The lights are on
I was poking around online this morning when I saw this story. The gist of it is that Disney Infinity includes all of the game’s upcoming content on the disc, which a Disney rep says might mean that hackers could uncover it ahead of schedule. Considering Infinity’s ultimate goal of timing that content with movie and DVD releases, it could be a problem for Disney if those announcements are blown before they want to make the info public.
Looking at the comments, however, it’s clear that many readers of the story are taking something different away from it. For many gamers, the idea of blocking off content that’s already on a game’s disc is unpalatable – or something that’s unprintable. While I can understand the argument against that strategy, I feel that this is one of those instances where it’s a completely sensible approach.
Like Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure before it, Disney Infinity incorporates collectible figurines into the core gameplay. To regurgitate the typical marketing line, these games are platforms or systems, rather than just games. Because of that, having players download all of the in-game content that accompanies each figure makes absolutely no sense.
When consumers buy Skylanders (or if they grab Disney Infinity when it launches in June), there’s no mistaking that they’re setting themselves up for additional purchases. The figures take up a considerable amount of on-shelf real estate, and the interactive kiosks and packaging make it clear that these figurines are a critical part of the larger experience. Like them or not, they’re the whole point of these things.
Then there’s the user experience. When kids plop these figurines onto the platform or pedestal or whatever is connected to their console, the characters appear in the game in a matter of seconds. Imagine how annoying it would be if that action merely brought up an onscreen prompt that said something to the effect of, “You have unlocked a new character. Press A to exit into the marketplace and download it.” Not only would having to back out of the game to download a file of god-only-knows what size be a tempo-breaking hassle, it would also effectively block out anyone who doesn’t have access to the Internet. It’s hard to believe, but those people do exist.
Disney is saying that it foresees a future where the additional content will indeed be distributed digitally – whether because download speeds will increase to the point where these files are trivially small, or that Internet availability will become even more widespread – but for the time being, I think their approach makes complete sense.
Publishers have undoubtedly made DLC decisions that open them up to criticisms, and some are even rethinking the approach following fan blowback. In the case of games like Disney Infinity and Skylanders, I can’t help but think that level of outrage is misplaced. Save it for when it’s warranted – there are plenty of times to do that.
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