The rise of post-release downloadable content for video games often ges driven by mercenary motives. Thinking goes that if a consumer loves your game enough, he’ll either (1) buy whatever add-ons come out for it to prolong the experience or (2) not trade in the game with the hope that DLC’s on the way. The latter consideration is an important one, because games that gets sold back to retailers go on to make another profit as second-hand goods. The used-games racket is a revenue stream that game developers and publishers don’t see any portion of. And often DLC for a game is a way of keeping people engaged so that there are less $25 copies of a game, forcing people who still want it to buy it at the full $60 price.
Valve’s one company that’s bucked this trend. All of their PC games get robust support after launch, mostly in the form of free DLC. Yet, while they’ve done these freebies for the PC versions of “Left 4 Dead,” for example, PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game games have required a purchase.
But, the Seattle genius collective is switching things up this time. They recently divulged that “Portal 2” will be getting DLC Pack #1, which augments the on-disc offering with additional challenge rooms, online leaderboards and more new puzzles for single-player, too.
Now, it may seem like poor business sense to give something away for free when you’ve got millions of potential buyers. But, Valve’s Gabe Newell speaks often about how games can be examples of entertainment-as-a-service. Continually refreshing the experience can go a long way towards creating a real relationship with people who would’ve otherwise put a game or movies on the DVD shelf.
There’s no word as to how the new content will affect the excellent story of “Portal 2” but seeing how “Portal 2” improves on the already nearly-perfect “Portal,” there’s probably no cause for alarm. Part of Valve’s success comes from being a big, well-respected developer/publisher that still manages to think and react with the flexibility of an indie. Free DLC for a game that players made a hit says thank you and keeps those players on the hook for more o the good stuff. Well-played, Valve.