DLC in gaming can lead to bigger issues

“Madden” may be fun to play with friends on occassion, but it has a potential dark side. (Photo provided by Fanside)
“Madden” may be fun to play with friends on occasion, but it has a potential dark side. (Photo provided by Fanside)

Downloadable content in video games is a riveting innovation that has captivated gamers all over the world as you are able to extend a game’s content without leaving your home.

It is a groundbreaking modernization that keeps a game fresh with new content to keep gamers coming back, and more importantly, keep them spending more money.

Games that have a storyline, such as MMOs (massive multiplayer online), like the “Call of Duty” series, and RPGs (role playing game), such as the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise, are prime suspects to have downloadable content down the road after their release.

A game like “Call of Duty” will have added content including extra guns, skins for guns and extra maps. “Assassin’s Creed” will include more parts to the storyline later on in the coming months after the game’s release.

Users can choose to buy a season pass for a game, meaning they buy all the downloadable content before it is released. No matter what it is, their allegiance to a particular game will make them want to buy whatever it is that’s going to be released down the road.

I’m not particularly opposed to this kind of marketing. Downloadable content for MMOs and RPGs are a one-shot deal where you get what you’re paying for without any possibility of getting ripped off somehow.

Sports games are a completely different story, however. Downloadable content in sports video games such as “Madden NFL,” “NBA 2K” and “NBA Live” contain modes that are essentially an online card game. For example, in the “Madden” ultimate team mode, the user is to collect these virtual cards to create a custom-made team with real-life players. The way users obtain cards is where the money comes into play.

When “Madden” comes out, there are base player cards for ultimate team mode, meaning there are bronze-quality cards (low-rated cards), silver cards, gold cards and elite cards (the highest rated cards). Users obtain cards by buying packs with in-game coins, which are earned by playing online and offline games or buying points with actual currency. As the season progresses, more cards come out, and not in appropriate increments like the MMOs and RPGs, which come out on more of a monthly basis.

New cards are released two to three times a week, with there being two ways to obtain them. Users can attempt to pull them from packs or buy them from an auction block for coins only from other users playing the game.

This is where the game begins to bug me. For casual gamers who still still want to have a quality team in this particular game mode, like me, it is immensely difficult to get these cards by earning them with coins. Instead, players tend to spend money on packs with an exceptionally minimal chance of pulling a desired card or one that is worth a lot of coins to put toward a desired card.

The more I don’t get the card I want, the more inclined I’m going to be to try just a few more times before I give up. Pulling a pack is essentially like pulling a lever on a slot machine. The chances of winning are so slim that once you lose, you’re going to try again because the thought of hitting the jackpot is so enticing that it almost consumes you. When a high-quality card is released of one of your favorite players, you’re going to want them on your team and will try anything to get them.

Even to be able to compete with other middle-of-the-road users, you must have a relatively adequate team, or else your team is doomed to lose for simply being inferior.

This is where game distributors make a lot of their money, because unlike downloadable content for MMOs and RPGs, which is a sure thing every time, buying packs in sports games and hoping for the best is anything but.

I will admit, it is a brilliant marketing strategy, but it is harmful to consumers who play the game religiously. Some users spend thousands of dollars on a sports title every year just in downloadable content, which will soon become an afterthought a year later when the next game comes out, after which the cycle begins again.

Don’t get me wrong, these game modes in sports games which include downloadable content are extremely fun, if you’re able to get a good team. Madden’s distributor EA Sports makes it almost impossible to get a good team on your side without shelling out at least $100 for the casual gamer.

It is possible to grind your way to having a successful team by earning it the hard way — by playing the game — but this would require playing on a daily basis for several hours. Not many players are willing to go to these extremes for a game and elect instead to take the easy way out by purchasing packs with real money.

Despite being highly beneficial from a financial standpoint on their end, these gaming distributors are simply setting their users up to develop gambling addictions.