Column: "Natestalgia!" -- The Down-Low on On-Disc DLC

Unfortunately, this is going to ruffle A LOT of feathers

Edit: Added a few notes about the Vita version's release date and what character exclusivity meant for it.


Back in my day, this wouldn't even be an issue. But today it is, and I think it deserves more in-depth discussion than just a quick news post.


Sometime last week, a crazy YouTube genius going by SoulReaperTTG cracked an early-release copy of Street Fighter X Tekken, revealing to the world that not only were the twelve extra characters announced for the PS Vita version of the game on the disc... but they were also pretty much complete.


This has started a flurry of discussion, debate, and general butthurt from consumers, developers, publishers, and fans, with no one side being 100% correct.




So, here's the quick-and-dirty of it: Capcom released Street Fighter X Tekken today, a crossover fighter with 38 standard characters and five PS3 and Vita-exclusive characters. It's a fast-paced brawler that combines elements of Tekken into standard six-button Street Fighter controls, with a huge and varied cast and a unique Gem System that incorporates slight RPG-style customization to your team of choice.


I dunno about you, but that sounds like a $60 game to me. That sounds pretty darn complete right out the gate. I'm paying for 38 characters (43 on PS3 thanks to console exclusives) and a new fighting game to practice and challenge total strangers with.


Here's where it gets messy, though--it's not like there's a Super Street Fighter X Tekken coming down the pipe. Multiple times, Capcom has stated that they wanted to avoid releasing an updated physical disc copy of SFxT, and after the general financial flop that was Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I don't blame them at all.




So there are 12 extra fighters on the disc, only you can't access them without some magical hacker hoodoo. Here's Capcom's statement for why they're there:


"Capcom has confirmed that 12 new fan-favorite characters will be available as Downloadable Content (DLC) on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC versions of Street Fighter X Tekken later this year. The playable characters will make their debut on the PS Vita system when the game is released this fall, with the console and PC versions receiving them as DLC soon after.

"The character information and files were intentionally included on retail versions of the PS3 and Xbox 360 game to save hard drive space and to ensure for a smooth transition when the DLC is available, allowing players who choose not to purchase the content the ability to play against players that did. More specifics regarding pricing, dates and other additional exciting DLC plans for Street Fighter X Tekken will be shared at a later date.

"As a reminder, the retail version of the game will be the only disc-based version consumers will need to own and all future upgrades will come from post-launch DLC. The new characters fighting their way onto Street Fighter X Tekken are… from the Street Fighter side… Blanka, Cody, Dudley, Elena, Guy and Sakura will be playable and from Tekken… Alisa Bosconovitch, Bryan Fury, Christie Monteiro, Jack, Lars Alexandersson and Lei Wulong will all be available."

In short, this means that the (very playable) data for the characters is there so you can play against people who have the characters online. It's kinda like how if you don't own DLC costumes for Street Fighter IV, you just don't see your opponent's costume. Hell, somebody even found out that up-'til-now PS3 exclusives Mega Man and Pac Man are also on the 360 disc.




But here's the rub: that's a costume. It's a cosmetic item, and while some people (like me) are idiots and buy all the costume packs, it's still just a decorative item that serves no real purpose. These are actual, playable characters that affect gameplay. Instead of releasing a game with 50 characters, you instead get 38 characters, with twelve locked behind a magical screen until the Vita version is released on March 31st.


And here's where I collectively piss every single one of you off: I'm with Capcom on this.


The thing is, those twelve characters were supposed to be the incentive to pick up the Vita version, since you get them right off the bat. Handheld fighting games are practically nonexistent--they're understandably not taken seriously by the fighting game community at large. The idea was to have the Vita version with all the extra characters, then release those extra characters as extra content for the PS3 and 360 versions once the Vita version landed. It was a calculated business move that Sony probably paid a lot of money for.


