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Recently some games have included codes to download or unlock additional content within the game. This day-one DLC isn't an accident, it's an attempt to encourage us to buy new rather than rent or buy pre-owned. But with this content usually offering only cursory additions it's so far unlikely to make a big difference in our purchasing decisions.
EA Games has been the most notable proponent of this strategy as I'm sure many of you have noticed. Crack open a new copy of Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age or The Saboteur and you'll see this so-called 'Project Ten Dollar' at work. However, renting these games means you'll have little choice but to pay for this content if you want to experience it.
For those of us used to renting games this might feel like a punitive measure to empty our wallets more than usual. With new games costing at least GBP39.99 why should we be punished for trying to budget for our hobby and get as much value as possible? As with all businesses, and let's not forget video games are a business, the reasons are financial and aimed at combating the pre-owned market rather than the rental one.
It's not hard to imagine the next Call of Duty following the same path and locking the online portion... until you redeem a code or pay a fee to access it.
With every game you buy new, the publisher, developer and retailer get a cut of your precious money. This model changes as soon as you buy a pre-owned game. Though these are cheap Xbox 360 games or PS3 games, all that profit goes to the retailer and the people who actually made the game never see a dirty copper. This is why EA and many other publishers are introducing this new strategy to try and obtain some revenue from every copy of the game they sell, whether new, used or rented.
But what does this mean for those who rent? At the moment you'll likely to find a certain amount of content in a variety of games locked out and requiring a purchase to activate. I recently rented Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which had day-one DLC requiring me to pay if I wanted to access a couple of exclusive multiplayer maps. As I was more interested in getting through the single-player campaign I didn't feel as if I was missing out on anything and when I tried out the multiplayer I'd forgotten completely about it.
It would have been a different matter entirely if the multiplayer part of the game had been locked out completely, as Sony implemented with SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3 for PSP. In this instance online play is restricted until you redeem a code inside a new copy or buy one for GBP7.99. This extreme measure is more a direct challenge to the rampant piracy on the PSP but it means renting that game is almost pointless. It's not hard to imagine the next Call of Duty following the same path and locking the online portion for those not buying a new copy until you redeem a code or pay a fee to access it.
These day one additions are just the icing on the cake - they sweeten the experience but if you don't like the core product then it makes very little difference.
Project Ten Dollar is, so far, about rewarding customers who buy new copies and charging everyone else a small amount to access incidental content. Whether or not you deem that content essential enough to warrant buying on Live or PSN is a matter of personal choice but it means that if you want to have the same, full experience of someone who bought the game new you're going to have pay GBP5-GBP10 on top of your rental fee to get that experience.
I doubt that locking core content will make its way to the 360 or PS3 just yet and as long as this day-one DLC doesn't include core content from the main game it shouldn't impact your rental decisions just yet. These day one additions are just the icing on the cake - they sweeten the experience but if you don't like the core product then it makes very little difference.
The bottom line is that unless the core content of a game is dramatically restricted due to these methods then game rentals will continue to offer the best value for the money conscious.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
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