Train Simulator 2016 And How We've Reached The Crest Of The Dumb DLC Wave

from the dlc-all-that-money dept

We only occasionally talk about video game DLC, or downloadable content, here at Techdirt. When digital distribution became a thing some years back, game makers came up with DLC as a way to achieve several goals: extend the shelf-life of games, make games more saleable through the promise of extra content, and, of course, make more money. I remember when the wave of DLC started and the general negative reaction brought by the gaming public to it. Most concerns centered around game makers charging for features that once were included in the games for the original asking price. Some makers legitimized these concerns through their actions, but others did wonderful things with DLC that gamers would not wish to be without. But, as Hunter S. Thompson once imagined he could see the crest of hippie culture along the Rocky Mountains before its eventual recession, I too can see the crest of DLC greed in our time in the insanity of Train Simulator 2016‘s laughable DLC offerings.

This all becomes evident as Kotaku’s Alex Walker went on a quest to find the most ridiculous DLC costs for games on the market today.

My first thought was the Dynasty Warriors series. They, like many anime brawlers, have an absurd amount of costume and armour packages that are far more expensive than they should be. But then I came across Train Simulator 2016: Steam Edition. It’s US$45, which is fairly standard for niche titles with a hardcore fanbase. Dovetail Games were even generous enough to have a special on the DLC. And then I saw how much DLC there was.

As you can see at the bottom of the image, there are 230 available DLC options for sale. Next to it is an option to see them all. Walker saw them all. The results, and keep in mind that most of these are on sale for nearly half off, are hilariously expensive.

Yes, that’s over $3,000 if you were to buy all of the game’s DLC when most of it is on sale. None of this is to say, of course, that a game maker can’t charge what they like for their game, their DLC, their box art, their communications, their support, or anything else. They most certainly can. But what this should herald for most of us is the ultimate example of DLC done wrong. Whatever costs and effort might go into making a game, the end result shouldn’t be the cost of a used car in payment for the full content. There are ways to DLC right and it’s not evil to charge for great content, but this kind of thing we see above is so far removed from how games were charged for only a few years ago that it’s plainly obvious that something ain’t right here.

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Comments on “Train Simulator 2016 And How We've Reached The Crest Of The Dumb DLC Wave”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This is outrageous! This comapny has the nerve to make highly detailed simulations of trains and then sell them to a small niche and undeserved consumer base! What if model train companies did this? I’m glad that when people get into model trains they get all of the thousands of trains in their initial purchase. I mean this digital thing is so different too! Its not like it costs money to track down some rare trains, take hundreds of photographs of their smallest details and then turn those photographs into 3D models. They should just lose money so we get things for free. It’s not like the market dictates what something is worth and if the small but loyal train simulator fans didn’t think this was a good value the company would go out of business. So outrageous.

Will Braunfeld says:

Re: Re: Re: Truthiness.

There is no justification for charging $20 for an aesthetic option – especially not if there’s over a thousand of those aesthetic options. It’s gouging, plain and simple, targeting those oh-so-delightfully-named “whales” and finding out just how much they can make them fork out. Sure, the market will bear it. Doesn’t make it less nasty or greedy.
As I believe Techdirt’s brought up before, even if the initial investment was pretty tricky (modeling time, animation time, examining real-world versions for detail accuracy), once that’s done, the price of creating a new copy of the digital good is negligible, if not $0. There’s no way they can justify $3000 worth of DLC (most of it at -40% on sale) for what amounts to skins, apart from “We figured people would pay that much, and we like money.” Which is business-reasonable, but nasty and greedy. TD’s just callin’ it like it sees it.

Stu says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Truthiness.

This game is made as an digital version of model train collecting/building. 1 model train engine alone can cost up to $100 for some, go check out Amazon. Sure you can get $20 toys, but hobbyists are not buying toys. If you are not interested in trains, this game is not for you. (Nor me, I have no interest either)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Truthiness.

“Sure you can get $20 toys, but hobbyists are not buying toys”

No, they’re buying manufactured physical goods with relatively high marginal costs due to the demanded quality of the product and small market.

