Looking behind the curtain: EA and DLC

I really wish Rock Band was a less interesting game. Really, I do, because I feel bad being the one writing about it so much on here. Unfortunately, few games have provided this many different points of discussion lately, and since I know you guys are hungry for something to read, you’ll have to bear with me. At least you’ll eventually figure out I’m barely talking about the game itself in these posts.

So, one of Rock Band 2’s lauded features was an additional twenty songs available for free download sometime after the game was released; the track list was announced this week. It’s a common misconception that either (a) Harmonix is offering these songs later because they didn’t have time to finish them before the game’s certification, or (b) they wanted to ultimately offer up more tracks for RB2 than Activision is with Guitar Hero: World Tour. And while I’m sure those are both true, it’s not the actual reason for the songs; GameStop is.

It’s no secret that EA has been using the constant drip of free DLC in Burnout Paradise to keep people playing and cut down on the number of used copies showing up at GameStop. Similarly, the absolute flood of downloadable content for Rock Band is a great reason not to trade it in. With so many tracks (approaching 500 by the end of the year, I believe), everyone is going to find something they like, and once you start buying songs, why would you trade the game in and throw that money away?

[[image: ar_102208_rb2dlc_01.jpg:It’s getting hard to find new RB pictures to post.:center:0]]
The twenty free songs, then, are an effort to dissuade potential customers from purchasing the game used. Those tracks are part of the game’s perceived value to a consumer, and making them accessible through a unique code means you can never access them if you use someone else’s game. EA is effectively attacking GameStop’s business model from both sides: less people are inclined to sell their game, and less people want to buy it used and risk missing out.

…Which is why it’s surprising they aren’t better songs.

I’m not slighting anyone’s musical taste, but these are hardly big-name bands you’d put on the back of the box. There are hundreds of huge artists people are clamoring for in Rock Band; how much more effective would this strategy be if this code were the only way to, say, access a Green Day song, among others? The harder they make it to ignore the twenty freebies, the more the value of the used disc would plummet. I’m not sure whom to blame for choosing these songs (since Harmonix, MTV, and EA are all equally likely candidates), and EA’s so big that I’m sure the left hand doesn’t know what the right is up to half the time, but it’s a shame this plan went from a D-Day to a Bay of Pigs.

Not that I want to imply GameStop is Badd, or anything.

17 thoughts on “Looking behind the curtain: EA and DLC

  1. fuck that, dude, did you notice that one of the songs is from X Japan? MOTHERFUCKING X JAPAN!!!!!

    also, jane pinckard’s band is on there too. i fully approve.

  2. On the other hand, harmonix has proven to have excellent musical tastes. And I don’t mind trusting them to be exposed to great & unfamiliar music. It has been one of the most enduring positive aspects of their games so far.

    It would certainly be a shame if music games would turn into yet another Top 40 station.

  3. There’s a reason they’re not high-profile songs: in order to download them, you have to buy the game first. EA knows that the actual game has to be stacked with songs, especially as in order to keep the series viable, they have to try and eat into the more casual GH fanbase, which means the DLC is going to remain a relatively niche option (which is fine, since the majority of game buyers aren’t part of the GameStop used economy, except perhaps as occasional purchasers)

  4. “On the other hand, harmonix has proven to have excellent musical tastes”

    This statement depends a lot on just how much one likes Freezepop (which I do not). In all honesty though, their bonus track selections in general are hit or miss.

    This is a great blog. I never thought of Burnout Paradise in this context, but it makes sense. If a lot of people keep the game, it makes it so that potential buyers are more likely to buy new. I also wonder if the game’s availability on PSN is part of this strategy – they can keep the box copy at $40, but undercut Gamestop’s used discount by making it $30 on PSN.

  5. Yep, Rock Band has done everything right. There’s only one thing GHOT has that RB2 don’t: three Tool songs.

  6. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up. Hooooooold up.

