BioShock Infinite DLC: Why the delayed release is to Irrational’s credit

5 Jul 2013  by   Peter Parrish
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Irrational’s BioShock Infinite was released at the end of March and has been confounding people ever since. How come Booker turned into a baby at the end?* Who would have guessed that the Lutece twins built Rapture?** And where the heck is that ‘Season Pass’ DLC anyway?

Said Season Pass was (of course) available as a pre-order and is still on sale today through places like Steam for $20.00 USD. It rather nebulously offers “three add-ons” plus a ‘Day one’ pack containing virtual upgrades, weapon skins and a handful of infusions. The add-ons will feature “More Stories, More Weapons, More Characters” and “extend the narrative.” That’s about all we know.

BioShock Infinite

Speculation #1: In the BioShock Infinite DLC, you will play as a disgruntled poster-maker who just wants to make concert ads instead of racist propaganda.

So far, there’s been no sign of anything beyond the upgrade pack. No screenshots, no hints at what (or who) the DLC may focus on and no release dates. Irrational’s Ken Levine says they’re working on the first add-on though, and there’s due to be word about it at the end of July.

Whether by design, or forced into it by the ever-shifting release schedule of the main game, the studio decided to only start work on the DLC after the title was finished and shipped. That’s why it’s taking so long, and why we know so little about any of it. Nobody did anything until BioShock Infinite was out of the door. Sure, they probably exchanged ideas and figured out what the add-ons would be, but they only began work on them in late March.

And you know what? That’s bloody brilliant. It’s fantastic. Irrational Games should be lauded to the very skies of Columbia for handling the DLC this way, because it’s the way most game buyers have always wanted it.

BioShock Infinite

Speculation #2: You’ll play as the ghost of a hot-dog salesman and have to hug all the angel statues in order to come back to life.

That is what most of us want, isn’t it? DLC that is very clearly being made after the main game.

Too often there are fears that portions are being chopped and trimmed from the main title in order to turn them into marketable extras. Definitive proof is always hard to come by (except in cases where a developer screws up and sticks the DLC on the disc, to be unlocked with a downloadable code,) so it mostly becomes a matter of trust. Do you trust that the developer or publisher is true to their word when they say nothing has been cut for sale at a later date?

It’s always plausible that part of a development team has worked concurrently on some DLC to keep them busy while the rest of the studio completes the game (as is often cited in defence.) But it’s also pretty believable that publisher/retailer/financial pressures encourage studios to slice bits out of the game and hold them over as DLC. In each individual case, it’s very difficult to be sure what the truth is.

BioShock Infinite has avoided all of that doubt and intrigue. We know precisely what the deal is.

BioShock Infinite

Speculation #3: You’ll literally play as this beach. Attempt to get sand in as many butt cracks as possible.

The only sky-hook in the works is this ‘Season Pass’ business. 2K and Irrational were fairly up front about the expected wait. The Steam page for the purchase notes that “All Season Pass content will be available for individual purchase by March 2014,” but it says this in small text near the bottom.

That timeline does at least seem somewhat realistic. Assuming the first add-on comes out relatively soon, that gives Irrational another six or seven months to get a couple more out there. But anyone who purchased this Pass in March (or even earlier) can be forgiven for getting a little antsy about the wait. The impatience is probably coming from a mixture of genuine eagerness to play more Infinite, and concern for where their Season Pass money went. Both sentiments are entirely reasonable.

The problem there is not Irrational’s decision to hold off work on DLC until Infinite was done, but the (presumed) pressure of having to sell a Season Pass in the first place.

These never seem like a good idea. Like pre-orders for games, anyone buying is taking a massive gamble on some sight-unseen goods in return for … not a lot, really. Maybe some virtual trinkets. Perhaps a slight discount. A discount that will be worthless if, in the end, you only enjoy about half of what you bought.

BioShock Infinite

Speculation #4: You’ll play as a retailer of motorized patriots who has to ignite a war in order to meet your annual sales quota and net that big promotion.

If we’re going to pile on Irrational for anything, it should be the slapdash way they handled the ‘stuttering bug’ on PC. The latest (and fourth) patch appears to have fixed the problem for the majority, but it took months to reach even that point.

That lack of technical support was a huge disappointment, but the DLC wait is a consequence of a developer who’s actually dealing with add-ons in the best possible way. For once, we can be sure that none of the upcoming expansions were crudely snipped out of BioShock Infinite at the last minute. That’s not something to be taken for granted with a contemporary big-budget release.

Things could’ve been even better without the distraction of a Season Pass making people impatient, but the one thing Irrational cannot be accused of is undermining its main release in the name of DLC. Let’s give them the time they need to finish it.

*Fake spoiler, please don’t yell at me.

**This one is totally real though. Unless it isn’t.

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