Outfit map pack now free

After only a few months, Collateral Damage multiplayer maps, once $6.25, are now up for grabs; will other XBL content follow in price-slashing footsteps?

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The idea of microtransactions in the online gaming marketplace is still ironing out several wrinkles. Prices, sizes, and release dates of downloadable content vary greatly from publisher to publisher, and in some cases, even within the same game. Just ask The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion gamers who purchased the tiny horse-armor pack and giant Mehrunes' Razor add-ons--for the same price.

The ironing continued today, as fans of THQ's The Outfit may notice that the Collateral Damage multiplayer map pack, which once cost 500 Marketplace points ($6.25), is now free. The bonus maps were originally released in mid-May, just over two months ago.

The idea of lowering the price of downloadable content is nothing new, but this is the first time it has occurred on the Xbox 360. Halo 2's multiplayer map pack was released in stages for a price and was ultimately free to download four months after the first release. However, gamers always knew that the maps would eventually be free because Bungie and Microsoft said so from the onset.

Making downloadable content gratis after it's been on the market has several positive effects for the games they are for. By giving everyone who owns the game the same maps, multiplayer matches no longer have to be limited to playing only against others who share the same map set. Free extra content, coupled with a cheaper price tag on the full game (the Outfit is now $39.99, down from $59.99) can also help units move out the door.

However, while many gamers eagerly accept the price cuts, some are concerned that those who recently purchased the pack didn't get a fair shake. On the other hand, if publishers announce if and when content will be free, they'll lose potential sales--as will Microsoft, who gets a cut of each transaction. It should be noted that the map pack did come with a "no refunds" caveat on its listing on Xbox Live Marketplace.

There's no word from any camp on whether this price cutting will apply to other pieces of downloadable content. Both THQ and Microsoft were unavailable for comment as of press time.

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