    You must not be familiar with Between the Buried and Me, a massively popular prog metal(core) band whose instrumentals and sheer technicality make Dragonfarce look like Kindergarteners with recorders and kazoos by comparison. Whether you realize it or not, the featured song “Prequel to the Sequel” is going to be HUGE.
    Admittedly, BTBAM, Underoath and X-Japan are the only ones I recognize from the list, myself, but Prequel to the Sequel alone has some ridiculous potential for Rock Band.

    Right on with the DLC insight, either way – this kind of strategy is only becoming more and more apparent, for better or worse for us consumers. I personally don’t care much for Gamestop’s secondary market cartel, but then, I’m no fan of EA’s DLC nickel-and-diming schemes either. Hmmm…

  7. It’s pretty funny (to me) to suggest I haven’t heard of BTBAM – my best friend has been a HUGE fan of them since their first album.

    My point wasn’t that people won’t LIKE these songs – there’s a few good tracks for everybody, and I’m sure most will be fun to play – but the point is that it’s supposed to be incentive to not buy the game used, and honestly, the relative obscurity of these bands pushes that from “persuaded to buy new” to “a nice bonus, but I don’t REALLY care.”

  8. Maybe so, maybe so. I personally think it’ll prove to be an effective strategy, because after all, it is 20 “free” songs, whether the common folk are familiar with any of these bands or not.

    But seriously, Prequel to the Sequel. Good lawdy. Hardest Rock Band song yet, perhaps? Shite gon’ be killa!

  9. Calories point stands, in the sense that this time, it worked. No one knew what these songs were, and a lot of folks bought the game right off the bat to make sure they got them. In the future, such strategies may need to be more transparent.

  10. it’s actually a commonly known fact that Hollywood Undead is actually the worst band in existence. Imagine if ICP and Bloodhound Gang formed a supergroup that mixed their already toxic rap-rock stylings with some hilariously juvenile screamo and boy band harmonization.

  11. “fuck that, dude, did you notice that one of the songs is from X Japan? MOTHERFUCKING X JAPAN!!!!!”

    Seriously. But I agree that the other 19 songs are…well, not very exciting. But they’re free, so I’ll give ’em a go. It’s more than enough to keep me from going near the vile World Tour. Have you seen the notes charts for it yet? Go on Youtube. Neversoft still doesn’t know how to make a music game fun. Hard? Yes. But not fun.

  12. You know what would have really worked? 2 or 3 or 5 songs from bands people have actually heard of–you mentioned Green Day, ok, that works–and the rest could have been cheapy stuff from relative no-names. That would have worked both ways (public recognition while being cheap enough to release as free).

    But yeah…it’s interesting that we’re seeing these creative ways to fight Gamestop. Another way: Sony bundling PSPs with increasingly larger memory cards and offering all first-party titles via download.

  13. Don’t forget that this is almost like a Promo for these lesser known bands… Why would Harmonix include AC/DC, Green Day, “Some other well known band here” in a Free downloadable pack when they know that people will pay money to download bands like that, and less likely to download packs of songs that they haven’t heard before. Business wise it makes alot of sense.

    Glad I bought my used copy before they released the codes tho, as I was able to use my code. Also, alot of people who trade in these games, possibly won’t have any clue about the Code in the manual anyhow, or care. I only bought my copy used because it was a week after release and had 35% off used games coupon, so I basically paid $38 for a pretty spankin’ new copy instead of $60 :) Not too shabby.

    Also, I agree, GHWT has nothing on RB, except 3 Tool Songs… am sad!

  14. At the risk of sounding like Shane, the Cocktail Slippers are a secret awesome band. Besides, free is free, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I expected something… more substantial.

  15. Dealership!!! Dealership! Holy crap Dealership! (I wonder if Jane Pinckard tried to get Trance Vibrator support into the game lolololol)

  16. This is the promo, and the bands are of a similar profile to the ones that were included in the bonus section of Rock Band 1. You may have noticed a distinct lack of songs you had never heard of in Rock Band 2. This is why.

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