BioWare's other major recent RPG release, Dragon Age: Origins, has been less splashy with its ten-dollar gifts. As well as a free Blood Dragon armour set (which also unlocked a futuristic version in Mass Effect 2), the game's sole voucher-unlocked DLC was The Stone Prisoner. Bought separately, this sets you back the obligatory 1200 Microsoft or BioWare Points, or £11.99 on PSN.
On the plus side, the quest adds Shale to your party, easily one of the greatest videogame characters to debut in recent memory. The quest itself is hardly massive though, and since subsequent DLC additions to the game have all been priced at around half The Stone Prisoner's asking price or even lower, it's hard not to suspect the cost has been bumped up to justify the "ten dollar" conceit. Cheeky.
But the overall benefit is definitely worth it, which perhaps makes this the best example of what EA is trying to do, at least from the publisher's perspective. Playing through the game without Shale is something I, personally, wouldn't want to contemplate - but I don't know if I could justify spending that much extra on what is, essentially, one character. In other words, and if I hadn't done it already, chances are I'd be buying a nice new copy, just like EA wants, to get my free Shale.
Of course, DLC plays a different role in single-player quest-based titles. In the realm of the multiplayer shooter, things are more precariously balanced. For Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the question of downloadable content is fast becoming a sticky situation. DICE has quite nobly declared that it won't charge for new maps. EA, on the other hand, would obviously like very much to charge for new maps. Unfortunately, the solution to this problem seems to involve no new maps for anyone.
Those who trade in their VIP code from a freshly-wrapped, shop-bought copy of the game have been treated to four VIP Map Packs, but since each one has offered only small remixes of the existing online experience, it's hard to gauge their independent value. As with the BioWare titles, opting into the system with a second hand copy requires an outlay of 1200 Microsoft Points, but when the VIP treatment so far has consisted of different combinations of existing games modes and maps, the feeling that this is the sort of thing that once would have been part of the basic package is hard to shake. (VIP access is free to PC gamers, however.)
So, technically, second-hand players should feel under no obligation to fork out for VIP status. Except, whenever an FPS has different players with different map and mode configurations available, you end up splitting the community into the "haves" and "have nots". Playlisting reduces this problem, slightly, but it's still galling to be left behind if everyone else moves on to some combination - such as Rush on Atacama Desert, unlocked last week in VIP Map Pack 4 - that you can't access.
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