Now, I don’t know the actual cost of developing one of these DLC packages (Will above seems to be assuming it’s small,l others seem to believe it’s much trickier), but the digital download version does not have those marginal manufacturing costs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Truthiness.

I would personally assume the costs would be less than the creation effort that goes into normal “Horse Armour” style DLC.

Both essentially copy a design but the “Horse Armour” design had to be created by the studio first where as the train design was either photographed or pulled from a book which I would assume has a hell of a lot less man hours involved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Truthiness.

Let’s say you’re playing a game with a lot of downloadable skins for a lot of different characters (for instance League of Legends).

Do you:
A. Buy every skin for every hero ever.
B. Buy skins for specific characters you use that you think look cool.

How about this instead? You’re playing a game and you obtain a very rare item that almost no one has. Lots of people then start to contact you asking to trade that item for real world money.

People spend HUNDREDS of not THOUSANDS of dollars on virtual things all the time. Lots of times those digital objects aren’t even being sold as DLC or otherwise. People pay others to farm gold in an MMO. Hell, people are paying money for ships in a game that hasn’t even been released yet (Star Citizen). People have hobbies, and sometimes those people are willing to spend ludicrous amounts of money for their hobbies. That doesn’t mean however that they’re going to go shopping for food and buy the store. Basically, if DLC doesn’t effect the base game there’s no need to buy it. If there’s no need to buy it then people won’t unless they want to. If people don’t want to buy DLC that doesn’t effect the base game then they won’t.

Wingracer on the Kotaku Article said it best:

“Exactly. This is like an article titled “This hobby shop sells a million dollar train set” when in fact the only way to spend a million dollars there is if you bought one of every single variety of train piece available on the market.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Intercity is a very common relatively modern train with massive documentations available.

If it is that expensive to recreate an Intercity Class 91 Loco (20 quid a pop), you may be making a graver error than selling it…

While I don’t mind vanity DLCs or DLCs in general, the pricing for these trains seems far too peppered compared to the content.

Be aware that the base game is about 44 quid, but if you want a relatively lifelike experience you would need at least 1 train a 20 quid and a rail route a 40 quid. That is 100 for an immersive experience with 1 train and 1 route, where the DLCs costs already surpass the games cost. The rest is about 2900 for the current package on sale. Since a new game is released every year, it seems like a slightly expensive hobby.

Rabbit80 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

To be fair, the game comes with numerous routes and trains available. For the past few years at least, updates between the major versions of the game have been free – I’m now on TS2016, but originally bought it in 2012.

The DLC usually adds several features such as scenarios (missions), liveries etc, and there is tons of free stuff available if you look around – some of it very high quality. The chances anyone would want to buy all the DLC is quite slim as each download provides quite a few hours gameplay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

…the game comes with numerous routes and trains available…

Maybe this particular game comes with numerous routes and trains but I saw a package on the shelf at a local store a few years ago priced at US $60.00 with exactly three locos and three routes, and the locos/routes were paired: you could not use one loco on a different route. The package did say that additional routes and locos could be downloaded, but said nothing about if there was going to be an additional cost. Needless to say I didn’t buy it.

Anonymous Coward says:

You missed the part where they renamed the game from 2014 to 2015 to 2016, then sold it again.

None of the players will buy all of those, i doubth they have more than a dozen buyers for some of those.
So i would guess they have to keep the prices high to make some money.

But then, those dlc’s arent as detailed as some third-party ones, so if someone is really into trains they will buy the most detailed thing they can find, and there are a few ones where starting the train takes over 200 clicks and 10 minutes…

So yes, its a ripoff. Their quality is not worth that price and according to the steam discussions, there are dozens of issues that havent been fixed since the first version of this game.

MBraedley (profile) says:

Re: Re:

None of the players will buy all of those, i doubth they have more than a dozen buyers for some of those. So i would guess they have to keep the prices high to make some money.

Except you’re forgetting basic economics. If they were to drop the price of the DLC to, say, a tenth of what it is right now, then maybe instead of getting a dozen buyers, they might get hundreds. 20 or 30 times as many sales at a tenth the profit each is still 2 or 3 times the profit.

