We’ve devoted a lot of time and text recently to the gaming industry’s evolving business models, including the push towards software as a service (SaaS), here at denuology as well as in our monthly gaming newsletter PLAYED. It’s an interesting scenario for everyone involved: the publishers have an opportunity to build their businesses, developers can hopefully expound upon the stories and experiences they’re looking to deliver to gamers, and the gamers themselves have greater impact on what they want out of their entertainment by “voting” with their dollars. But the merits and pitfalls of this service-based model is another discussion entirely, for a much longer blog post.
While it’s nothing new to the industry, downloadable content can be considered both a piece of the service model as well as a rudimentary form of the model itself. And while DLC is usually considered as simply an add-on to a base game experience, sometimes that add-on can have a giant impact upon the title’s gameplay and subsequent fun factor, changing the experience for the player entirely.
I’m not just waxing poetic here – I have core, anecdotal evidence: my own.
Battlefield 3‘s latest expansion, “Close Quarters”, has re-created a gamer compulsion in me that rivals only my Call of Duty addiction. I’m not here to start a flame war between the EA and Activision behemoths – both games have their passionate fan bases and their justified reasons for those fans and for selling millions of copies, but know that I’ve traditionally leaned to the COD side on this particular front. Battlefield‘s, well, battlefields were just too expansive for me. I won’t deny that it’s technically amazing to have maps that are many square miles large with tanks, fighter jets, choppers, and jeeps creating havoc throughout, but I’m not much of a pilot. So, oftentimes, my Battlefield experience included relentless sprinting to actually find an enemy squad, that is if some chopper gunner didn’t frag me into infinity first.
The squad concept is another big reason why COD was my FPS of choice over Battlefield. In those large, free-wheeling maps you HAVE to work as a team if you expect to win or even compete. A combination of my gaming schedule and Xbox Live friends list kept any hope of a successful squad dynamic at bay. COD, on the other hand, is much better tuned for the “lone wolf” gamer. Sure, teamwork will definitely help your cause, but finding success in COD with a drop-in, drop-out approach isn’t unlikely at all.
Battlefield‘s $15 add-on has completely changed the game for me. Four new maps built around small, indoor environments accompanied by ten new weapons picked for close quarters combat means I can jump-in for some fast-paced, frag-fest fun. It also means I’ve gone from four hours invested in multiplayer to almost twenty-four in the span of just a couple of weeks. All of the inherent Battlefield hooks that I’ve ignored in the past because of the title’s gameplay style, now have me playing at least an hour each night. Add time spent with Battelog, the game’s online stats and strategy site (and iOS app) , and my investment doubles. On top of all that, the content-induced shift in gameplay has reintroduced the squad mechanic to this gamer in such a way that I’ve actually started playing those large environment maps I once despised so much. One, small content drop of many planned throughout the year has turned this casual fan into a hardcore Battlefield fanboy who gladly forked over $50 for Battlefield Premium, the title’s yearly subscription service, to go alongside his Call of Duty Elite subscription.
Excuse the geek-out, but the gist of my FPS ramblings is that if this simple example of the industry’s nascent SaaS shift is any indication, gaming’s true measure as an entertainment platform has only just begun; as have the inevitable gamer geek-outs. images via Battlefield.com