seems bet­ter suited for DLC, rather than en­rich­ing story con­tent that was only half-told from the start.

It is this idea that there is al­ways an op­por­tu­nity to up­date and add more con­tent, how­ever, which en­ables developers to craft games that con­tinue to evolve and never stay stag­nant for the long run. Freemium games are the best ex­am­ple of such games that con­tinue to in­no­vate: the prod­uct is open-ended, takes the fu­ture into ac­count, and is de­signed to be con­tin­u­ously im­proved with time and ef­fort, guided by the feed­back from gamers and changes in gam­ing trends.

By adding brand new con­tent into their games at no cost, developers can keep play­ers com­ing back for more. De­velop a suc­cess­ful prod­uct with a strong fol­low­ing, and there is an op­por­tu­nity to mon­e­tize and tap into the wal­lets of con­sumers through in-game as­sets and pur­chases that of­fer more lives and power-ups. Over the last few years, in-game com­merce has even be­come so com­mon that it’s not sur­pris­ing to see AAA games also pro­vide quick boosts at the cost of real dol­lars and cents.

This is the new par­a­digm, and there is no doubt that the ad­vent of the in­ter­net has been key in real­iz­ing this shift. What be­gan with con­nec­tiv­ity and mul­ti­player in the late 90’s has since given way to the ar­rival of ad­di­tional con­tent and loot boxes, pow­ered by the speed and ef­fi­ciency of the web. While the in­ter­net makes it eas­ier for developers to reach gamers with new soft­ware and patches, there is a con­cern, how­ever, that this flu­id­ity is not taken ad­van­tage of by stu­dios to push out half-baked buggy games to con­sumers, know­ing that they can re­lease first, and up­date later.

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