DLC: A Fight For Fortune

When the PlayStation Vita launched some nine and a half months ago there was one game, for me at least, that really stood out as a system seller – Bend Studio’s take on Naughty Dog’s epic Uncharted franchise – Golden Abyss.

Sure enough, that game was, and still is, one of the finest examples of mobile doing big budget gaming ‘properly’, rivaling it’s home console counterparts. I devoted many hours to innumerous play-throughs, and was sure to soak up every last piece of the action. As far as I’m concerned, PlayStation gamers really did strike gold on Drake’s first portable expedition.

After an early screenshot leak, followed by the wild speculation of it pointing towards Golden Abyss DLC, the Uncharted trail went cold – until a month or so ago when an official, yet rather subdued, PlayStation blog posting announced Uncharted: Fight For Fortune. Fight For Fortune, it turns out, is a full PSN game with optional benefits for Golden Abyss players, rather than the locked down DLC we’d all been expecting.

Fight For Fortune is a million miles away from anything the Uncharted world has seen before. A turn-based card game, bringing together all the characters, weapons, environments and oddly, somehow still retaining the excitement, from the previous games. It’s a curious idea, certainly, but coming from the same studio as Golden Abyss, and at a rather affordable entry price of £3.19, a nice little card game for my Vita seemed like a no brainer; Thankfully, I was right – It’s fantastic.

There’s enough going on to ensure Fight For Fortune is both interesting and challenging, but not painfully so, and the single player Fortune Hunter mode is a delight. A comfortable learning curve aids even the most inexperienced players of card-based strategy, steadily teaching you how to play each card best, and how to spend your accrued fortune to obtain the tactical advantage. A complete novice can be toppling a whole range of familiar faces within a few short rounds.

Of course, with each fight you win you’ll be able to unlock goodies for your deck – these range from the purely decorative card backings and character avatars, to entirely new cards which power up your hand for the next battle. Interestingly, since day one Fight For Fortune has also had in game purchases – The first two of which appear to be card packs themed around the characters and resources made famous by Nate Drake’s previous PlayStation 3 outings, Uncharted 2: Among Theives and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

I’ve spent a week now playing Fight For Fortune on-and-off, and at multiple points have tried to buy these add-ons, but couldn’t – the links didn’t work. Tapping through from the game’s prompts, or the LiveScreen area simply directed me to an empty page on the PSN. Disappointing, and somewhat strange, I thought; Why would a game launch with an obvious link to DLC and then remove the revenue stream at the end of the trail? The completely empty page was bizarre. I wasn’t even presented with a placeholder to describe what exactly these expansion packs would feature.

Like I say, strange – at the very least it gives an otherwise well presented and polished game an odd UI quirk that just stands out like a sore thumb. Oh well, not the end of the world, I thought, making the assumption that for whatever reason the extra content was not ready for release, and would be available in a forthcoming patch. Today’s that day.

The Uncharted 2 & 3 card packs are now both available from the Playstation Store, and the existing in-game links now lead where they should. Great. Super news for those who jumped in last week, and have been trying in vain to unearth those extras, right? Perhaps not so much.

Along with the pair of £2.39 expansions launched today, an Uncharted Fight For Fortune “Complete Edition” also appeared, priced at £7.29.

It’s not unusual for games with DLC or expansion packs to see a separate release with the extras bundled, nor is it unusual for these packages to launch ‘day one’ alongside the stand alone title at a reduced price-point. The likes of season passes are becoming ever more prevalent and bundling DLC in this way ensures the developer added income based on the game’s launch, and the hype surrounding that, rather than it’s longevity.

What Bend & SCEE have done here however is a little unusual. The “Complete Edition” launching a week after the stand alone game means that if I want the DLC, as an early adopter, I actually end up penalised, rather than rewarded.

I haven’t fully completed the single player portion of the game yet, nor have I really delved into the multiplayer aspect, so I’m not purchasing these packs as a way to revisit Fight For Fortune, or to find new enjoyment or value within a long forgotten purchase, so why am I being charged more than somebody who buys the game today, a week after release? Why are those of us who support developers and get excited about new content being financially shafted as a reward? I wanted these packs from the start, and would have bought them day-one had I been given the option – not only to give myself more content, but also to show my appreciation to the developers of what has been, to date, my favourite Vita title.

On launch day I was presented with the “Complete” package, yet unable to access all it had to offer, and now I’m being asked to pay more then someone turning up late to the party?

My complete Edition of Uncharted: Fight For Fortune will end up costing me 68p more than it had if I’d bought it today. I know that many will say a week’s worth of play for 68p is great value, and you’re not wrong, but when the content is so openly advertised from launch, yet unable to be purchased, it stings a little when it pops up a mere seven days later – at a reduced cost.

This 68p’s not a real gripe, honest. It just got me thinking.

At the time of writing the stand alone version of Fight For Fortune has received 273 ratings on the PlayStation store – you’ll have to excuse my assumptions and fag-packet maths here, but I believe these figures, however loosely applied, are somewhat significant.

As I’m unable to acquire sales figures for the title, let us assume that 5% of users decided to rate their purchase. (I personally expect even a 2% voter uptake is wildly ambitious, but I may well be wrong.)

(273/5)*100 = 5,460
(273/2)*100 = 13,650

Okay, that’s quite a difference, but let’s go with the ambitious rating, and slightly less ambitious sales, figures – 5,460 downloads in week one.

A 2011 study by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research reported that within North America, 51% of gamers bought DLC of some kind. Obviously, specific game figures aren’t set in stone, and with my quick straw-polls online proving less than useful, I’m once again calling on assumptions and personal experience when I suggest that, of those 51% that do open their wallet, perhaps 1/5 of game purchases are followed up by an additional associated purchase of some kind. Very roughly, this would mean 10% of all sales lead to a future DLC up-sale.

So, as long as Uncharted: Fight For Fortune follows this undeniably fool-proof, set-in-stone & scientifically-proven pattern 10% of the apparent 5,460 early adopters – 546 people, wanted that DLC already. Working with these figures any further, for all their worth, would be painful – It’s interesting however that my ‘sample’ of 500 odd DLC sales will now theoretically each pull in 68p of additional revenue for Bend & Sony, or £317 within a week. That’s certainly no big budget, by any stretch of the imagination, but like I said, should we extrapolate these figures further over the years, that will soon add up to a tidy sum – all off the back of people who buy the 3 items separately, rather than in the “Complete” bundle.

I don’t begrudge any developer earning a crust from expansions or DLC like the Fight For Fortune card packs, after all, it’s a consumer’s market – if you don’t want to spend your pennies here, you really don’t have to, it won’t affect your experience significantly. Trouble is, I did want to spend a little more – I did want to pay upfront, and potentially, so did many hundreds of others, and now we’re effectively being asked to pay a premium for being in-the-queue before the doors opened?

Not an entirely Uncharted path to take, but it’s most definitely a Fight For (a small) Fortune.

DLC: A Fight For Fortune

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