Years ago, I pondered reducing quantity as a means of avoiding raising price. I will avoid repeating the examples, since the link is right there.
In our present games, quantity is reduced via moving content to expansion packs and DLC. Players notice when you increase the average cost of a game from $40 to $50 to $60, and at some point it becomes hard to make that next jump, especially if you need to be the first company making that jump. So put less in the box. Heck, that’s even good publicity because you are now releasing an expansion pack sooner, and more expansion packs. You’re putting out so many updates, you’re selling something called a “season pass” for all that DLC. So what if the amount of non-procedural content in sequel+DLC is less than the original game? How many reviewers rate the game based on that?
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It does cost money to make games, and costs do increase over time. At some point, either the base game costs $80, or you are buying that same amount of content in a $40 with two $20 expansions. It doesn’t matter that you used to be able to get that much game for $40, any more than it matters that you used to go watch a double-feature at the cinema for a quarter. Costs rise, and this is one way that customers have chosen to absorb them. I say “customers have chosen” because the company would be perfectly happy to take your $80 up front with one release date, but it turns out that more players will give them more money if they sell it in smaller pieces. You get the game business models you are willing to pay for.
There are some obvious ways we benefit from that as players. If you have exit points at $40 and $60, you can decide that you don’t like the direction the game is going; if you pay $80 up front, you’ve already paid your $80. You are also getting that first $40 worth of game sooner, and given the popularity of playing beta and early release games, that seems to be an in-demand option. Each part of the game needs to justify itself as being worthwhile, rather than just getting one score for the whole game and hoping the reviewers forgive some problems in the third act.
There are some obvious drawbacks in terms of game design as well. Insert your favorite twenty stories about perverse game monetization strategies. Having that spread of DLC and expansions can fracture the playerbase and promote “pay to win” via power creep. Hey, if you need a way to sell that third expansion, how about “you’ll be more powerful if you buy it”?
Like most design and business decisions, this can be done well or badly. I would just like us to be more conscious of it and buy games for value and quality design, rather than letting our primate brains react to big numbers on the screen. But we’re gamers, and we react to big numbers on the screen.