Now I’m not saying this is exactly what would happen; simulator folk aren’t known for their frugality. However, I figure they’re currently only buying packs at the top of their list instead of the top ten things on their list.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

As someone who played this game and know one guy who is really into it, im pretty sure that they wouldnt sell much more.
Maybe people would buy a 2-3 more but the point is, they buy a train because they like it and they are rarely intrested in other trains.

Also, as weird as it is, spending 20$ on a dlc makes it more enjoyable than getting it for 2$.

I agree that dropping the price usally increases sales but in this game, people are intrested in very specific things so they ignore everything else.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I agree with the idea that dropping the price wouldn’t necessarily translate into lots more sales in this instance, but:

“Also, as weird as it is, spending 20$ on a dlc makes it more enjoyable than getting it for 2$. “

I don’t understand that comment. Unless you’re just talking about the knowledge that you’re directly funding the developer and their next iteration of the game, why is it more “enjoyable” to drop 10x the price for something?

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If they were to drop the price of the DLC to, say, a tenth of what it is right now, then maybe instead of getting a dozen buyers, they might get hundreds. 20 or 30 times as many sales at a tenth the profit each is still 2 or 3 times the profit.

There’s a flaw with this calculation. Although you’re correct that a vendor would get more customers if he lowered the price, he now has to deal with questions and issues from more customers.

I don’t mean to sound elitist, many markets have price levels which are geared to newbies and experts.
For example, Alienware prices their computers to experts and they don’t expect to get customer support calls from people who think the DVD tray is a cup holder.

By comparison, by selling digital trains for $20, the vendors are appealing to collectors who know what they’re getting into. If the vendor priced the same train for $1.99, he might be spending more of his time trying to help people who may not even know how to get the models into the train simulation game and who may have bought only because the price was cheap.

Suomynona (user link) says:

The Nerve!

Imagine! The nerve of that company — charging extra for what should obviously be included in the base offering.

Sounds like someone’s wants to be a train hoarder. Are you REALLY going to play with 230 different virtual trains in your lifetime? ADHD, are we?

The again, are they one-use combustible and destructible? If so, I could maybe see smashing engines together 115 times. Are virtual Firemen an additional charge?

“What do you mean Pro FootBall ’98 doesn’t include the current ’15 lineup? And where are all of the little league teams, anyway?”

PsiPhi says:

Costs do come down after a year or so, if you know where to buy

I’ve bought much if not all of the DLCs for the older Train Sim versions, but at no where near those prices from places like Humble Bundle, Indie Gala, and Bundle Stars… It will always be a for old versions, but it tends to be 98% off… Its the only time I even consider buying these types of titles, though you do have to wait for a time when a “bundle” you are interested in shows up, and they are time limited…

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Not Dumb

Microsoft Flight Simulator over the years has built up an enormous following of modders. People make add-on scenery, aircraft, individual cockpit instruments and more.
Much of it is freely shared by those who make the add-ons.
But this only encourages more people to join in, and has led to a large and successful market for paid add-ons. This was all blessed by Microsoft, with an SDK for developers.

That market is still going strong despite the last version being Flight Simulator X back in 2006.

Flight Simulator 2 – released on a floppy in 1983 – had crude but location-accurate runways all over the world. The world’s airports and scenery improved with every release. With Microsoft now having an internet-connected global database of high resolution scenery and buildings for Bing Maps, the next version of Flight Simulator was obviously going to be amazing even without add-on scenery.

Instead, in 2012 Microsoft released Microsoft Flight. None of the old add-ons worked. The only scenery: The Big Island of Hawaii. JUST the Big Island of Hawaii. Only one aircraft. (Plus the incomplete Stearman – no cockpit view.) The program made it clear that it was all about Paid Downloadable Content.

The only downloadable scenery – released months later: More Hawaiian islands and then part of Alaska. That’s it. That’s all. And some unfinished aircraft. External view only. No cockpit views.

Apparently Microsoft had approached many of those producing Flight Simulator add-ons, “offered” to let them develop add-ons for Flight. That is, they dictated policy with very restrictive and one-sided terms. And the developers all stayed with Flight Simulator X.

Nor would people spend money on it. Not without their local scenery and airports, or the aircraft they might fly in real life, or the aircraft they dreamed of flying.

