Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Pay To Win (But Also Lose)

Following on from my somewhat less-than-favourable thoughts on EA's Katy Perry and Diesel-themed expansion packs for The Sims 3, it's interesting to see what the GTA V Collector's Edition contains, according to Amazon.

Aside from the GTA V-themed snapback cap, money bag, "SteelBook" (a book with a metal cover, presumably) and fancy packaging, the £150 Collector's Edition also contains an abundance of additional in-game content. Just to run through it:

  • Custom characters for GTA Online,
  • Unique vechicles and garage property - a free garage to store vehicles at the start of the game, stocked with a sports bike and 30's-style hot rod,
  • Another unique high-end car for use in GTA Online,
  • A blueprint map of the game's world containing hints for things of interest, such as making fast cash,
  • Boosted special abilities for the characters - each character's special ability will regenerate 25% faster than in "standard" GTA V,
  • Stunt plane trials - additional aerial challenges to complete,
  • In-game store discounts - items throughout the game now cost 20% less than "standard" GTA V,
  • Bonus outfits and tattoos, and finally
  • Additional weapons, available for free within the game.

It seems to me that the above list basically separates into two main categories: extra things to do in the game and things that make the game easier.

While I could argue that the content that fits into the first category (the custom vehicles, bonus outfits etc.) could really just have been included in the standard edition, much like the expansion packs for The Sims, I guess it's a fairly easy way for Rockstar to bit of extra profit with relatively little effort. Having this extra content will probably squeeze a little bit more fun out of the game for those willing to part with the money for the privilege, so I guess in some ways, it's worth it.

It's the second category of extra content that bugs me though - by paying to make the game easier for yourself, it feels to me like you're shooting yourself in the foot somewhat. Games are supposed to be a bit challenging - that's what makes them fun - so by making it that bit easier, you're reducing the core playing experience ("this is a challenge") in exchange for a quick-fix sense of satisfaction ("I won").

When I bought Deus-Ex: Human Revolution a year or so ago, I bought the "Augmented Edition", which contained all the previously released DLC and special edition content in one pack (the Augmented Edition was actually cheaper than buying the standard game by this point). This consisted of a pointless "art book" and some extra in-game weapons, as well as a bonus 10,000 in-game credits and a new device that made it easier to unlock doors in the game. Fortunately, in order to unlock the extra content, you had to enter a special code into the game's menu screen, so I actually just ignored the whole lot and went with the standard version.

For me, paying to make a game easier for yourself is a bit like loading it up and playing with all the cheats enabled on your first go - it's probably still fun, but makes it kind of pointless. I'd rather not be given the extra advantages, the free guns or the map telling me where the fun's at - I'd rather play the game myself, struggle where you're supposed to struggle and enjoy those serendipitous moments as and when I discover them.

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