Time is Worthless?

Maybe the years at EA have dulled my nerd rage receptors, but I do not understand the universal outrage over the “Time is Money” downloadable unlock for Skate 2. For those unaware, one can buy the $5 pack which unlocks all locations, skaters and gear which can be earned through the career mode.

For those folks who don’t want to spend 30+ hours on the game, but want to see all their purchase has to offer, they pay a premium and can enjoy the game at their leisure sans grind (Grind meaning repetition for advancement, not sliding on a rail). For those who want to run through the game the old-fashioned way, that path is available and free. Their game is completely unchanged. In fact, the free way will be more rewarding because they will be gaining skills via the challenge curve that the designers intended rather than jumping around all willy-nilly.

When did selling something that gives value without causing any externalities become an evil? This isn’t ZT Online where he who has the most money wins; it is simple market segmentation. It isn’t evil that the Post Office charges more for two day shipping than for first class, is it? After all, it is the same mail carriers bringing the package to the door, right?

This isn’t even a case of nickel-and-diming consumers, where one thinks that they get the full package at a $60 price point, but then realizes that they can’t get the full experience unless they pay $2 here or $5 there. The $60 game contains everything. Why not be mad at Bethesda for the Broken Steel expansion to Fallout 3? You mean we have to pay to get the rest of the story? Revolting!

Or is it just that consumers look at the cost of producing something as the price that they should pay? Since Skate 2 sans Time is Money costs the same (within a small margin) as Skate 2 with the DLC to produce, does that mean to the horde that they should be valued the same at market? Is that where the disconnect occurs?

Value to Consumer Cost to Produce Outrage Level
Oblivion‘s Horse Armor Low Low High
Skate 2‘s Time Is Money High Low High
Rock Band tracks that
no one cares for
Low High Indifference
Fallout 3‘s Broken Steel High High Low

Seems to be.

3 Comments

  1. I haven’t given this issue a lot of thought, but the apparent problem with this practise is that it give developers incentive to hide content behind nearly insurmountable challenges. When bad design becomes good business, it’s only a matter of time until this practise becomes a matter of course for the industry.

    It’s also common to complain about paying for something that used to come for free.

  2. Nobody would be complaining if it were called “Nintendo Power Magazine Unlock” instead of “Time Is Money”.

  3. Yes, but if the game is stupidly difficult with the obvious nod to victory-via-DLC, I doubt the game would get very good reviews. And review scores matter way more than the extra couple percent a developer can squeeze out via DLC.

    And I think the “used to be free” thing is true sometimes, but in this case is a bit of misdirection. It would be a different story if Skate 1 had a cheat code where you smash some buttons and everything became unlocked, but it didn’t. If Rock Band 3 offers a DLC that unlocks all the songs, that too would be different. But Black Box deliberately added this to the game to segment the market. So this never was free at all. It just smells like something that is free in other franchises.

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