And so Microsoft Flight is dead. Flight Simulator X and its add-on market lives on. There’s even a new revision: 2006’s Flight Simulator X recompiled in newer tools to work better on newer Windows versions. Produced by Dovetail Games, maker of the above-mentioned Train Simulator.

Whatever (profile) says:

I think the author misses the point that most people would have little interest in getting all 3000 of the add ons, and are much more likely to select a very limited set based on personal preferences. Thinking of it as an imcomplete product with expensive add-ons would appear to be a poor representation of the product.

Rather, it’s a reasonable price basic starter with reasonably priced and very specific adds ons for people to customize the simulator based on what they want to do. This appears to be the best way to address the marketplace and make it economically viable to produce all of these add ons.

It seems like a perfectly reasonable business strategy that also meets the desires of the players of the simulator.

AJ says:

Re: Re:

“Rather, it’s a reasonable price basic starter with reasonably priced and very specific adds ons for people to customize the simulator based on what they want to do.”

I would agree….As long as that is made clear before the purchase of the game. So when you go to purchase the game, if the add-ons show below the main title and the consumer can clearly see that they are not included, as well as exactly what those additional add-ons will cost after the fact, then fine.

The good news is; If they released a bunch of add-ons that should have clearly been in the game in the first place, the consumer will punish the game company. They will either not buy from that studio again, or they will just pirate the game. Either way the market will sort itself out in short order.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree that the best way to look at this is probably as an equivalent of a physical trainset, where most people are unlikely to even try to buy everything available. It’s a different mindset, even if it’s represented in digital form here.

But, I also agree that this is DLC taken to its most ridiculous extreme, and it’s not something that most gamers would wish to see anywhere near the titles they usually play.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is not reasonable. As pointed out in other comments the costs involved in producing the digital models are much, much lower than the physical ones. And once they are produced they can be replicated infinitely for thousandths of pennies. It’s plain old greed. While they can charge such prices it does not make it right or ethical. Which takes us to the old copyright issue: charge what you want and people will pirate all they want.

Violynne (profile) says:

Two gaming authors. Two articles. Both wrong.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. DLC != micro-transactions. I believe this is a common understanding.

DLC is used by publishers because “Micro Transactions” on a menu isn’t going to be well received.

Now that we’ve clarified this, let’s move on.

These locomotives aren’t DLC. They’re micro-transactions. Individually, they’re on par with other things I’ve seen in games offering micro-transactions.

Often referred to as “horse armor” (after Bethesda charged people $5 for a visual change to the in-game horse that did nothing else), gamers have learned the difference and quickly voice their opinion when the offering(s) are priced foolishly, if not stupidly.

This game is offering additional locos which doesn’t have any impact on the game other than a visual change from the game’s base engine.

The pricing makes sense, when you realize it’s not designed to allow a single player to download every loco, but rather, allow them a few options if they choose to want them.

If you think these prices are outrages, then head over to ZoS’ Crown Store, where a single motif will cost people $49.99 in real, cold cash if they can’t wait to find it in the game.

Outrageous? That all depends on one’s definition of value.

You see, I’ve purchased quite a few things from the Crown Store because I don’t look at the item as being “$25”.

Instead, I look at it this way: “$25 to support this game I’m having a blast with, and look, they’re giving me a lioness for free!”

ZoS doesn’t require a subscription to play the game (it used to for PC players, but this was lifted when the console versions were released).

Thus, one has to ask: does value mean bitching about a few optional micro-transactions to earn revenue to keep several servers online so people can play the game or does value mean an entitled gamer is supposed to own everything the game offers for little to no cost while expecting companies to earn revenue selling…. t-shirts?

There’s only one logical choice in the above, that is, unless you’re Tim or Alex, who can’t tell the difference between DLC and micro-transactions.

If you want clarification on this, I suggest hitting up on the latest gaming news where the headlines are shouting how Destiny is going to offer micro-transactions in its game.

I find it rather comical none of these titles are calling the new items “DLC”.