Before I start talking about players themselves, I just need to make it clear that I'm not good at fighting games. Daigo is good at fighting games. Combofiend is good at fighting games. That neckbearded guy who showed up at the Monterey GameStop Street Fighter IV Tournament even though he freakin' lives three towns over is good at fighting games (I'm just bitter because I had the tournament in the bag until he showed up). Hell, every opponent I've ever had at FanimeCon is good at fighting games, even if I somehow end up winning against one or two of them.




Super Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are not made for the average joe who wants to pick up a fighting game, mash buttons and just goof off. They're really for the people who, at any level, put in the time and extra effort to practice and try to get better, no matter their actual skill level. While Capcom's said that it wants to avoid a disc-based Super Ultra Whatever the Frick Ever Street Fighter X Tekken, if that ever gets released, it won't be for most gamers.


So no, most of you aren't going to buy those extra characters. Most of you aren't going to buy an upgraded edition, and it's not because you're boycotting Capcom for their cackling, mustache-twirling corporate greed.




It's because you don't care enough. You have other, more important things to spend your money on, and that's fine. But I like DLC. Hell, if you had told thirteen-year-old me I could pay an extra $10 to get a couple hours of new content for Chrono Trigger it would've blown my mind. Just because I spend a lot of money on video games, it doesn't mean you need to.




Yes, I know, I already mentioned that these DLC characters are on the disc already. The one you paid $60 for. But here's where it gets even trickier: you don't actually own all the content on the disc.


This is not a new thing. You look at every game ever, and tons of content is locked away from players. PC games tend to have a /debug or /beta command that gives you access to content that was otherwise only available to developers. It's just tucked away better on console games, so that's why I think on-disc DLC is such a shock for today's gamers.




Y'see, I just bought Mass Effect 3. I paid $60--not for the physical media--but for the virtual experience of playing as Commander Shepard and flying my ship up the Illusive Man's ass. Maybe somewhere on the disc is an extra character who adds a bit to the story, but BioWare didn't want to release it on launch day. It's their product, so they decide how it gets distributed.




The same thing applies to Street Fighter X Tekken. If you're spending $60 for a Blu-ray disc or DVD, that's your choice. But what you're really spending money on is the advertised content of the disc--content that you're probably going to play for two months before switching to something else. I can attest to this--I have plenty of games I've voraciously played at launch and then completely dropped (hello, Arkham City). There is no agreement or contract anywhere that says that your $60 went toward 100% of the content on the disc.


What it does mean is that you bought the disc, it's yours, and you can do whatever you want with it. Use it as a coaster, break it up and use it for your underground knife-fighting club, whatever. But if you can show me some kind of explicit agreement between publishers and consumers saying that all the content on the disc is yours by God-given right, then please, show it to me.


Y'know what? I've been on this soapbox for too long, and thank you for listening to me before you hit that "comment" button and rip my throat out and call me an industry stooge. Gaming is an important-enough hobby to me that I hardly give a second thought to putting down money for it. Maybe it's kind of irresponsible, but them's the breaks.

I am not holding a gun to your head to make you buy downloadable content. Neither are developers. Jack I.T. Box is not pounding your door down and making you Marry Bacon. And Capcom is not telling you that you have to buy twelve extra characters for Street Fighter X Tekken, no matter their method of delivery. Put it in perspective, folks--they put stuff like that out there to increase the longevity of the game, as well as for poor saps like me with bad impulse-buying habits.


If it's important to you, buy it. If not, then it's just going to be another game you didn't pick up, or DLC you didn't pick up. It's not going to affect you in the long run. Just... learn to ask the right questions and learn who to really blame. It's our hobby--we're the ones who really support it.


What do you think? Is DLC an evil that's tearing apart the gaming industry? Is it a good idea, letting developers space out higher-quality content at less-frequent intervals? Drop by this coming Sunday for a more normal Natestalgia column--in the meantime, I really want to know what you guys think on this issue.

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