Are downloadable prequels like Dead Space Ignition and Dead Rising: Case Zero hugely cynical exercises, or a smart, forward-thinking piece of business? Personally, I'm torn. On the one hand, publishers get a chance to service the fan community with exclusive content, and extend games beyond their traditional scope, but on the other hand, why not just release a free demo and include this content in the box?
It's a practice I'm pretty sure most of you won't be too happy with if – as seems certain – other publishers get in on the act. Given how well Case Zero sold, many will be looking on in envy. When it comes to Ignition, though, it was a throwaway bit of puzzle-based filler, and a bit of a missed opportunity as it happens.
The key thing will be how publishers manage it, and how well they can dress up this pre-release teaser content as something worth owning. As a pre-order incentive, it's a complete no-brainer, and if it gets gamers into the habit of downloading games a bit more, maybe they'll try out some of the other things that otherwise fall by the wayside. Here's hoping.