Is that how this “DLC” game works, writers?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, you seem very confused about the definitions. You’re certainly not using them in any way I’m aware of being standard. Here’s my understanding:

DLC = downloadable content, usually downloaded separately from the game to add features or cosmetic additions to a game that cannot normally be accessed by other methods.

Microtransactions – usually small payments, often used by freemium games to speed things up, unlock items without waiting or otherwise access things that can be unlocked during normal gameplay with a non-monetary payment such as time or social features.

With what you’ve described in the crown store (a single motif will cost people $49.99 in real, cold cash if they can’t wait to find it in the game) is a microtransaction since it’s getting quick access to something that would normally need gameplay time – although I’d take umbrage with the “micro” part of that statement.

With things like the horse armour and the trains, they’re DLC, since they’re in addition to the normal game and cannot be unlocked during normal gameplay (as is my understanding).

Stop me if I’m wrong, but I can’t see any reason why the description in the article is not accurate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“This game is offering additional locos which doesn’t have any impact on the game other than a visual change from the game’s base engine.”

Looks to me like a few of the add-on’s are actually train routs and other “assets”, not just trains. Also (based on reading a few forum posts); I don’t think they are just skin’s. Each locomotive has different power and handling ratings no? That would be like getting a better/faster (whatever) horse, not just a skin change?

IMO; a micro transaction is a skin or power up, a DLC would be new areas and or objects.

IMO This clearly fits into the DLC category.

Violynne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I haven’t played the game in many years, so I’m going by memory here.

The power ratings are taken from the actual specs of the real locomotive. In addition, they don’t have any relevance to the game (which is more a simulator than a game).

The items you can make for the game are, for the most part, skins. Just bytes and bits of digital code rendered by the base.

“DLC” is a synonymous term for “micro-transaction”, though it seems fair there is a difference when it comes to detailing what the offerings are.

I see the new layouts as DLC while I see the locos as being micro-transactions.

The DLC allows players to take what the game gives them and expands it. There’s no requirement the locos are necessary to play on them.

Again, this is just the way I see gamers call the offerings.

Not that I care in any way.

The reality of the situation is this: you can either buy it or complain about it.

If people don’t buy the over-priced goods, then it sends a message back saying “Huh. Let’s try a different price.”

We’ll definitely see this with Destiny, people will “throw money at the screen” because value > price.

Truth be told: shouldn’t all digital goods be no cost? Economics say so!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“DLC” is a synonymous term for “micro-transaction”

Then, erm, why the long post telling the authors of the article off for using the wrong term?

“The DLC allows players to take what the game gives them and expands it. There’s no requirement the locos are necessary to play on them.”

It’s not necessary to download most DLC to play the game, especially cosmetic DLC. Many modern games have a mixture of functional and cosmetic DLC, but they’re still referred to as DLC.

“Truth be told: shouldn’t all digital goods be no cost? Economics say so!”

Nope, but hopefully the smiley at the end shows that you know this!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Care to offer any commentary on this sort of thing being labeled dlc by the company selling it? or will you side step that issue and claim its the fault of the people buying it for assuming something called dlc on the store to be dlc.

In case you missed it The steam store has all these “microtransactions” as you called them under the heading of downloadable content for this game.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“These locomotives aren’t DLC. They’re micro-transactions.”

Are they downloadable? Yep.

Are they content? Yep?

Doesn’t that then make them downloadable content? Of course it does!

You don’t get to change the meaning of words to suit your own needs.

Calling these micro-transactions is actually far less accurate, since ‘micro’ means small, and is generally used to mean very small. The whole point here is that the price of these DLC items can’t legitimately be described as very small, and in fact are grossly high for the value provided.

Anonymous Howard says:


I admit that I am behind the times with regards to train simulators, but these prices seem rather steep given the large amount of quality freeware DLC produced for the Trainz games, for example.

I can just about swallow the prices of the routes, assuming they are accurate with lots of custom objects and not just the same generic row of shops as the last station we passed through.

But $12 for a BR Class 20? Unless all those doors along the body side can be opened and the engine is fully modelled inside I can’t see how it takes all that much work to model. I’ve bought payware locomotives before but they were highly detailed LMS steam engines and they didn’t cost that much.

