Capcom released a multiplayer mode as Downloadable Content for the recently released Resident Evil 5, and of course the intertubes are aflame with hate. Although I have no problems with it personally, I can understand the argument against it — by releasing the multiplayer patch so soon after the game was released it seems like they are charging extra for a feature that most games include for free.
But love it or hate it, perhaps there’s some value in understanding WHY a company might do something like that. Even if it doesn’t take the sting off, it should at least answer the question “What were they thinking?”
To begin to understand it, you have to understand a bit about how the business of video games works near the end of a project.
Usually near the end of a game, between Beta and Gold, chunks of a development team begin rolling off onto other projects. Certain departments are finished with their work by that point, and you can’t justify a whole team just to fix a few bugs. Keeping in mind that most developers get paid based on how many people they have working on the game at any given time, this means that as the project steps down, so does the money.
After a game goes Gold, work on the game effectively stops. The entire team (with the exception of a few programmers for bug fixes) is no longer working on that project, and therefore the developer is no longer being paid. After Gold, there are usually a few months while the game goes through certification and testing. Certification is always pretty long, but it’s an especially long process for a multiplatform / multi-territory release like Resident Evil 5. Regardless, the game has to be certified before it can actually be stamped onto a disc, put into a box, and shipped to stores, a process which itself can take a month or more.
So while Resident Evil 5 was sitting in this limbo and waiting to ship, Capcom was paying the development team to work on this DLC as they shifted off the project. It was a separate months-long project, with a separate budget, a differently sized team, and a different timetable.
To simplify things, to anyone close to the Multiplayer DLC probably felt like it was a separate game.
Given the magnitude of work required to add a multiplayer mode, and the headspace that you’re in when you’re so close to the project, it may be possible to understand how Capcom might not have realized how this whole thing would appear to the consumers.
Keep in mind I’m not trying to defend the PR wisdom of releasing this mode so soon. If you’ve never worked on a game before it seems like a base, almost mercinary act. Also keep in mind that I am not defending the idea of releasing a mode that is usually free as paid DLC — it gets people thinking of horse armor and EA DLC cheat codes.
All I’m hoping is that knowing the mechanics of the business behind this might at least allow the whole thing to make a tiny bit of sense.
Love it or hate it.