A few days after Nintendo’s E3 presentation, a new demo was released for Square Enix’s upcoming game, Octopath Traveler. Since then, it has been on many RPG enthusiast’s radars, as the game looks and plays much like an RPG from the SNES era. But just like many games of this current era, fans were wondering if it’s going to get the DLC treatment. When asked during an interview with Dengeki Online about Octopath Traveler having DLC, Square Enix producer Masashi Takahashi said “We are not thinking about that at all. The release version is a finished product.” Is Mr. Takahashi subtly insulting other developers by saying they never finish their game before it is released? Or is he stating that any game with DLC cannot be considered finished when it is released, but when the last batch of DLC is released? We can’t know exactly what he meant unless he further clarifies, but we can discuss what a complete game is, or is not.
Over the past 10 years, DLC has become very prominent in the gaming industry. It’s a way for developers to offer more content to their consumers but only if they pay for it. Over the years, the ways of offering DLC has changed, as many regards that some developers will section off parts of their game to then re-sell it via DLC. So even if you’re paying full price for a game without much content, if you like the game, developers will expect you to pay even more for the extra content. I’m sure you can already see the problem here.
There is a great podcast on what exactly is a complete game from The Completionist and the That One Video Gamer crew of Brett Bayonne, Ted and Jirard Khalil. They speak on length about what exactly makes a game complete and if a game is ever complete to begin with. I highly recommend you watch it as I will be talking about some of the points they bring up.
The first thing we have to understand is that whatever a complete game is, is totally subjective. A complete game will always mean different things to different people. When someone buys a game, it is up to them to decide whether they feel like they got their money’s worth. And a full price game compared to a 10 dollar game doesn’t make the full price game any better. I’ve bought games for 20 dollars that I still play once a year, and I’ve bought full price games that I don’t like and then shelve forever. Money will never inheritably define whether or not a game is good but whether or not the person buying the game feels like they got a bang for their buck will matter. It all depends on how much they enjoy the game, and whether or not they are happy with the product they bought, regardless if there is DLC or not.
A term that comes up a lot in the industry is “voting with your wallet”, so what exactly does that mean? There’s no video game president so who are you voting for? It means that depending on what games you buy, will determine what developers and publishers you choose to support. Let’s just say that you only have the budget for 5 new games a year. If you’re only buying a game from one developer or from the same few developers every year, you’re choosing to give them your money and in turn, tell them that you like their product. Even if you aren’t 100 percent happy with the game, it still counts as a sale towards their company, and means they are making more money. As many people seem to forget, video games are a business and money will always come first because if you can’t make money, you can’t make the games. Developers will sometimes listen to fan and community feedback in order to make their games better so that fans are happier and so more people will buy their games, but a sale is still a sale. But on the other hand, games may have to change in order to make more money, which is where the business side of gaming comes in. So what does this have to do with Mr. Takahashi’s comment on DLC and what a complete game is? Game developers will take you buying their game as a sign that they did a good enough job and that you like their product, and the same will go for DLC. Even if you don’t think the product is complete but you buy the DLC because you feel like doing so makes the game complete, that shows the developer that you support that business tactic. Even if you don’t like it, which many people claim they don’t, then who exactly is buying DLC all the time? Food for thought.
Then there are people who claim they will wait for the “complete edition” of a game to come out so that they get the whole package and a complete game. But again, what is a complete game? When do the developers stop supporting the game? Or when they are done making DLC? But what if they release a remaster or remake of the game, maybe you should just wait for that? Or maybe they will port the game to a new generation of consoles with better gameplay, frame-rate, controls, etc.? When will you ever know? The most important thing is waiting for a complete edition because it means choosing not to support a developer at launch. What if everyone thought this way and didn’t buy the game until there was a complete or gold edition? There would be no complete edition because no one supported the game when it first came out. There would be no DLC or further support of the game. My point is that we are deciding what a complete game is and we are choosing whether or not to further support these games. But when do we ever truly know when a game is complete if it gets re-released, updated, or ported? There are many games that are still being supported or have changed throughout the years.
