Internet killed the video star
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.