I have a confession: I’m happy with how Evolve is approaching its post-launch content.
I have no issue with Evolve’s plan to be inundated by DLC, nor that it was built from the ground up to support DLC, nor that the DLC will be priced at around $15 a character.
When I realized that this was how I felt and that I didn’t agree with people who were infuriated by it, I found it interesting to consider exactly why I feel this way, why I’m so comfortable with it. I came to the realisation that it’s because I indulge heavily in tabletop gaming, and the manner in which I, along with many others, expand my tabletop collection is similar to how Evolve is looking to advance in the future.
Additionally, I realised that the view towards such content expansion from the tabletop / board game community is in complete contrast with how the video game community is approaching content expansion in Evolve. Whereas PC / console gamers (henceforth referred to as “video gamers” to avoid confusion) are at best suspicious and off-put regarding such a DLC plan, tabletop gamers are in comparison quite pleased and eager when presented with similar plans, albeit in physical form.
To illustrate this, I’m going to compare Evolve (and its DLC) to a tabletop game set in the Star Wars universe called X-Wing: Miniatures Game, which employs similar content or product expansion, and has been astoundingly popular in the few years it’s been out. Seriously popular. As in, they keep opening new factories to increase their product output and they still can’t meet demand.
Above you see the base game. It provides everything needed to play: the rules (naturally), tokens, movement sticks, and cards for the ships are all included. As a standalone product it’s a bit bare, as you only get three starter ships: one X-wing and two TIE fighters. At best this represents a third of the scale for which the game is actually designed– meaning the variety of the starter pack is quickly exhausted. So why do this?
It’s done because the game is not designed to be played with the base package alone – it’s a starting point for a game that thrives on new products (being ships, in this case) that are released somewhat regularly. The product above is the foundation of the experience. It gets new players rooted and provides an entry point into the broader experience. And it costs $39.95. For a starting point.
“…there seems to be a culture of distrust towards game developers and publishers, an expectation that companies intentionally try to cheat and steal from their customers…”
What of the expansions? Each includes a single ship, with upgrades, different pilots (several with unique abilities), and all the tokens needed to fly that particular ship.
Smaller ships like the one to the right cost $14.95, while larger ships like the Millennium Falcon further down this page cost $29.95.
Pricey, right? Especially considering one needs to buy several ships (and often multiple of the same ship) if they wish to play a full game. You’ll need even more if you plan to expand your collection beyond a single faction. And yet, people LOVE it. It’s selling like hotcakes that poop rainbows. Each expansion announcement is met with joy, excitement, and anticipation. Going to events, people show off their new purchases, eager to give them a try, or happy they no longer need to borrow ships from friends.
While it may be tempting to point at the Star Wars branding as the reason it’s done so well and been so celebrated, it’s important to note that had the game itself not been excellently designed it would be only a fraction as successful, and certainly wouldn’t have anything near the huge supportive community that it has today. In other words, the game’s popularity is driven primarily by design quality rather than branding.
X-Wing is certainly not the only tabletop game to use this release approach. It’s quite prolific within the board gaming world. An obvious example are card games such as Magic: The Gathering where one buys booster packs that hold a randomised set of cards – you don’t even know if you’re getting the good stuff when you hand over your cash!
So why does this willingness not carry over to the video game community? Evolve itself is a platform designed for new content, similar to X-Wing. Evolve will over time release new character DLC, priced at $15 per character – coincidentally the same as the smaller ship expansions for X-Wing. And yet while a new character in Evolve arguably provides more in content than a single ship for X-Wing, it has made people very, very upset. Arms up, fiery spittle, the gnashing of teeth and a call for an end to this “triple-A bullshit”. Why the stark contrast?