Let’s take Street Fighter for instance, as Brett Bayonne mentioned, Street Fighter has always had multiple editions of their games. Street Fighter is an incredibly popular fighting series and one of Capcom’s most popular franchises. Due to this, they have supported every Street Fighter game with new editions and in later titles, DLC. But when do we decide which edition is the complete edition? Each iteration has new characters, modes, and controls so who can really decide which one is complete? When the first version, Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior came out, I’m sure many people just thought that it was the end product because games didn’t get DLC or updates back then. But then Street Fighter 2: Champions edition came out and I’m sure many people thought that would be the final edition. There have been 8 editions of Street Fighter to this date, with Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers just coming out last year. I’m sure for so many years, people thought that there would be no more Street Fighter games so who can tell when a game is ever complete? Plus, it’s all down to personal preference about which edition you like more.
A lot of people argue that a complete game depends on how much content is put out when the game is first released. Let’s look at the Street Fighter series once again. Street Fighter 5 was released with, what many fans say was a small roster and they felt like there weren’t enough characters. The base game released with 16 characters and has had 3 seasons of DLC where 18 more characters have been released. Players are used to fighting games getting the DLC treatment, as characters are what the game is based around. I personally have always used E. Honda in Street Fighter but he is nowhere to be found in Street Fighter 5. Well, what if a long time fan of Street Fighter has always mained a character like Blanka who is part of the third season of DLC for Street Fighter 5? Is it fair that he has to pay for a character that he has always used? It’s really up to the buyer to decide that, but because the game has such a small roster at launch, is it a complete game? Let’s compare Street Fighter 5 to the new Super Smash Bros Ultimate game that was just announced. The new Smash game so far has 66 characters in the starting roster and is certain to have a few more character announcements before it launches. Compared to Street Fighter 5’s starting roster of 16, that’s a lot of characters. So maybe it is just more content upon launch that determines whether a game is complete or not. A game can have a lot of content on day one, but that content isn’t always top notch quality. So now it is a quality VS quantity issue. And I’m not saying either game lacks quality, but it’s just that many people seem to prefer the quantity in fighting games.
Does a complete game mean that when it comes out, it is bug-free and the game runs perfectly? Because if so, then I have a lot of hope for Octopath Traveler. Many people make the argument that older games never needed patches to fix bugs or glitches because they were made well because devs didn’t have the ability to do things like patches. To be fair though, the scale of video games is much bigger nowadays so let’s give them a small break. But games back in the day were not perfect by any means. Sometimes nostalgia can really skew someone’s opinion. Like they mentioned in the podcast, the original Pokemon games had a balancing issue with psychic type Pokemon that couldn’t be fixed, so, is Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow not a complete game? There are older games with even game-breaking glitches, where you can skip massive amounts of a game by clipping through a wall. Have you ever seen someone speed-run Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time? If so then you know exactly what I’m talking about. We could even argue about The Witcher 3, one of the most critically acclaimed and most loved games ever, and say it is not complete because there are glitches and bugs. The game needed additional support and patches to fix them and some of them are still there to this day. Then there is the fact that the game also got DLC, when many would consider that it is indeed, a very large game with a lot of content. But low and behold, it got 2 DLC story expansions. So is the base game complete? Is it really the best game of all time or is it the best game of all time once you also pay for the extra content? Or do we say that it is a complete game that just got extra content down the road? It’s quite the conundrum, ladies and gentlemen.
I feel like we aren’t any closer to an answer and that’s okay because honestly, there is no real answer. It’s all entirely subjective and depends on preferences, opinions and just overall philosophy about games and gaming. If wish I could pick Mr. Takahashi’s brain a bit more so I could understand his meaning and intent behind his comment, but I don’t think that will happen. I’m sure Octopath Traveler is going to be fantastic, filled with story and lots of hours of gameplay, but who can really say if it will be a complete game or not? There are games out there that I’ve considered incomplete upon release and there have been games that I feel are overstuffed with content upon release. It really boils down to whether or not you as a consumer feel happy about the amount of content in a game and when you consider a game to be complete. We set our own standards for what we decide to be complete but as a community, we can tell developers whether or not they are putting enough content in their games. I thoroughly enjoy Ted’s analogy in the Podcast, referring to this discussion as a jar. If you have a jar and you fill it with rocks, you would say the jar is full, right? Well, what if you then fill the cracks in between the rocks with sand? Then you would say the jar is full, right? But then you fill the jar with water. I’m sure you see his point here. You decide when the jar is full and what you want it to be full of. I’ve presented you with some arguments, now you decide ladies and gentlemen. And remember, stay savvy!