Gamers have gotten used to the idea that they might spend more than the initial sticker price on a game. DLC in various forms, season passes, and premium memberships are common, and often just easily ignored temptations – unnecessary for some and a nice thing to have for others. Although there are numerous pay-to-win titles, most console games do not let some gamers pay for an advantage over those who haven’t. Today Electronic Arts and Visceral announced the Battlefield Hardline Premium program that may cross that line.
The program includes many of the features that were in the Battlefield 4 premium program but Hardline advertises four “super” features – one of which is masks that confer “unique gameplay benefits.” I’ve contacted EA to try and find out exactly what these benefits are, but the company said it isn’t sharing any more details on the program at this time.
Furthermore, the other super features don’t sound very premium when compared to series like Call of Duty that already offer these in the base game. Visual weapon customization via a gun bench and the Legendary status (a replayability feature that sounds close to COD’s Prestige class) arguably should not be put behind a premium wall.
It’s not usual for a multiplayer game’s DLC to offer exclusive weapons for money or as part of a pre-order campaign. In some cases these are balanced with other weapons in the game, and therefore don’t necessarily give a clear-cut advantage. There are other masks in Hardline that everyone can get (they take up a gadget slot in your loadout), and while it’s possible that the masks won’t tip the scales of the game towards those that pay $ 50 for the membership, at best it’s currently unclear what exactly you’d be paying extra for.
This brings up another worrying aspect of the program as well as other games’ season passes – you don’t always know if what you’re paying for is worth it (like with Shadow of Mordor), or in the case of BioShock Infinite, when they are going to come out at all. While the math works out in favor of consumers who get a season pass if they plan to purchase all the expansions, for instance, there’s no way to tell if the DLC that sounds good will actually be worth it.
Funnily, DLC turns out to be a damned if they do, damned if they don’t for developers, too. Visceral shouldn’t offer DLC that gives an unfair advantage, but if they are going to sell DLC in the first place, it better be worth it!
This sums up my ambivalence towards DLC. For most games I don’t buy it in advance because I rarely can get a feel if it’s something I really want, and I also never know if I’ll even be playing the game still by the time it comes out. How often have you felt the DLC you’ve bought was worth it?
At the end of the day, it’s only $ 10 extra dollars, but when there are already so many questions surrounding what you’re actually getting when you pay your $ 60 for your average console game – whether it’s the content, length, or even stability of the product – we shouldn’t also have to worry about the gameplay balance being upset.