EA: How about we sell extra-long demos as DLC?

Heartened by the popularity of all its various forms of DRM and DLC, EA has decided to implement even further segmentation of its games. Now you’ll have the demo, the “premium demo,” the “full game” and simultaneous or post-release DLC. Gamers love segmentation!

Analyst Michael Pachter reports on EA’s new strategy:

Think about Battlefield 1943 as the prototype, so a full (but short) game experience for a reasonable price. At the same time, an expanded version of the game will be under development for release as a packaged product.

Well now, let’s not jump to conclusions. This, after all, was in a way how Portal was. Short, low-priced, and as it turned out, harbinger for a much larger game further on. But is that all there is to it?

The truth is that Portal truly was a complete game. Can EA really convince anyone that whatever they sell for $15 ahead of a big retail release is complete in any way? Seems unlikely, especially considering how DLC these days is essentially content that could have been in the retail release but was modular enough to sell on the side. I put “full game” in quotes in the first paragraph because it seems to me that truly full games are rarely released these days; pieces of the cookie are broken off until they have the bare minimum for a retail package, and then they sell you the rest of the cookie piecemeal.

Obviously there is the bottom line to consider. I can’t blame EA if making medium-sized, semi-complete games and then tarting them up with DLC is a winning strategy. If they’re making money and making games, that’s fine. But gamers lose out when games are considered only as products, the same way a TV show, movie, or book will suffer if created only with “net positive dollars” the only objective in mind.