BioWare on how to monetise players: day-one DLC, Online Passes, micro-transactions
"Gamers are happier, as they are able to spend money when they want".
BioWare has discussed its business strategy for providing extra (paid) content to players after a game has been released.
One such method includes day-one DLC, something the Mass Effect studio is convinced gamers can be tempted with.
"Fans do want more content. From the moment the game launches. They tend to say 'I want it now!' So it needs to be there when it's ready," BioWare online development director Fernando Melo explained at GDC Europe today. "They choose when to pick it up, day one or later."
Mass Effect 3 launched alongside the day-one DLC pack From Ashes, which included an extra squadmate and missions. The earlier that players bought the add-on, the more dialogue options and content were available with that squad member, who doled out a hefty chunk of important in-game lore.
Day-one DLC makes business sense, Melo continued, as it meant that writers and concept artists who had finished their jobs on Mass Effect 3 could be put back into work immediately - while their colleagues continued on the main game.
In Melo's eyes, another form of day-one DLC is the Online Pass, although new copies of the game may ship with the content. 11 per cent of all Mass Effect 2 DLC revenue came from the Online Pass, content that had already been planned for as an incentive to new customers.
"An analogue [to the Online Pass] is free-to-play games, or games with a premium layer of service," Melo added, name-checking Call of Duty Elite and Battlefield Premium. An Online Pass could be seen similarly, as an 'out-of-the-box premium service'.
Mass Effect 3 also added micro-transactions to the franchise. The game lets players spend real-life money unlocking multiplayer content such as weapons and character classes, allowing users faster access than by simply using in-game currency.
"If you have five DLC packs at $10 each, you can only ever earn a total of $50," Melo explained. Micro-transactions allow the "potential for more" player spending, and give gamers the ability of extra "choice".
"Gamers are actually happier, as they are able to spend money when they want. People may not want to pay upfront. They may be happier to pay when they are 'in the moment'."
Overall, the packs have been "very successful for us", Melo concluded, adding that their sale has allowed the development of several free multiplayer expansions, which has in turn encouraged more players to the game, who have then spent more money on content packs.