The Callisto Protocol is a couple weeks away, and Striking Distance have announced it will be selling a number of death animations as post-launch DLC. Due to how it’s been reported and the general state of the industry, many have come to assume this content was pulled from the existing game and held hostage as an extra purchase. I can’t blame anyone for jumping to this conclusion. It's been done countless times before, but it seems this isn’t the case for Callisto, so as the legendary Taylor Swift once said, you need to calm down.
Studio founder Glen Schofield confirmed on Twitter that development on this stuff hasn’t even begun as the game’s release approaches, and is instead a reaction to player demand for gorier executions and gnarly violence. That’s a huge relief, but still hasn’t stopped a number of think pieces from crawling out of the woodwork that misunderstand how games are made and the production pipeline that comes with post-launch content. It isn’t exactly a priority for the team, even if the idea of new animations for a single player experience that many will have finished before they even come out is a weird move in itself. It doesn’t cross an ethical line or screw anyone over, but is par for a course that for decades now has traded in optional content for extra pennies.
But it does need to change. The language we use as an industry to define this content and the terms associated with it is outdated, and burdened by toxic practices that publishers have taken advantage of for so long. I’ve never been a fan of pre-order bonuses, which are largely useless items or garish cosmetics that tend to make easy games even easier. God of War Ragnarok came with a code for some rancid armour I never bothered to redeem, while the majority of blockbusters these days ship with a digital deluxe edition to mine extra profit for random items and bonuses you will never touch. Doesn’t stop us buying it though.
Season or expansion passes are a little different, and promise future content that isn’t stripping away from the base experience. There is no way for us to prove this, but major expansions that introduce new characters and tell new stories tend to justify their standalone existence in one way or another. The Witcher 3’s Blood & Wine and Monster Hunter’s Sunbreak are a couple recent examples that rival even full-priced games with what they offer, and we view them on the same level as optional outfits and death animations. Yet gamers don’t seem to realise that, and have been conditioned to act with anger or resentment whenever they are forced to open their wallets a second time for a game they already own. I get it, and feel bad for everyone involved, but we’re sleeping in the bed we helped make at this point.
I remember the days of online passes and on-disc DLC, gross ways to earn extra revenue by taking consumers for a ride and not giving a shit whether they found out or not. I know we’d love to pretend the medium has matured since then and the business model is much like our overwrought prestige storytelling, but it really isn’t. The Last of Us Part 1 shipped with extra ammo resources and golden gun variants, while The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is set to be updated with a bunch of random cosmetics from the Netflix show. It’s all a business, it always has been.
The die has likely been cast for Callisto Protocol, and I’ll see people bitching about shortchanged death animations whether they realise it’s true or not. We don’t even know what exactly the season pass will contain, and if it will expand on the campaign with new missions or merely be a collection of outfits and items. Since it isn’t offering any further details, maybe Striking Distance should have held its tongue a bit longer to avoid muddying the waters. There is no winning here, but giving us tired season passes that have already overstayed their welcome probably isn’t the way to do it. What’s the harm in trying something new anyway?
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