By Nelson Schneider - 04/08/12 at 03:34 PM CT
Easter Eggs have been a part of videogames for as long as videogames have existed. While the initial Easter Eggs – the ones that defined the term – were more vanity pieces where the programmers slipped-in an inside joke or other small, hidden detail, the concept evolved over time. The term soon became associated with hidden goodies and bonus features in a game that could be unlocked by dedicated players. Easter Eggs reached their height during the last two generations, in which games like “GoldenEye 64” and the ‘Ratchet & Clank’ series featured formalized menus to help players keep track of their discovered Eggs and to activate/deactivate the associated features.
But now that dear old Easter Bunny has been bought-out by Big Business with an interest in maximizing profits. Few 7th Generation games contain Easter Eggs or unlockables, instead holding back those fun, silly options as paid add-ons via DLC. Extra costumes, extra music tracks, extra equipment, extra levels: All are now held hostage by the $Almighty Dollar$. Sure, it would be nice if these extras were included in the original asking price, but they are just extras, and aren’t really important…
…Except in the increasingly-frequent situations where DLC isn’t just replacing Easter Eggs, but is replacing core content and the venerable concept of the Expansion Pack. At least two games I’ve played recently (“White Knight Chronicles 2” and “Castlevania: Harmony of Despair”) have cordoned off important features behind the DLC Paywall… and when added up, the DLC costs as much as the base game, if not more, for far less content (which should have been integrated in the base game in the first place).
Console games never really benefitted from Expansion Packs the way PC games did, due to the fact that consoles lacked hard drives for the longest time. But when console games DID get expansions, like the ‘Armored Core’ games on the PS1 and PS2, they were well worth the money because they basically acted as a stand-alone game that could be played as an expansion by importing characters and stats. PC games, on the other hand, frequently received Expansion Packs that doubled the amount of content in the base game while costing half as much, with the convenient side effect of fixing many of the bugs in the base game. Expansion Packs essentially served as large, paid updates before the Internet made incremental, free updates the norm.
Sadly, Expansion Packs, like Easter Eggs, have all but disappeared, even for PC gaming. The last piece of DLC that I can remember that even deserves to call itself an Expansion Pack is “The Shivering Isles” add-on for “Oblivion.” Other PCRPGs have taken to nickel-and-diming just as heartily as the other genres. The MeltedJoystick staff have been playing a LOT of PC “Dungeon Defenders” lately, a $15 game that we bought on sale for $3… yet we have all spent $20+ on DLC for it! Yes, it’s a good game, and we’re having a lot of fun with it, but the add-ons have been expensive and haven’t really added very many good things, as each of the new stages features balance issues that were hammered-out of the base game. It seems that even Indie developers aren’t exempt from the money-grab.
I miss the days when “Tales of the Sword Coast” gave “Baldur’s Gate” twice the number of interesting side-quests, or when “Throne of Bhaal” felt like an entirely separate game in the ‘Baldur’s Gate’ series. I miss the days when I could put down $15-$30 for an Expansion Pack and know that I was getting just as much content as if I had put down $40-$60 for a new game. I miss the days when tiny bonus add-ons and Easter Eggs were free and showed gamers that the developers cared about making a worthwhile product.