Monday, June 24, 2013

Print-on-Demand: Save the World! (And a Bit About DLC)

I got to talking with a friend a couple weeks back and we were discussing the way DLC is handled by the current gaming industry, and I got off on a bit of a tangent about the whole thing which has been rattling around in my mind ever since. This is something I've been meaning to talk about for a while now, but for whatever reason (read: depression) it keeps getting put off indefinitely, but just yesterday I stumbled across a bit of news that rekindled the whole thing:

This might be old news to more active gamers, but I've been making it a bit of a point to avoid downloadable games, particularly those controlled by Nintendo. It was such a relief for me to learn that New Super Luigi U was also released as a stand alone package, even though I don't have my hands on a Wii U yet.  I'm not sure if those who already purchased the games will be able to redownload them should something unthinkable happen to their already installed copies, but I have a distinctly terrible feeling that, no, they'd be gone forever. Nintendo really does not have a good handle on how to go about the whole download deal, and up until recently I believed they were the only ones. Not true, unfortunately. And it's time to put a huge change on the whole "DLC" concept.

DLC has been one of the greater things to happen to games in our generation, but it's been seriously mishandled by, well, everyone. I have personally found myself ripped off by content and games rendered unusable by licenses changing hands or updates which remove certain programs or even the simple advancement of systems. I'm beyond tired of this, and there are very simple solutions which would be cost effective for developers and publishers.

Primarily I'm speaking of Print on Demand concepts, which is pretty much the easiest fucking thing on the planet.

I love DLC. I love adding characters to my roster. I purchased every pack for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, and I've been after the Gold Edition of the first game simply because that DLC is no longer available over a network. I don't love how DLC is being used. Why is it that digital content is so precarious? Why can Amazon (did I forget to mention that this post is about more than just games?) delete books off of customers' Kindles without a refund? Why can any corporation do that? It's utter bullshit at its finest.

There's a real simple solution to this mess: add an option in your digital marketplace for your users to purchase (perhaps at a slightly higher price) physical containers for their content. I would love to play Dillon's Rolling Western, but I'm not going to as long as it remains exclusively digital content. I can't trust Nintendo with that. Why can't I order a Print-on-Demand physical disk for that game? In this model the outlying collectors like myself would handle the manufacturing costs right in the order itself. We pay for the game, and we pay to have it copied onto one of your silly little 3DS SD cards and shipped off in a case with a piece of paper printed off for the insert. That's all this takes. That little extra bit of processing and I can safely play Dillon off a card as long as my card doesn't break.

It doesn't have to stop with digital games, though. It's beyond possible for game companies to put DLC installation packages on SD cards or game discs for those of us who want to assure that we can play as Juggernaut indefinitely. It's real simple. The customer orders up the install disc, the company prints off the disc using the money from the order itself, and a week or two later the customer receives the shiny new install disc in the mail and can--hey, check this out--install the DLC content right off that disc onto their hard drive. No network needed.

It's ridiculous that we, as consumers, are letting the industry heads bully us into a digital realm. Make no mistake, things are certainly going that way. It won't be long before physical product is completely removed from the market.


When that happens, you will be completely at the whim of your corporation. There is no reason for this. Corporations should be at your whim. They are offering a product to you. Make it clear that the deal they offer right now is not sweet enough. There is no reason for corporations to pretend that this very simple technology does not exist. I know they want to. If they do, then we can't share things with out friends and families. If they do, they can reissue games and books whenever the original run goes out of print or is outmoded. If they do, they can strangle just that much more money out of our wallets.

But the fact of the matter is: that technology does exist. I use it every day. Lots of people use it every day. There is no reason it should not be utilized to give customers at least the option to order their content in a physical container.

It's time to take the industry back.