adventures of my mind

Additional Product Content

April 29th, 2008 by | Word Count: 1008 | Reading Time 4:03 2,366 views

It’s time for my first product rant. As you will see, this will be like my other articles, about something, but not really about something. It’s about viewing things from an alternate perspective and thinking outside the preconceived notions that the powers that be assume we adhere to. Recently, game developer Infinity Ward added new downloadable content for their current release. Free? No, not quite. If you read a previous article, you would know that their recent game, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has sold over 7 million copies for various gaming systems. Retail price for this game was around $60. The game received many Game of the Year honors and rightfully so. It has dominated the gaming industry since its release in early November, consistently pulling the top spot in online play to date.

That’s all well and good and the product IW created has made them a very profitable development studio. However, CoD4 was not their first release and they were a profitable company before this particular title hit the streets. They have been profitable for quite a few years and have future game development projects already locked in. Their financial standing and outlook is great. So what’s the product rant? As I mentioned, they recently released new downloadable content for CoD4. The content was a map pack that augments their online portion of the game. It contains an additional 4 maps to go along with the included 16 maps available for online play. This gives the people who purchase the DLC the ability to play 20 different maps with other players via the internet. What’s the problem with that, what’s the big deal? Well, considering that the initial purchase price was $60, the DLC was priced at $10. That’s a fairly high percentage of cost for such a small addition of content.

You may think, so what, it’s only $10. Yeah, that’s what they depend on for you to think and agree with. So what, pick up the maps, be happy right? The initial game was purely focused on online play, the single player portion is great, but it is very short and their emphasis was for multiplayer gaming. They KNEW people would get tired of the initial online maps and be thirsty for new content. IW knew a major portion of their user base would be willing to part with an additional $10 for content to extend the game’s life. When IW released the map pack on Xbox Live, they achieved over 1 million downloads in 9 days. For an additional 4 maps, at minimum, they have gained another $10 million in revenue. This doesn’t account for the sales on the Playstation Network.

Ok, so it’s a business, they deserve to make money off their work and if people want to buy stuff, that’s ok. Sure, I’ll agree with that. However, as the consumer, you need to watch out for the simple ploy of buying something only to have to keep buying additional product to support your initial purchase. There are lots of companies out there that depend on the fact that people will continue to spend money to support a product after their initial outlay of cash. These companies are willing to sell the initial product as a lower than expected cost because they intend to reap their rewards after the sale by making it up with huge profit margin items to support the current product. Or better yet, they sell you extended warranties, upgrade kits, and all kinds of neat little accessories to extend their product.

It’s one big ploy from the outset to get people in the process and then take advantage of them after their purchase. You usually can’t take most of these products back or there are huge hurdles to jump over if you can which then deters you from doing so. Some of these products are even crippled in a minor way to promote the need to pay more for the upgrade or accessory item. What feature can we disable on a less expensive version which in the future “makes” the consumer feel the “need” to purchase an upgrade or more expensive version of the product? This is a very easy way to generate future revenue from a product line.

So what I’m ranting about is the devious natures of companies that are out to push products that they KNOW are not going to satisfy their consumer with the initial product. It’s done on purpose for the simple fact that they can almost guarantee extra revenue at a later date by limiting the feature set of the initial product. It means a company can release a non-finished product and then charge people later for the “finished” product via upgrade charges, service fees, etc. IW’s DLC is a similar charge for consumers. They knew people would be prime targets to pay a fee for additional content because they limited the single player portion to almost a tenth of what normal single player games contain. This “forced” their consumer base to pay for the additional content of the game via an upgrade. Yes, we all have choices and sometimes we even use our principles when making our choices. We should all take a look at how we are spending our money on products going forward. Determine just what you are buying. Are you buying a complete product? Are you going to be asked to pay for things that should have been included day one? Are you ok with buying a partially complete product without all of the bells and whistles of the super duper “complete” product?

Go into purchase decisions with your eyes open and don’t just assume that these companies are playing fair. They are purposely releasing unfinished products with the knowledge that the average purchaser of their product will continue to spend money down the road to satisfy their supposed needs. I’m sure there are many of you out there with examples of products and companies that fit the bill. Most likely ones you’ve bought.

7 Responses »

  1. Jeanie
    on April 30th, 2008 at 7:55 am:

    I’m going to have to disagree a bit here regarding the new map charges. First, if they have to pay additional revenue to the programmers to make these maps, then they should be able to offset their costs by charging the customers that want these additional maps. Secondly, if I love a game, like so many obviously love this one, I would gladly dole out a small sum of money for additional fun. For instance, the Zelda game that I love…if there was an option to put additional play on the game and I had to purchase it, I would be dishing out the cash and saying thank you with a big smile on my face. If this company was requiring you to purchase these new maps in order to ALSO play your original purchased game, then I would think it was wrong. Anything else.. just don’t purchase them if you don’t want to spend the extra money and play with what the game came with, which sounds like a substantial amount of maps that everyone loves. You can’t expect a full load of new maps for an additional purchase.. if that were the case, they would call it Call of Duty 5 or 6 and get a new $60 charge.

