At some point, I’m sure every console game developer holds a big meeting to discuss the longevity of the games they create. Since 2003, when the first piece of DLC hit the Xbox, developers have increasingly turned to small in-house teams or outside developers to craft unique downloadable experiences that will keep gamers hooked on their title… but it can only last for so long. After a year or so of support most studios move on to working on their next big title.
But, then… out of nowhere… a revelation! Perhaps it came from an industry veteran, or maybe a genius young programmer who just graduated from some college ending in “Tech.” The idea was simple: “Why should we have to do it?” The PC crowd knows this mentality all too well. There are countless quality mods available for every game that’s worth playing (and a few that aren’t.) With the power of the current generation gaming consoles, user generated content is popping up into many developers’ minds as an easy alternative (or in some cases supplement) to DLC. Take Halo 3, for example; some of the best maps available were unique Forge variants.
More and more often, we are seeing user creation tools shipping with games. Upcoming titles like Little Big Planet and Guitar Hero World Tour are relying heavily on user creation to set them apart from the competition. Meanwhile, as they scheme for a way to make you pay for what you download, Microsoft has already taken things a step further. When XNA was in its infancy, we were assured we wouldn’t have to pay for every crap game that little Billy Gamer made in his basement; only the titles that rose to the top would have their own Microsoft Space-buck price tag. But who were we kidding? It’s Microsoft; of course we’re going to have to pay. 200-800 points to be exact.
As we move forward through this generation, expect to see “user created” content in more and more triple-A titles. However, don’t expect to always see it for free. Gaming is the biggest form of entertainment in the world, and as long as we keep pouring money into publisher’s pockets, they’ll find a way to get more (even if we’re the ones doing the work.)