With the announcement of Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, there was a huge uprising in the interest of downloadable prequels (or sequels) to upcoming games. Later on, THQ announced one for the upcoming Red Faction game, and EA was soon to follow with a game that pre-dated Dead Space 2. The promise of additional content for the full game was enticing enough, although some claimed that these were simple marketing ploys to get people to pay for what were essentially demos.
The release of Dead Rising 2: Case Zero was a huge success for Capcom, leading up to the announcement of Dead Rising 2: Case West that would be released soon after the full game. With the right price point of $5, it was hard not to be interested in Case Zero. It gave the player a taste of what to expect with Dead Rising 2, a little background on the two main characters, and a chance to find out if the Dead Rising experience was right for them.
I completely find the claims, at least in the defense of Case Zero, that these are glorified demos to be completely wrong. The basis of these products can be described as a demo, sure, but it more or less gives the player more of a background on the story of the full game more so than any demo might, and feels more like a full product. Plus, the ability to transfer your character’s level to Dead Rising 2 is a nice addition, offering something else you will never get from a demo.
These products, if priced correctly, show a new way to approach downloadable content. They offer a full product at a small price that can connect with an upcoming, high profile release. They allow the player to get the basic experience of a demo, but with situations that won’t be found in the main game. It’s not a product you will find yourself playing again, but it’s not one that needs to convince the player otherwise.
DLC is often used to expand upon a game after its initial release, either offering improvements or just giving the player more to do. Allowing the player to enter this world (in one way or another) before the game is out and giving them extra incentive to do so is one way developers can reach out to their communities and find problems before it is too late.
With the right ideas in mind and the right initiative to deliver a quality product, these low price, easy to access game prequels can really expand upon a game in more ways than ever before. This is a good thing for the industry and, if not abused, can lead to many new and creative ways to deliver quality content for fans of particular series. Demos can often be misleading, but these products allow the developers to give us a different experience that satisfies our need to enjoy a particular game or series while also rewarding us just for being fans.
It may seem like a minuscule idea, but it is one that can further expand the use of downloadable content in our industry for the better.