  2. Robert
    on April 30th, 2008 at 8:47 am:

    Good points and I would agree for the most part. However, the maps that were initially included in the game were maps taken from the single player experience, no new development there. As for the additional 4 maps, 1 was a previously released map with a new graphic skin on it. Another was a very small improvement on an already included scene from within the game. A third was a scene from within the game also. Of the 4 new maps, only 1 was a new development. I would agree that it is a small sum to pay for additional content, but that’s what they prey upon. Small sums of money for seemingly new content (which this was blatantly not).

    IW KNEW people would shell out the cash for “new” content just like other companies KNOW people will spend money to extend a product that should have been complete in the first place. It does come down to a personal choice on the matter and what value you associate with extending a product’s life, but what I want to show is that companies are banking on people’s “need” to shell out smallish sums of money for things that don’t require much product investment to create. Actually, most of the additional content is made before product release and charged for after the fact.

  3. Robert
    on April 30th, 2008 at 9:23 am:

    Just wanted to throw out an example of company conspiracy to charge customers for future content for an incomplete product. In the past, I dealt with companies selling various pieces of equipment. This equipment would come with a sheet of “supported” elements and capabilities. However, upon purchase/trial of product, these elements and capabilities would be in a crippled state, almost beta like. Of course you could get a nice “discount” on the initial product, but the only way to realize the true potential of these products was to purchase a service contract which would include software upgrades, product enhancements, etc. They KNEW they didn’t have a complete product, but they included features that did not work as a sales point, and yet they KNEW you would have to purchase a service contract to actually use something they said their product was capable of.

    Of course, the “discount” you received at the beginning isn’t really a discount. It’s on the same level as paying sticker for a car, or negotiating to the real price of the car. The discount is expected and not really a discount at all. You end up paying the real price. It’s a whole other story, but it’s like this. You have something worth $20, but you want to make the consumer feel good so you market it as $40 but throw out a 50% off sticker on it. You have immediately made the customer feel like they are receiving a great deal when in fact, you are making what you planned on anyway. On top of that, now you can plan on additional revenue down the road. That’s the nature of these companies, preying upon people because of the built in “needs” associated with products.

  4. Redlegs23
    on May 6th, 2008 at 7:59 pm:

    Your rants tend to be very lenghty. I quit reading half way through and just skimmed. I, every now and again don’t have a problem with the $10 for maps, but when added and even compared to the original $60, it does seem like IW is bleeding us a bit dry. While the maps are pretty sweet, and while I haven’t played the game since the Sunday of Double XP, I don’t feel I am getting the full $10 value out of the 4 maps, which I had definitely received from the original game after months of play. Perhaps, this was IW’s way of keeping a few people from leaving for GTAIV or whatever other game is out. It worked, I bought the maps, played for three days, then haven’t looked back. Although, this reply is making me want to play. Thanks.

  5. Robert
    on May 6th, 2008 at 10:01 pm:

    Red, yeah, I get to writing something and it just seems to grow from a few paragraphs, to a small essay, to a mini story fit for reader’s digest. While I too liked the new maps and the efforts on detail they put into them, I was not satisfied with the total package. I would rather have paid an extra $10 for a finished product as in gameplay.

    The product is “Game of the Year,” but it could have been “Game of the past 5 years” if they would have spent a little additional preparation time on it. It’s as if they “rushed” the game out almost finished to beat the Christmas rush. 6+ Million sold copies later and millions of $10 DLC purchases later, I guess they have made the right business decision. Even though it may have cost them respectability in the gaming community. Money cures a lot of issues, but only once usually.

  6. block
    on June 5th, 2008 at 11:59 pm:

    Totally agree with you Robert. When I saw they were charging 800 points ($10) for these maps I just laughed, a couple dollars is probably where it should be priced. When you have 7 million downloads isn’t $14 million enough to cover the costs of probably 2-5 days worth of work. I love the game, but 4 maps for $10 is not worth it, especially when they’ll probably be free in a few months. Plus this kind of thing was free 7 years ago on the PC with games like Quake 3 (Urban Terror mod anyone, that was like a whole other game for free). The Xbox360 in general is really bad about this. Here’s the system, but no games, one controller, a small hard-drive, and no built-in wireless card. You get all the extras and then the Live subscription, before you know it you’ve spent $800 instead of the original $400 to get everything you need to make it somewhat worth it. Then they start charging for every little piece of content such as this. I’m still happy with the system but throw us bone Microsoft and IW.

  7. Robert
    on June 6th, 2008 at 8:02 am:

    That’s the marketing machine in the finest hours of work. For months (more than a year now), Microsoft and the media have been pushing their system as the “better” deal when compared to the PS3. Sure, you can get into the 360 world for less up-front money, but you have to pay for online subscriptions and also additional hardware most of the time. The PS3 comes with everything built in, including a top of the line blu-ray player. Not to mention, online is free.

    As for IW, their game has now topped the 10 million copy sold mark. The latest news from them is they are going to be selling t-shirts as another revenue stream. I think they have great ideas and an even better marketing machine behind both of these companies. But sometimes, pulling all the nickels and dimes from your customers’ pockets isn’t the only goal. There are future games and people remember how they were treated in the past by the manufacturers.

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