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Exploitation on DLCs and Season Pass

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"I feel like I'm rich after owning 100% of a Paradox game." - A review on Paradox's Imperator: Rome's store page.

The Exploitation on DLCs and Season Pass, also known as Paradox DLC Syndrome is a trope which originated from Paradox Interactive's exploitation on downloadable contents (DLCs) mechanics by publishing their games in "barebone" stage by stripping off most of the features from the main game and sold them as multiple DLCs. Which would be later adapted by several game companies to maximize their profit.

A game which was affected by this trope usually has the following characteristics, including (but not limited to):

  1. Relatively cheap cost of the "main" game: The base game usually has a relatively reasonable price compared to their other AAA competitors (for example, Cities: Skylines base game is sold for $18, which is relatively cheap compared to other competitors such as SimCity series, which is sold for $25 - $40), which gives a false impression that the game is "cheaper" than what it really is with DLCs' price combined.
  2. Cheap expansion packs: Expansion pack is the earliest type of DLC, which offered a sizeable amount of contents and features to the base game. Before 2010s, expansion pack was usually being sold at a half price or almost the same price as the base game, which is justified by a huge amount of content offered. After DLCs became common, expansion packs have degraded into a slice of content expansion (which occasionally gets cut from the main game), which were being sold in quantity and at a "low" price around $5-$10.
  3. Stackable amount of minor DLC: Most of the DLCs of the game with this trope are minor DLCs that add a few amount of new content, such as new weapon, new level, or even a cosmetic character skin. These are sold at $1-$3 to give a false impression of how "cheap" it was to "buy" them. These DLCs are the most common type of DLCs.
  4. Season Pass: Season pass is essentially a "wholesale" bundle of DLCs which granted buyers various presents and/or upcoming DLCs in the future release for free. In some cases (such as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege), the season pass granted an access to the DLCs which were released at the same year (or "seasons") as said season pass. These were usually being sold at a higher price than normal DLCs due to the "large" amounts of contents bundled.

Why These Practices Suck

  1. These practices usually end up inflating the price of the "full" game (base game + all DLCs) up to 4-10 times of the "base" game, and up to 3 times compared to other games without this trope. The "common" price of game with this practice is between $80 to $150, something way more expensive than most of the AAA titles without this practices.
  2. Many developers use this practice along with other exploitations, such as Pre-Order and Season Pass to "encourage" customers to buy an expensive bundled package, only before they release more DLCs later.
  3. Some developers (such as Paradox themselves), usually exploit this practice to release their game in unfinished states with a lack of content, before eventually including it into the game as paid DLCs. This may occasionally include various bug fixes on the base game as well.
  4. In some worst cases, the developers may occasionally re-release an old game for new platforms, but with various features (even the most basic ones) removed from the re-release to be sold later as DLCs. The most notorious offenders is Electronic Arts, as they got various features cut from the re-release version of The Sims 3 to sell them for $10 each.
  5. Due to the rise of fighting games popularity and being more competitive, developers would release their games and give them yearly season passes to make the game last longer, however some games tend to be released barebones just to release multiple season passes, most famous examples would be Granblue Fantasy Versus, Street Fighter V and Dead Or Alive 6.

Notable Offenders

  1. Paradox Interactive - The company that originated this trope, Paradox is infamous for cutting features which were originally available in the main game and then sell them as DLCs, such as the "unit skins" in Victoria 2 (originally published in 2006) and older Hearts of Iron titles. This results in price inflation on their games, the worst case of Paradox DLC done by Paradox themselves is Crusader Kings 2, which had its price jacked up to $300 with all DLCs combined. What also should be noted is that often, their DLCs that have a certain theme are cut in two.
    • On April 2019, Paradox released a new grand strategy title; Imperator: Rome at a low price tag at $20. However, players quickly found out that a LOT of basic features from Paradox's earlier grand strategy titles were missing, leading to speculation that Paradox might have released "feature updates" as DLCs. This would later proved true after Paradox released Deluxe Edition DLCs and Magna Graecia DLCs to "patch" the game.
  2. Electronic Arts - Unsurprisingly, EA has also exploited the DLC mechanics for more benefits. The most infamous example is The Sims 3, which were originally released in 2009. The main game's price tag is $25; however, EA had cut a sizeable amount of in-game content and sold them as an overpriced "bundle", each "bundle" cost as much as the "base" game itself, and the combined price of the game with all DLCs is over $600.
    • EA's DLC exploitation has gone as far as releasing a DLC for DLC in The Sims 4, which cannot be purchased separately without purchasing the "main DLC". If you want the full experience, you have to pay $710 for the "full" game with all DLCs combined.
  3. Koei Tecmo - While not often, Koei Tecmo has exploited the DLCs system in a handful amount of games. A notable example is Dead or Alive 5 which the "base" game is given away for "free", however, half of the game modes (including story mode) is locked behind paywalls and only two characters were available. The only way to unlock the characters and features in the "base" game is to purchase a DLC to unlock it that, when combined the price of all DLCs is $45, which is actually the real price of the game. To add more insult to injury, all of the data (characters, stages, modes, etc.) were actually pre-loaded with the "base" game, and the content unlock DLCs is just a small script that unlocked said content.
    • Koei Tecmo has cut various iconic weapons from previous Dynasty Warriors titles from the ninth game for "realism" reasons, only to be released later as DLCs, The DLC is something that was free in other games.
    • Koei Tecmo has exploited Dead or Alive 6 to the much more ridiculous scales, with the "base" game costed $80 but with extremely lackluster contents (due to most of them were locked behind paywall and overpriced season passes). As of this is currently written, there's 460 DLCs for Dead or Alive 6 and most of them is just an outfit for characters sold for roughly $2 each, the current "full" price of Dead or Alive 6 with all DLCs is roughly $2,068 dollars, making it the second most expensive game to ever published after Eagle Dynamics's flight combat simulator game DCS World.
  4. Capcom and the infamous on-disc DLC practices; in order to release Street Fighter V as a tie-in with Street Fighter international tournament, Capcom intentionally cut several features from the game, such as most characters and Arcade mode to be charged as DLCs, some of these "DLC" files can still be found in the installation disc.

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