Most of us like to moan about how games developers are out there to bleed every penny out of our shallow pockets by peppering us with overpriced arbitrary DLC, elitist subscription services to keep us paying for games we already paid good money for, or making us pay for ‘additional’ content that should’ve been in the game in the first place.
But they’re not all bad, those developers. Some of them seem to genuinely be in it for the love of gaming, some believe in the power of communities to keep games going, while others still simply believe that providing the gamer with freebies makes good business sense.
Here’s a list of five developers who you’re likely to get good value for your games from. Whether it’s through free content, listening to the community’s needs, or keeping games updated for absurd amounts of time, these guys know how to keep us gamers happy.
As if the Steam Revolution wasn’t enough in itself, providing gamers with an instantly accessible, centralised hub from which to buy all their games, Valve have also allowed a single purchase of a game to be played on multiple platforms. They’ve shown endless generosity with their own games too. Left 4 Dead 2 and Portal 2 are just two recent examples of games that have been constantly updated and refined in the years since their release. The former has received free campaigns, while the latter has been enhanced with a modding kit that has effectively extended the game’s appeal out to infinity. Plus, the weekly bargains on Steam will appeal to the more frugal-minded gamers.
Steam has been integral to the rise of indie gaming as well, offering affordable and enjoyable games, and opening up doors to developers interested in toying around with niche concepts rather than making the next big blockbuster. The recently-launched Greenlight service has also proven to be a hit so far, allowing gamers to test-run yet-to-be-released indie games and vote on which ones will eventually become available to buy on Steam.
2K Games are behind some of the biggest games around, with the likes of Civilization V, BioShock 2 and Spec Ops receiving some strong free content. Minerva’s Den was a solid single-player add-on to Bioshock 2, which PC gamers got for free. Civilization V receives regular updates featuring new leaders, maps and scenarios to play around with. Furthermore, it’s hard not to love the company after their recent marketing push for Borderlands 2, which let players win a copy of the game by doing a FREE bungee jump in London. Their approach may be a bit more drip-feedy and gimmicky than the more community-creating vibes of Rockstar and Valve, but who cares when they regularly pop up with pleasant surprises?
CD Projekt RED
In an interview earlier in the year, the Polish studio’s co-founder was quite frank in saying that generosity is a perfectly viable business strategy in the games industry. The publisher/developer of the hit Witcher games found that releasing free DLC with the original game boosted sales, and so continued in this generous vein for the sequel.
The Witcher 2 has had some impressive patches since its release, including free barbershop services with the ‘Barbers and Coiffeuses’ DLC in patch 1.2 and the ‘Sackful of Fluff’ quest in patch 1.3. When the Enhanced Edition of the game came to PC and Xbox 360 in April 2012, it came at the same price as the original edition, with four hours of extra gameplay, new cinematics, and countless gameplay and interface fixes. If you bought The Witcher 2 before the Enhanced Edition came out, then you got to download all the extra content for free.
The Polish studio is currently working working on a Cyberpunk game, with a big announcement regarding the game’s name due on Thursday. We’ll be watching the event, and update you on it as it happens.
Aside from bringing us some of the finest open-world action games the world has ever seen, Rockstar has also made sure to keep its players happy by constantly updating some of their most popular games. Soon after the release of GTA IV, Rockstar opened up their ‘Social Club’ to gamers, offering weekly challenges through which players could unlock new outfits, weapons and cheats. This was a welcome throwback to the days when content would be unlocked in games through player dedication rather than real-world money.
Rockstar have also been generous with their DLC. Some of it was free, some of it was paid, but all of it was great value for money. The Episodes from Liberty City add-ons to GTA IV were great stand-alone additions to the game. Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption, meanwhile, remains one of the best bits of paid DLC out there, adding some great multiplayer game modes as well as a charmingly B-Movie zombie-based single-player campaign.
Even though Red Dead has been around for over two years now, Rockstar continue to add free DLC and host events in the game, while Max Payne 3 is getting a healthy dose of free DLC later in the year.
The studio behind some of the longest-lasting games of all time must be doing something right. Released in 2000, Diablo II remains a popular game thanks to regular updates, the last of which came out only in October last year (that’s 11 YEARS since the game was first released!). With online servers still running, it’s a surprise that Diablo III has had room to be such a success.
Then there is the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) World of Warcraft phenomenon. MMORPGs have come and gone, but none have shot the previously-obscure term into the public spotlight quite like WoW. Constantly listening to community feedback and updating the game as appropriate. Blizzard hasn’t overdone it on expansion packs either, and seems to be refining the game with each new one. The latest, Mists of Pandaria, has tightened up in-game quests and storylines, extending the hugely-populated MMOs already vast lifespan. It may be a huge, simple, some would say overly-commercial MMO that has become a cliché of itself, but it’s no small achievement on Blizzard’s part to keep so many millions of players captivated over so many years.