Shelby "It's a Scam" Reiches:
Let's start with the point we agree on: $40 is a fair price for 12 new characters. Five bucks is more or less the canonized price for a fighting game character (samples taken from Mortal Kombat and Marvel vs. Capcom 3). That said, $15 is what's "fair" for four characters bundled together (see Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and the Mortal Kombat "Season Pass"). Saving another fiver for getting three times the content is not bad by any means.
The issue here is not, and has never been, the price. $40 is the new budget point and, for a rerelease with extra content, "budget" is an attractive place to be. The issue is with the function of this new title as it relates to the old one. In essence, this is manufactured obsolescence after only one year.
Let's say, for example, that you bought Killzone 3 at or near launch for full price. You enjoyed the single player content and the multiplayer, but never felt compelled to purchase the extra downloadable content. Regardless, it was still possible to play the game with those who have purchased that content, with the obvious limitation that it won't happen on the maps you didn't buy. Call of Duty games have done this as well, as have Halo 3 and Reach.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, however, removes that option. The moment it comes out, the original game's community will be fractured between those who are willing to shell out more money and those who are satisfied with what they've already spent $60 on. Furthermore, anyone who plays competitively is required to purchase the new version, not simply for experience with and against the new characters, but because the balance tweaks introduced in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 aren't going to be released for its predecessor. Considering how large an impact those adjustments have on high-level play, it's virtually an act of extortion by Capcom.
That only applies to high-level play, though. And, as you've pointed out, people in that bracket would probably be better served by purchasing the full retinue of characters out the gate rather than taking chances on what characters might or might not serve their play-styles.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3, however, was one of those games that managed to appeal to a less invested audience as well. In fact, it was designed with that kind of appeal in mind (see the Simple control mode). There's a large subset of players who purchased the game for the flash, for the fandom, for the ability to beat the tar out of Spider-Man until he finally stopped whining about how difficult his life was. These are the people who would buy downloadable characters not based on how they'd play, but on who they are. They're the individuals who remember Strider on the Genesis and Strider 2 on the original PlayStation, who went to see the Ghost Rider film even though it reviewed worse than every other Marvel super-hero movie save Elektra. They're the people who might be more at home shouting "Objection!" into their DS microphones than tapping out an air combo, but get a titter out of seeing Phoenix Wright take on a hulking Sentinel.
These people already bought the game once. They spent $60 on it. They're certainly willing to throw down another five or ten dollars on a couple of characters that they can't do without. Maybe they need Iron Fist to pair up with Ryu and Akuma for a full-force martial arts team, or Nemesis and Jill to pair off alongside Wesker and Chris, respectively. But they don't know who Firebrand is, or care that his playstyle is super-unique. When you're spending $40 to get $60 worth of content, it's only worth it to you if you want all of that content.
Now, as to whether or not people would have been willing to splurge on a $100 game with a longer development cycle and more of this content included from the start, I think that's a moot point. Though longer development cycles and extra content do cost more money to realize, the end product is more appealing to consumers. More characters draws in more people—those who are interested in sheer numbers, those who remember the expansive roster of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and those who find specific characters among the new reveals appealing—as does a more refined experience. Does that cancel out or exceed the costs of keeping the game in development longer? Someone at Capcom certainly thought so.
Which brings us to the last point: the Tohoku earthquake and its fallout. My heart goes out to those affected by the disaster and the havoc it wrought throughout Japan. I can certainly understand that such a tremendous and unanticipated event would cause incredible emotional and mental, if not physical, strain on many of Capcom's employees. There were numerous titles by many Japanese development studios delayed in the wake of the disaster and some, due to potentially insensitive content, outright canceled. I can sympathize with the desire to postpone and consolidate Marvel vs. Capcom 3's DLC, as well as the financial reasoning behind it.
Where my sympathy hits a roadblock, however, is in Capcom's decision to take this opportunity to make the previous version of its game, a title so many people paid full price for, obsolete. If they had released an updated version of the game—as many companies do with Game of the Year editions—that collected this new content and released it as piecemeal DLC, there would be no ire. It's the planned obsolescence that hurts, that sticks in my craw.
In summary: The price is right, if one wants all of the content. The phasing out of the previous product entry after only a year, however, is gallingly exploitative of both the gaming community in general and the fighting game community.
By Angelo M. D'Argenio / Shebly Reiches
CCC Contributing Writers
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*