GAME THEORY: Locked content a deceptive tactic

Nathan Mendelowitz

With the ability to extend a game through downloadable content, developers have made it worthwhile to play for the long run.

However, developers are beginning to lock content on the disc and require players to pay to unlock it. It no longer counts as downloadable content, but now becomes a question of whether it’s ethical to make a game that isn’t complete and withhold necessary content to pay for later. 

The worst offender of this is Capcom and what they have done with “Street Fighter X Tekken.”

Downloadable content is additional material for a game that is not on the disc. It’s an external creation that gets added to the game rather than unlocked.

So when the game was released in March, it came with 38 combatants to choose from. It hinted new content would add an additional 12 characters when the game is released for the PlayStation Vita.

A few weeks after the release of the game, some gamers hacked the computer version of the game and found the 12 new characters ready to be played.

To a non-gamer, this doesn’t look like a problem. But for gamers it seemed like Capcom was withholding finished content.

The 12 new characters were completely finished. The models, voice acting and storylines were all there. Since it was already finished, why hide it?

Supposedly, the reason for this is when the game was in development, Capcom came to both Microsoft and Sony asking if they wanted exclusive content on the game for each system. Sony was willing to pay extra, so they received two extra characters as a result.

Sony then paid an extra fee to have time-exclusive characters for when the game is released for the Vita. The 12 characters are the evidence.

This isn’t the first time Capcom has done this with a game. When “Marvel vs Capcom 3” was released in 2011, Capcom teased images of new characters to download.

Before confirmation however, hackers found the two new characters already on the disc and ready to play.

The main problem is gamers now have to pay additional money for new characters already finished and on the disc.

Paying $60 for “Street Fighter X Tekken” should include the 12 locked characters.

Most gamers wouldn’t mind paying for new characters if Capcom has to go back to the design room and create them from scratch. But that’s not the case. 

Capcom defended this issue in a statement gaming website posted:

“While Capcom is sorry that some of its fans are not happy about the chosen method of delivery for the (downloadable content), we believe that this method will provide more flexible and efficient gameplay throughout the game’s lifecycle,” the publisher (Capcom) wrote. “There is effectively no distinction between the (downloadable content) being ‘locked’ behind the disc and available for unlocking at a later date, or being available through a full download at a later date, other than delivery mechanism.

Basically, Capcom’s defense is extra content is the same, no matter how it is released. Whether it is on the disc is irrelevant.

But the problem is, it did come with the game – it was just locked. That’s withholding information from the consumer.

That’s like a baker charging someone the price of a three-layer cake, but then stating only the first two layers can be eaten. And if you want to eat the third layer, you’re going to have to pay more.

If the full development for the game took this much time, then why not just charge more for the game in the first place? If Sony paid more to have these characters withheld until a later date, then consumers should not be penalized.

It’s clear Capcom was caught.

If Capcom came out with this information earlier and charged more than $60 for the game, I think gamers would understand.

Unfortunately, they were deceptive and, when caught, tried to deny it is a problem.

The truth may hurt sometimes, but it’s easier to swallow than a lie. Hopefully, next time this happens, Capcom keeps everyone in the loop.


 Nathan Mendelowitz can be reached at [email protected]