By Jared Newman | Friday, September 24, 2010 at 8:46 am
Free downloadable content has become somewhat of a rarity for console video games. The fees for getting extra levels and multiplayer maps approved by the console maker, and the need to cover increasingly high development costs with post-release content, means you just don’t get a lot of freebies anymore.
Team Meat, developers of the upcoming Super Meat Boy, have discovered a workaround, at least on the Xbox 360. The game — a two-dimensional throwback platformer, like Super Mario Bros. with twisted humor — will store new level data under “Title Managed Storage,” a section of Microsoft’s servers usually used for non-essential data like weather, sports game rosters and other settings. By storing level data instead, Team Meat can offer new Super Meat Boy levels at no extra charge, and at no cost to them.
To boot, what a quote from Super Meat Boy co-developer Tommy Refenes (asterisks mine): “In a world where it costs $2 to unlock content in a game that you’ve already purchased it is nice to have the power to totally say ‘f*** you’ to that system and go our own way.”
Refenes explained that the feature is only available for Xbox 360 because Microsoft required one exclusive feature in order to carry the game, and the free levels made the most sense. Nintendo apparently demanded its own Wii-exclusive feature, but it hasn’t been announced yet (Refenes said a playable avatar of Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s president and chief executive, was quickly shot down). Although the free levels essentially use a loophole, Microsoft ended up supporting the idea, Refenes said.
Some developers have knocked Microsoft for its policy on downloadable content. Valve, for instance, released a new Left 4 Dead level in September 2009, free on Steam for PC, but $7 on the Xbox 360. “We own our platform, Steam. Microsoft owns their platform. They wanted to make sure there’s an economy of value there,” Valve’s Chet Faliszek told Eurogamer at the time.
Does Team Meat’s workaround mean we’ll start to see more free downloadable content on the Xbox 360? Maybe from small developers, but according to one description of Title Managed Storage, each game allows 32 KB of storage per player. That might be enough for some indie games, but big downloadable content packs will probably still carry a premium.