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If you ever feel like getting a gamer really, really angry, just talk to them about “microtransactions.” These are the (usually) small in-app purchases that plague every type of video game in existence, from blockbuster shooters like Call of Duty to addictive phone games like Candy Crush (and especially those). And if you ask most gamers, they’ll tell you that microtransactions have become a problem.
Sometimes games come out with a noticeable lack of content—“missing” stuff that game publishers then sell later through downloadable content (DLC) packs. Weeks, months and years after games are released, many are still getting updated with new characters, levels, outfits, modes and more. And the costs of that stuff adds up.
When it comes to fighting games, this has hit a breaking point. Games like Street Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive, and Marvel vs. Capcom are totally dependent on their rosters of characters and selections of stages, and their publishers have taken to doling out expensive updates out like haymakers in an underground fight club. For fans of these games, they can hurt just as much, too.
These tactics to get gamers to part with more of their money are nothing new. Three versions of Street Fighter II were released on the Super Nintendo back in the early ‘90s, each containing brand new, playable characters. But more and more these days, critics and fans alike are accusing video game publishers of deliberately releasing unfinished games, then nickel-and-diming consumers for content that should have been included from the start.
Just how bad has it gotten? I decided to do some number crunching. I looked at five major fighting games—all of which are “complete,” in that no new DLC is scheduled to be released for them—and figured out exactly how much it would cost to get all possible content for each one. I know that not everyone buys games and DLC the same way. The way I figure, there are three different “characters” fighting game fans can choose when they’re buying their games:
The Completionist: The most devoted fighter, the Completionist buys all new editions and expansions the moment they’re available, regardless of cost. This fan spends the most by far, and gets all possible game content.
The Essentialist: The Essentialist can’t wait to throw down, but only buys the original game and essential DLC like new characters and stages—things that are integral to the game, not frivolous or aesthetic content like costumes. The Essentialist ignores new editions, no matter how appealing they might seem.
The Pragmatist: Using the power of hindsight, the Pragmatist waits for all versions of a game—and all its DLC—are available, then gets the most important game content for the lowest possible price. This can take years, but it’s the most cost-efficient way to get the full game experience.
With those in mind, let’s take a look at how much your favorite fighting games actually cost.
Microtransactions are not going anywhere any time soon. The DLC model is too profitable and it works too well, and it’s unlikely that gamers will ever stop buying them long enough to affect any sort of permanent change. Which is fine! Sometimes this can work in everyone’s favor.
But as consumers, we can still look out for ourselves. Let’s resolve to support those developers who have a little restraint, and ridicule the games that milk their fans for every last penny. I’m looking at you, Dead or Alive.
Wing-Man has written about video games and popular culture since 2013, and has been published in multiple online and print publications. Follow him on Twitter to learn more.