Downloadable Content: More Game for Their Buck

In this current economic landscape, if consumers are willing to spend $60 on a video game, you can bet they want their money’s worth. On the flipside, game publishers also want gamers to spend as much time with their titles as possible, especially as we enter a holiday season guaranteed to be filled with new releases. As a marketer, playing a role in the extended video game experience could offer an opportunity to engage your consumers in a whole new way.

So how do gamers get more out of their game? Downloadable content. Or, as it’s more affectionately known, DLC. This additional content can take many forms depending on the type of game. The following highlights downloadable content associated with some new games:

  • Last week, EA’s “Dead Space,” a horror-themed survival game set in space, released a lengthy list of DLC. The content includes new weapons, additional skins, weapon enhancements, and character suit enhancement. Each item or package costs between $1 and $4. However, those gamers looking to get their hands on all the content would spend a hefty $30, in addition to the initial game purchase.

  • Sony’s recently released “LittleBigPlanet” also jumped into the DLC arena. Gamers can dress up the game’s hero, SackBoy, in different costumes. Sony offered free seasonal costumes earlier this month, such as a spacesuit and jack-o-lantern mask. Costumes from a CGM (define) contest will also be available free to consumers, but those who missed out on the initial offering will be able to choose from various costumes individually or as a package, with costs ranging from $0.99 to $5.99. In a game built to leverage the creativity of gamers to come up with numerous uniquely created levels, I would expect consumers to jump on the custom SackBoy costumes as well to continue the personalization of the experience.
  • Microsoft’s second installment in the Gears of War franchise actually launched with DLC instead of waiting for the install base to build. Those gamers lucky enough to pick up a new copy of “Gears of War 2” also received a free voucher for the “Flashback Map Pack.” The pack provides five additional maps based on maps from the original “Gears of War.”

Console providers also look to DLC to encourage gamers to pick up the game for their platform rather than the competitors. Rockstar Games is planning to release exclusive DLC for “Grand Theft Auto IV” for the Xbox 360 in the near future. No dates have been confirmed nor have the specifics of the pack been disclosed, but GTA fanboys are anxiously waiting. Not to be outdone, it has been rumored that PlayStation 3 owners will receive exclusive “Mirror’s Edge” DLC in early 2009. Again, no details have been discussed to date.

Look for the role of DLC to increase. Epic Games president Michael Capps, developer of “Gears of War,” pointed to DLC as a key factor for battling the secondhand market in games. Michael Capps sees DLC as a proactive step that encourages consumers to buy the games new instead of waiting for the used version. He even says, “I’ve talked to some developers who are saying, ‘If you want to fight the final boss, you go online and pay USD 20, but if you bought the retail version you got it for free.'” While this may be an extreme example that would no doubt receive serious backlash from gamers, it does show the importance of DLC to those involved in the video game industry.

So with DLC here to stay, why aren’t more advertisers getting in on the action? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I would like to hear your thoughts on this. When you look at the recent study from Frank N. Magid Associates that shows more than half of the gamers are more likely to play a free console game in exchange for significant increase in game advertising. With this in mind, the opportunity for brands to integrate their message in exchange for erasing the cost associated with DLC seems like a win for marketers, game publishers, and, most important, consumers. (Note: we gamers love free stuff and appreciate those who provide us with free stuff.) Also, DLC offers tracking and measurement capabilities not always available through static in-game advertising.

With all this said, brands still should look for appropriate links to DLC packages and not just set up logo slaps. The increase in DLC opportunities will provide more ways for brands to efficiently build in either their communication message or product details. No doubt, gamers have their wallets ready for these partnerships.

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