Epic: give customers free content!
Microsoft: Let them eat cake!
Gears of War fans: grumble grumble grumble
Gears of War is one of the most important games in Microsoft's arsenal against their two competitors; it would assuredly be at the number one slot if it wasn't for the cash-printing machine that is the $130 Halo 3 release. People buy 360s for Gears of War, and they buy Xbox Live to play it online. The first map pack was free, and we have the Discovery Channel show that sponsored it to thank for that. The upcoming content pack remains unpriced, but the issue of how to release it is apparently a matter of contention, as Evil Avatar found out. The contention is that Epic wants to give it to you as a lovely present, and Microsoft wants you to give them money for it as a not-as-lovely transaction.
You can guess which one of these options gamers want.
Microsoft's motives are clear: they published Gears of War, they hyped it, and now they want the fruits of that labor. Microsoft is like every company that releases a console: they want to pump money out of it, and Gears of War content is a permission slip to get that money out of the wallets of gamers. Also, if Epic gets in the habit of giving gamers content such as maps and modes for free, it will make Microsoft look very miserly when they charge for every map and mode and macguffin when Halo 3 is released.
The issue that surprised me is that Microsoft wasn't able to muzzle Epic on this issue. I'm sure there have now been many talks about how bad this is making Microsoft look and how Epic now seems to be the friend of all gamers. Microsoft has to be unhappy about this story getting such wide coverage; this isn't biting the hand that feeds you, this is slapping it in front of a large audience and then saying you're cool.
Mark Rein is even trying to quell the Internet furor on the Evil Avatar forums, but I doubt it will help:
I think you guys are blowing this up into something bigger than it is. Please listen to the entire podcast before jumping to conclusions.
What we have here is simply a difference of opinion…
Indeed, Mark Rein. Indeed.