When Mass Effect 3, developed by Bioware and distributed by Electronic Arts Inc. (Nasdaq: EA), was released in early March, gamers were surprised to learn From Ashes, a downloadable content, or DLC, package was available for an additional $20.
Electronic Arts' Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore explained the strictly economical reasoning behind the company's decision to sell the DLC separately at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2012 Global Technology Conference on May 9, according to Gamasutra.
One key thing to boosting initial product revenue is selling digital content on the day of launch, Moore said. When we sold 'Mass Effect 3' back in March, we saw a 40 percent attach rate that first week to DLC at GameStop in the United States. Not only are you selling a $60 game ... you're selling $20 DLC, so the sale becomes $80.
Despite annoying a lot of Mass Effect players, the DLC sold very well. From Ashes may very likely be a sign of things to come, and a way for game publishers to keep cashing in on popular games after fans have already made the purchase. The desire to turn a $60 sale into an $80 one is representative of the direction the industry is moving, according to Moore.
Companies are likely moving this way out of fear that they may otherwise fail. In April, the retail performance for the industry went down 32 percent, according to NPD Group figures cited by GamesIndustry International.
This development is bad news for players with little disposable income who still want to play through a fully developed story. EA and the rest of the industry need to think carefully about what's more important: tricking gamers into paying an extra 20 bucks or keeping their customer base happy and coming back for more.
Update: Contrary to what Moore's statement, the From Ashes DLC is currently being sold for $9.99 at Gamestop.
In an article on the DLC, Cinema Blend argues it is essential only for story fanatics, but, given the outpouring of anger over EA's failure to provide a satisfactory ending to Mass Effect 3, it seems the so-called story fanatics are pretty numerous -- as well as impressively organized.
From Ashes follows Commander Sam Shepard and his squad to Eden Prime, which was the setting for his first mission way back in the original Mass Effect game. He travels there following news that fanatical pro-humanity group Cerberus has found an important relic from the Protheans, a long-dead species.
Upon arrival, Shepard must clear out the Cerberus ground troops and eventually defend the relic against waves of troops and a combat walker. The battle is pretty similar to others throughout the game.
The relic turns out to be a cryogenic pod with a living Prothean, Javik, hibernating inside. He gets thawed out and brought on board your ship. Javik proceeds to tell you everything you could have ever wanted to know about his extinct alien race. The story he has to tell is interesting and may be worth the price if you're heavily invested in the Mass Effect mythology. The Protheans were annihilated at the hands of the Reapers, who are now targeting the human race.
Afterwards, Javik joins your squad as a playable character. He's fun to play with, but not necessary. He also comes with a particle rifle that turns your enemies into goo.