I was just listening to Brad Nicholson on Podtoid talking about how Mass Effect 2 is one of the best action RPGs he’s ever played, calling it a game of the year contender. At first it made me feel kind of bad for the developers; after all, it’s only February now, and in 10 months everyone will have more or less forgotten the games that came out at the start of the year. It happens every year when “best of” season rolls around; that’s why all the big dumb action moves come out in summer and all the gay melodramas come out in winter. Newer, shinier, sexier games will be coming out all year long; a game released in January has almost no chance of being remembered at the end of the year, much less recognized.
For those games that don’t disappear down the memory hole, more time in players’ hands usually equates to lower opinions. Familiarity breeds contempt, and game scores go down over times as the hype wears off and players really get to dig in deep with a game. The shine wears off of the graphics, and the shortcuts and oversights in the design become apparent. Exploits are found that dilute the experience for those too weak to resist them. Rebellious contrarians go against the grain and criticize popular hits. It’s natural.
And then I remembered: DLC.
Mass Effect 2 has two announced DLC packs scheduled, and almost certainly more in the pipeline for some time to come. If they can keep a steady pace of quality material coming through the year, that’ll be the story come December. It’s a lot more work than just releasing the game around the holidays, but totally worth it if things work out. In fact, if they really listen to what people have to say, they can pull a Fallout and actually improve the basic game via DLC (level cap, my ass), resulting in an overall better impression of the game when people look back than might have been warranted at… Well, I was going to say “release”, but maybe “launch” is a better word. That’s what a DLC-heavy title is, really: a platform for delivering content in return for micropayments.
Looking at this paradigm now, it seems odd that more publishers aren’t insisting on it. Bayonetta just came out and is garnering huge praise from the review community, but absolutely no DLC is planned. I wonder, are they simply not concerned about Bayonetta’s year-end award prospects? Where are their priorities?