In the current console generation, the impact of digital distribution can't be overstated. Expansion packs, bonus levels, multiplayer content, full games, and even non-gaming media are all available instantly through either Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. This type of convenience has definitely transformed the digital landscape, and most would argue it's all been for the better. But like any convenience-based service, there's been an emergent dark side to digital distribution: the rise of so-called premium content, which actually doesn't have a real purpose. I'm talking about avatar extras, gamer pictures, themes, and in-game costumes. Do these items actually do anything? No. But you still have to pay real money for them. You probably shouldn't do that, and here are five reasons why.
They Don't Enhance Your Game
Map packs enhance your game. Track packs enhance your game. Even character and car packs can heighten your gaming experience. You know what extra costumes and skins do? Nothing. And many times, you'll have to pay some serious coin for the privilege of seeing your game character in a slightly different outfit. Unfortunately, much of the time you are forced to buy these useless items in bundles, so you pay even more money just to get to the one item you actually wanted.
No One Looks at Them Anyway
Look, you might think that outfitting your Xbox Live Avatar with a lightsaber or decking out your PS Home loft with the best furniture ever might make you the envy of all your friends online, but I have some unfortunate news: they don't care. Though you might be impressed with your fake digital goodies (and why wouldn't you be? You bought them) no one else will care or notice. So if your goal is to be the envy of all your friends, you won't accomplish that goal with fake digital content.
Save Your Money; Buy Games
No matter what kind of fake digital goods you buy, you would almost always be served better by resisting the impulse to buy something that you can't really do anything with, and instead buying an actual game. Don't believe me? Let's take the example of the lightsaber again. To get a lightsaber for your Xbox Live avatar, you'll have to shell out 400 points. And you can watch your virtual version of yourself have a blast. However, if you resist the urge to buy this useless item and save up just 400 more points, you can buy Braid, a full game that has been the recipient of numerous awards for both its story and gameplay. Doesn't that sound like a lot more fun than watching a virtual version of yourself pretend that he or she is the lost Padawan of Luke Skywalker?
Part of the problem with digital items is that they are so expensive. I don't think it would be such a problem if you could buy virtual items for a few cents. 50 points for a virtual sword? I can live with that. A dollar for some virtual furniture? As long as it's more than just a sofa, I can deal with that too. But the prices they are charging for these useless items are just ridiculous. Look at the infamous example of the "Horse Armor" DLC from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. All this digital pack did was give you the opportunity to make your in-game horses look shiny. And you had to pay almost $3 for the privilege. Despite a vocal Internet outrage over the price of this ridiculously useless DLC, Horse Armor went on to become one of the best-selling DLC packs for Oblivion, even though it did nothing for the actual game. Go figure.
It Sets a Bad Precedent
Though we would all like to think that game companies have our best interests at heart, they are businesses first, making games for the sole purpose of making money. So if companies see that you don't mind shelling out $5 at a time for silly avatar accessories or in-game skins, chances are good that they'll keep doing it. And instead of unlocking characters, skins, and bonus content, wary consumers may instead just have to pay for what used to be post-game extras. Your hard-earned dollars are funding this kind of mindset. Think about that next time you are considering buying a new virtual toy for your virtual character to play with.
Though it can be tempting to buy frivolous DLC, it's important to think about what kind of experience you are getting before shelling out money. When you buy a movie or a game with your console, you're getting hours of entertainment. When you purchase virtual toys or themes, you aren't getting an experience, just a change in what you see on-screen. Paying good money for such a fleeting moment of pleasure isn't just bad on a personal finance level, but also bad for the gaming industry as a whole. So just don't do it.
By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*