It's unfortunate that the console video game industry has come to locking out single-player content to combat used game sales. The case of Batman: Arkham City is closing in on a feared worst-case scenario.
It's one thing to ransom online multiplayer functionality. Users without internet access at home aren't affected by having this locked. It's another to remove content that was so prominent in coverage of Arkham City leading up to release, which is the role of Catwoman as a playable character. This content, which was intended to be part of the game already, has now purposefully been stripped and repackaged as DLC. Public relations spin argues that the Catwoman content isn't necessary to complete the game or enjoy the full game experience, but if Catwoman was a DLC character all along… why would Warner Brothers and Rocksteady Games misrepresent her as an important selling point?
Getting back to internet access, what about those who buy Arkham City new and don't have an internet connection? They're still paying $60, but don't get access to that $10 worth of content that they're promised. Are these users to be classified as acceptable losses or collateral damage? It appears so, and that's a shame. Consumers yet again get caught in the crossfire between the industry and the second-hand market, in spite of playing by the rules. I don't see Warner Bros. mailing discs or flash drives to thousands of people who can't access Catwoman because they're not online, so these consumers lose.
This potentially sets the stage for what could be a turning point in console gaming. If Arkham City sells well, it sets a potential precedent for publishers that locks more and more content behind passes moving forward. It won't kill off used games directly, but as fewer people buy them, it creates an imbalance that will stifle the market. There will be fewer trades, which means a decreased pool of funds for consumers to acquire new games with. Fewer new games sold spells trouble for publishers, and the dominoes will fall. Keep in mind that we're on the precipice of falling into our second recession in three years; many consumers use trade-ins to to help fund their console gaming purchases. Without that cog in the economy, fewer games will be sold. That's not a possibility. That's a certainty.
It will be very interesting to see in 2012 just how far single-player content locking goes. It could be to 2012 what the Online Pass was to 2010. It's definitely on my list of predictions for next year. It's one prediction that I hope I'm wrong about.
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