Monday, 7 January 2013

Doritos Crash Course's DLC Leaves a Bitter Taste

I used to be such a grumpy gamer. Back when I was a teenager in the early 2000's, not only did I vehemently oppose the emerging concept of digitally distributed games but I was also too closed minded to even think about how such a system could be beneficial to the consumer.

I'd like to think that with my age I also received some wisdom and now understand the benefits of digital distribution. Indie game developers and smaller studios now make up a significant proportion of the games industry in terms of presence, units sold and revenue. Many of these games would not have even existed if not for digital distribution, such as Lorne Lanning's revitalisation of the Oddworld brand and the HD-remake of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, as described in my 'Things Are About to Get Odd...' with more information on Oddworld being found in my BitMob article on gamer-developer communication

In addition to this cutting costs spent on transportation, retail space, manufacturing in most cases will result in cheapest costs to consumers. Even so, a videogame publisher or developer will sometimes pull off a stunt that has me revert back to my teenage ways of thinking. In this case it is the recent news of Doritos Crash Course, a free game on XBLA, now having paid DLC. Click through to find out why.

Digital distributed games are still something I try to avoid, but now due to their impracticality and my current living situation. I've never been fortunate enough to have a steady internet connection and entire days can go by without having any internet connection at all. This making shopping for, buying, downloading and in some cases playing digital downloads through either Xbox Live Arcade and Valve's Steam platform cumbersome.

It's schemes like the Humble IndieBundle and Valve's astounding Steam sales that warm me to it. If not for these schemes I may never have played indie games such as Braid, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, Atom Zombie Smasher and many other games that are now personal favourites. Another one of these games is Doritos Crash Course.

Back in the summer of 2010 when I was living back with my parents following graduation from university, my youngest brother and I would trawl through the old Xbox Live Marketplace in search of interesting demos and trails to try out. Both of us grew up on PlayStation demo discs and considered demos a legitimate source of fun. It was during this time that we stumbled upon Doritos Crash Course and Harm's Way, two games that had been released for absolutely free due to winning Doritos's second 'Unlock Xbox Challenge'.

Harm's Way was pretty good, but a lot of our time was spent racing each other on Crash Course. Come Christmas time my other two brothers would visit and we'd all race each other together on 4-player split screen. Its 2D platforming resonated with us and our Mega Drive upbringing and our 'friendly', brotherly competition kept the controllers stuck in our sweaty hands. With that being said, one may expect me to be pleased to see that the game I enjoyed so much has been extended with many new levels, but this is not the case. 

Wanako Games, the development studio behind Crash Course, isn't simply some small, ragtag group of independent  developers. The Chilean based studio has been around since 2004, producing what are mostly smaller games for PC based, cross-device service Wild Tangent as well as a few XBLA and PSN titles. After the rise in Crash Course's popularity Wanako went on to develop Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, Voltron: Defender of the Universe and Wipeout the Zone, the last being an Xbox 360 Kinect game. Most would consider this a success story, which begs the question: Why release DLC for Crash Course considering that it is a free game which was released two years ago?

Aside from the obvious reason, which is to make money, I believe the announcement to be a publicity stunt. How else would a very solid, yet unremarkable, two year old XBLA game be popping up on the likes of game journalism giants Destructoid and Joystiq? Despite developing bigger games following Crash Couse, Wanako want people to remind people of their work, and what better way than to draw attention to a game most people probably downloaded purely because it was free?

However Crash Course 2 is in development right now and was shown at PAX 2012. Due to the lack of crisp-based sponsorship it is likely to either require payment or will utilise some sort of free-to-play model. It doesn't really matter because the same outlets that have reported the news of the original's DLC will report on any substantial Crash Course 2 news. So why ask for players of the original to start forking out cash now instead of incorporating the new content into the new game?

Wanako deserve success for their simple, but addictive game, and I really am grateful that Crash Course was free, but I don't think this is a good way to gain the attention of gamers or to solidify any kind of Crash Course brand that Wanako are trying to build.

What are your thoughts on the matter of small amounts of DLC being released for older, but originally free gamers? Would you rather Wanako focus on the development of Crash Course 2 or do you think that subsequent DLC packages for the original is preferable? Drop me a comment in the section below, ot hit me up on Twitter, and let me know.


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