Downloadable content: a dangerous game?

I’m currently playing Fallout 3. I finished the actual game months ago, but the extra downloadable content packs were released for PS3 recently, so I bought a couple and returned to the post-apocalyptic wasteland. So I’m not inherently against the idea of paid-for add-on downloadable content packs for games.

However, I skipped buying any add-on content for LittleBigPlanet. Frankly, I don’t need tons of outfits or in-game stickers, and dozens of little $1.99 transactions add up quickly. I also skipped The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion until the Game of the Year edition came out with all the add-on content included. Why buy, only to have to pay extra for the full game later?

The newest RPG, Dragon Age: Origins, has gone even further. Controversially, paid-for downloadables were available on day 1, and included a storage chest for inventory items that many say is really hard to do without. The game developers have revealed that they plan another two years of DLC, including packs of in-game items. Worse still, NPCs will try to persuade you to buy the DLC while you’re playing the game.

It seems to me that game developers themselves are playing a dangerous real-world game here.

If you buy a PS3 game new, play it, and then sell it second hand, you can work out how much it’s costing you: $60 for the game, of which you might get $30-40 back, for an overall cost of $20-30.

DLC dramatically changes this. $60 for Fallout 3, plus 5 downloadable content packs at $10 each is $110. But by the time you come to sell the game, the Game of the Year (GotY) edition is out, which bundles the content and drops the price to $30, so you’ll be lucky to get $20 for your used copy with no DLC (since it’s not transferable). Overall cost to you, $90.

Sure, you don’t have to buy all the DLC; but even if you skip all of it, the existence of the DLC and the inevitable GotY edition with it bundled in will reduce the resale value of the game, increasing your overall cost.

This means that more than ever, the smart move is to wait for the game to be released as a GotY edition, whether you want the extra content or not.

In a sense, this doesn’t matter to me. The people who feel they must have the very latest game on release day get to pay 3x more, I wait and get the full game for far less, everyone’s happy, right? Except I can’t help wondering how many people are going to reach the same conclusion as me, and skip buying games with DLC until it’s bundled.

So, no Borderlands or Dragon Age: Origins for me. I look forward to playing them in a year or two, though.