(Throughout this I am talking from the perspective of an Xbox 360 owner. I do not know how the topics I discuss differ on the PC, if they even do at all.)
Well, the day is about here. I have been looking forward to the release of Mass Effect 2 since I beat the original back in late 2007/early 2008, and the original stands as one of my favorite games this generation. Sure, it had its problems, like the monotony of planetary exploration, texture pop-ins, etc., but overall the game was absolutely superb, and its sequel promises to be just as if not more superb. But, before we get into Mass Effect 2, let's discuss the past few years.
Initially, Bioware discussed the possibility/likelihood a steady stream of DLC for Mass Effect which would supplement the game while fans waited for the sequel. Early on, this seemed like it might happen, as the Bring Down the Sky DLC was released a few months after the game's release. It wasn't the best DLC I have ever purchased, but it was a nice addition to the game. But, from there, the DLC stopped. There was no word of anything, not until this year, when the Pinnacle station DLC was released. Unfortunately, that addition to Mass Effect was rather poor and exploitative. I think the first sentence of Kevin VanOrd's review of the add-on sums it up spectacularly: "Like a diseased steak thrown to the wolves, so this travesty of a downloadable add-on has been tossed to hungry Mass Effect fans."
This, as a fan of the game, was mightily disappointing. I do not know why Bioware's promise never came to fruition; perhaps the business with EA caused too much ruckus, they wanted to more heavily focus on Mass Effect 2, whatever the reason may be, it was terribly disappointing to me as a fan, and Pinnacle station only worsened the sting. But, with the release of Mass Effect 2 mere months away, I got over the frustration rather quickly. Flash forward to last week: Bioware announces that new copies of Mass Effect 2 would come bundled with a code to download DLC which includes new items and characters, as well as future free DLC (but I personally believe that only small things will be offered for free trough it, the bigger things are likely going to cost us, so I'm tempering my expectations there) downloadable from day one right into the game.
Initially, my reaction was one of excitement. Naturally, after the DLC drought Mass Effect suffered, the addition of DLC to Mass Effect 2 from day one seems to hold great promise for content in the future. But now that I have had time to reflect upon this new announcement, I am not so thrilled.
I, as a college student, do not have very much money. The majority of the money I have goes into books and other expenses that I do not have a great amount of money left over to spend on myself. Therefore, outside of games like the new Call of Duty and Mass Effect 2, games I have been looking forward to with great excitement for some time, I buy used games to save the valuable commodity of money. The way I see it, this move by Bioware is a cheap shot at people like me. Say I were to wait a few months, maybe even a year or so, as I do with most big releases that I have interest in these days, and buy the game used at GameStop (or online, whatever) for say, $40, saving me $20. If I did this with Mass Effect 2, I would then have to spend $15 more in order to get the full experience of the game that someone who bought it new would get, nullifying any savings of buying used, which is what people like me thrive on due to economic limitations.
And what about those people who borrow the game from their friends? They cannot experience the full game unless they want to drop some cash on the DLC which came pre-packaged with new copies of the game. Now, if this was DLC that was released, say, a few months after the game's release, this would not bother me as much, as I see it as addition to the main experience of the game. But the fact that it is pre-packaged says to me that it is part of the main game, as it was meant to be played, and that this had to be planned by Bioware/EA/whoever. This to me means they developed it alongside the game, knowing it would not be put into the main game, instead having it as an add-on downloadable via unique code, which will, I imagine, like most other DLC's, be tied to the Xbox it is downloaded on, meaning it cannot be shared with friends.
On the surface, it may look like a good gesture by Bioware, but deep down there really seems to be no reason for this except for scraping a few bucks out of people who buy the game used or share it with their friends. If it becomes a trend, game developers could keep making more and more of the game come pre-packaged with new copies, further undermining the possibility of buying a game used and expecting to have the full experience without paying a premium. Perhaps the entire idea of DLC could be viewed in this light, but pre-packaging a game with a bunch of content not available from the disk seems to be taking a larger step in that direction than simple add-ons like Bring Down the Sky.
I'm still buying the game of course, it looks amazing, and I'm sure based on what I've read it will be better than the original. But as a fan of the game, I suppose I ask that you see this move for what it is, and pray that it doesn't become a larger trend. I won't ask anyone who buys the game used to avoid downloading it, because I know I would, but I'd hope that sales of it are not strong. I realize Bioware is a company that is trying to make money, but that doesn't make this action on their part bother me any less. I seem to be in the minority here based on comments I have read in the news article, as most see it as a fan service, and perhaps it is to some extent, and for all I know my suspicions could be without merit. But unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling of an ulterior motive behind this, one that bothers me greatly.