From Horse Armor To Stimulus And Beyond
Although this topic isn't exactly a new one, as this (armored) horse has been dead and beaten over and over again since the start of this generation), the launch of Nintendo's new DSi XL has brought some issues to light that a lot of gamers probably haven't spent a lot of time thinking about... namely, what's going to happen to DLC when this generation ends and the next one begins...
First, a few things to ponder:
1.) It is not in the console makers' best interests to make DLC backwards-compatible with previous console iterations. It is in their financial interest, as corporations, to make you buy it again. Proof? Look at how Microsoft half-assed BC in the 360 and how Sony ripped it out of later PS3 models. BC is a financial drain, it doesn't make money and in fact ends up costing them money. "Make your customers buy their games again, boost the bottom line."
2.) Apparently users are scarfing up the DSi XL quite a bit overseas; a lot of these users over in Japan are owners of previous DS systems.
3.) Rock Band and Guitar Hero, cash cows in the world of DLC, have limits on the licenses to their music. If (when) iterations of RB and GH launch on the successors of the 360/PS3 and Wii, will infrastructure be in place to port over existing song catalogs? Again, based on console maker/third party interests, that doesn't make sense. And that doesn't even factor in RIAA/music licensing issues arising from such a function. Almost guaranteed this would be a legal nightmare.
4.) Even assuming you do not purchase a next-gen console, what happens when the XBL/PSN servers are taken offline, particularly if you had a RROD and never transferred licenses?
5.) The casual crowd does not have a concept of "licensing". In their minds, anything they purchase is theirs to keep/own. I guarantee there will be stories on the national news if/when Nintendo announces its next console with a next-gen iteration of Virtual Console with no means of porting over content from existing Wiis. Particularly if that "next console" is a Wii1.5HD, i.e. not a full generation upgrade. Nintendo: your "blue ocean" casual audience - the one you've spent so much time, effort, and marketing dollars catering to - is going to be very ticked off when their VC games don't work on their new Wii. Grandma doesn't know about EULA's.
I'm seeing a fairly disturbing pattern here, and it's one that a lot of gamers probably either fail to notice or don't care about. In the realm of DLC, you don't own your content. You license it.
I will spell this out, to make it even more clear: IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW, YOUR DLC IS NOT YOURS TO OWN.
You are at the mercy of the console manufacturer in regards to most downloadable content, which doesn't bode well for people who spent hundreds of dollars on fleshing out their Rock Band song catalogs. This is something the PC gaming world is already experiencing - with companies like Ubisoft implementing draconian DRM schemes at the expense of users everywhere. Back in the days of "Don't Copy That Floppy", we never had to worry about our old games not being available to play in the future. I still know people who play classic PC games and classic console games on a regular basis. This is going to change.
Ever since the early experiments with content like Horse Armor in Oblivion, all the way through locking out content on the disc, to now where "knowledgable" gamers are fairly aware of what pieces of DLC are actually a decent value - though most have splurged on a few "guilty pleasure" bad deals (my most notable being the SFIV costume pack - which I KNEW was on the disc and yet still bought once the price on it was reduced). The point I'm trying to make is this... I believe gamers are being - or at least SHOULD be - mroe careful as this generation hits its peak and progresses into the background. It is likely the new consoles will be announced next year, despite the fact that to me it appears far too soon (game incubation for current-gen titles is much longer than in the PS2 generation), and when those new systems hit the market they are almost guaranteed to be accompanied by a deluge of downloadable options incompatible with their previous iterations.
At least Microsoft and Sony have _a way_ of making their new systems compatible with old DLC, through progression of PSN and XBL ids to the new systems. Nintendo, on the other hand, has chosen to tie each piece of DS or Wii DLC to the console itself, which creates a whole lot of headaches for the consumer, but a lot of control to Nintendo. For example:
1.) Your console breaks out of warranty, and being the casual consumer you are, you go get a new Wii instead of calling customer service and find that your licenses don't transfer. You complain and then buy your content again. More money for the big N.
2.) You decide to change your business model to a more Apple-oriented approach - rather than releasing new, drastically updated consoles every few years, you release slightly better yearly iterations, bringing in new users and forcing your dedicated fanboys to upgrade. Since DLC is tied to console, the fanboys fork over the money for the few applications they aren't sick of and download them to the new console. Every....time.... More money for the big N.
3.) The new console scenario. Again, pretty much same as above. Fanboys and the casual crowd will both scarf it up and download the applications they found most useful and possibly a few new ones. Fast forward a year and cycle to #(2.)
Endless money-printing machine for the big N.
From Horse Armor To Stimulus And Beyond