There's No Free Content -- Or Is There?
And on that note, two distinct schools of thought are emerging on business models for this downloadable content. The prevailing model, currently, is espoused by giants like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Bethesda Software, and involves charging players for everything. Cheat codes? Map packs? New costumes? New characters? New missions? Hope you've got a lot of Microsoft Points.
The second school of thought was encapsulated by Valve, a successful development house, in an interview with Eurogamer.net. "You buy the product, you get the content," designer Robin Walker told Eurogamer. "We make more money because more people buy it, not because we try and nickel-and-dime the same customers."
Valve knows a thing or two about downloadable content. One of its biggest hits, "Counterstrike," was popularized by the host of downloadable add-ons designed professionally and by players. In fact, the game itself began as a player-created add-on to Valve's first mega-hit, "Half Life."
Both business models are viable -- extra content makes an excellent revenue stream for developers, of course, and with steadily rising development costs, more cash is, of course, better. But if Valve's theory of downloadable content takes off, the Xbox Live Marketplace model could be in serious trouble. After all, nobody's interested in paying for something that's given away elsewhere for free.