Quality doesn’t seem to be a factor in it – while the X-Wing game has proven to be exceptionally well designed, which is likely a factor in its popularity, people seem to be upset at Evolve’s DLC plan in spite of how good it could potentially be. Could it be cultural? Are people just used to buying a single product and having a full, contained experience? That may be part of it, but I’m unsure if it’s the primary reason, as most board games are self-contained – though it’s possible tabletop gamers have simply been exposed to games that have content plans like X-Wing for far longer than gamers.
Could it be a trust issue? Increasingly, there seems to be a culture of distrust towards game developers and publishers, an expectation that companies intentionally try to cheat and steal from their customers, and ultimately this leads to anger and dissatisfaction, even when that dissatisfaction is based on player expectation rather than developer promises. On the other hand, tabletop gamers tend to have very fond and trusting views of developers and – more so than I’ve seen in the video game community – a considerably greater willingness to blindly buy into products based on past experience.
Could it simply be the medium? Is there the expectation that because there’s no cost barrier to content delivery due to digital distribution, that this should eliminate the need to charge for additional content? Possibly – although it’s likely it’s more a combination of this and the growing sense of entitlement amongst video gamers, in that they feel they’re entitled to receive any and all additions to the game for free after launch. I’m unsure about this, and I feel the decision to do this is largely out of any developer’s hands, and more in line with what the publisher deems necessary, or what the team overall feel their financial compensation should be when continuing development post-launch. While I fully agree it would be fantastic to receive all future content for free, considering the work that obviously seems to go into each character, Monster or Hunter, I feel perfectly fine paying that fee.
Personally, I view the two as interchangeable – financially I’ve approached Evolve in the exact same way I’ve approached X-Wing, and other tabletop games with similar content approaches. As such I’ve perceived its intention to periodically release new, paid-for character DLC as perfectly natural.
Ultimately I find this scenario interesting for two reasons. Firstly, that Evolve looks to move closer to the format used by board games for expanding its content, a format proven to work tremendously successfully. Secondly, while this format is consumed quite happily by tabletop gamers, it’s been met with quite a lot of hostility by video gamers, who see the practice as leprous and financially parasitic to the consumer.
– Daniel Hallinan
Hi there! You may have noticed that the above sequence of words and thoughts did not stem from the mind of any of NAG’s writers. Instead, they’re the musings of Daniel Hallinan, a member of our amazing community and frequenter of NAG’s ever-exciting forums. This post’s purpose is twofold: to highlight Daniel’s calmly unique perspective on Evolve‘s post-launch content, and as an invitation to anyone else out there who’d like to follow Daniel’s lead and send us their own words and thoughts and opinions on whatever topic they deem worthy. If we like it enough, we might even publish it on this very website!
First, a few things to note. We won’t be paying anyone for community columns, but you’ll be able to smugly tell all your friends that you’re now a published writer, preferably while sipping from a tumbler filled to the brim with distinguished cognac and puffing on an expensive-looking cigar at 9 o’clock in the morning. You’ll also have to make peace with the notion that anything you submit will likely be chopped, changed, edited, broken into pieces and reassembled as we see fit. We obviously won’t be publishing everything that’s submitted, and we really hope you won’t be offended if your work isn’t published. Also, bear in mind that if we do choose to publish your writing, it could take us a while to get around to it because our other work takes priority. Finally, there’s no real limit to the range of topics you can cover. It doesn’t even have to be strictly related to games; if you watched a particularly good episode of Mouthpiece Monkeys* last night and it’s inspired you to put digital pen to virtual paper, go wild.
Submissions can take the form of Word documents, .txt files, whatever you’d like really, so long as we’re able to read it. Keep things simple, with no flashy formatting. Attach the document to an email, and if you’ve got any images you’d like to be included in the post, attach those as well or provide a Dropbox link to ’em. Bear in mind that those images must be of good quality (i.e. high-res, anything from 1280×720 to 1920×1080 would be best).
Are you intrigued? Then spend some time bashing away at your keyboard, and send the result of your furious key-bashing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* No, this is not a real TV show. But it probably should be.