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:

Deja Vu

This article is linked to Kotakus article of a week ago, but it could also have linked to Kotakus similar article of 2013, when Kotaku bitched about exactly the same thing with the earlier version of the same game.

Back in 2013, Train Simulator developer (Dovetail Games, under its previous name) had this to say:

“We are very proud of the breadth and depth of DLC we offer to customers, but we don’t expect people to buy everything we make. We give players the opportunity to customise their digital collection in a way that best suits their interests.

“For example, we know that some of our players will only collect ultra-modern high speed trains from around the world, others will want to specialise in American diesel locomotives, while some specialise in heritage steam engines. And so on.

“Our comprehensive range allows players to pick and choose the locomotives and routes they are most passionate about. We make it very clear that buying all our DLC is not essential to enjoy the game and that players do not receive a competitive advantage from owning it all.”

I don’t own the game (I’m not a train fan), but some commenters on Kotaku have indicated that the DLC are more substantial than just a minor reskin, but are properly modelled to each trains characteristics and control requirements and have their own specialised missions.

The DLC library has apparently been building up over successive releases for years, which is why there’s so much of it. Judging by the games Steam discussions, the DLC apparently carries over from the previous versions – if a player bought some for the 2013 game, it can be used with this years release.

I think the DLC could probably be cheaper, but it is extremely niche DLC for a very niche game – and the playerbase seems to have voted positively with their wallets, or the developer presumably wouldn’t still be releasing it this way.

If the business model works for them and it works for their customers, then I don’t see a problem. Both Techdirt and Kotaku seem to me to be engaging in what I can only describe as nothing more than nerd-shaming, which is frankly cheap, lazy and unjust.

Techdirt and Tim Geigner, it might be a slow news day, but surely you can do better than this.

Kotakus 2013 article:

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Deja Vu

“Both Techdirt and Kotaku seem to me to be engaging in what I can only describe as nothing more than nerd-shaming, which is frankly cheap, lazy and unjust.”

I disagree. If people are coming to this from the side of being gamers, then everything in the article is a very valid and a just concern. We’re already being nickel and dimed or forced to buy premium content that 10 years ago would have been included in the standard game. We certainly don’t want this kind of model to become standard.

Having said that, this appear to be a culture clash where the kinds of people who would normally use a physical trainset (the target demographic here) and people who would normally play other videogames have very different mindsets. Gamers will tend to be completest, while those who use model train will tend to pick and choose what’s best for them. In this case, they just happen to have passed across each other by virtue of both using Steam, and the completists will naturally be shocked at what they’d assume would be targeted at the kind of person who usually buys from Steam..

It’s possible they’re wrong here, but don’t accuse them of something when there’s a much simpler answer.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Deja Vu

No, he’s quite right.

The article’s premise, “Yes, that’s over $3,000 if you were to buy all of the game’s DLC when most of it is on sale”, is utterly ridiculous. No-one is buying all the DLC. No-one is interested in buying all the DLC.

This ain’t Destiny, fantasy weapons on fantasy planets. People are buying replicas of real-world planes/trains and real-world scenery. They’re buying the trains and scenery that they encounter in real life in their local area, with much less interest in what’s elsewhere.

You claim that “We’re already being nickel and dimed or forced to buy premium content that 10 years ago would have been included in the standard game.” This is the company that’s been updating Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X. 10 and even 20 years ago, this is exactly what people were doing. The market for Flight Simulator add-on scenery and aircraft was already around. Like with Train Simulator, some of it paid, and some of it free.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Deja Vu

I agree with you completely. The article suggests that the full simulator costs $3000, and that they are somehow dishonest by pricing it in bits and pieces rather than as a whole. Yet, the reality (including the notes put forth by the company) suggest otherwise, that they expect most people to buy the base simulator and a few additional items to suit their tastes and preferences, not a $3000 catalog of options.

Shaming is in itself shameful.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Deja Vu

“This ain’t Destiny, fantasy weapons on fantasy planets.”

Hence me point about it being a culture clash between 2 differing mindsets.

“You claim that “We’re already being nickel and dimed or forced to buy premium content that 10 years ago would have been included in the standard game.” This is the company that’s been updating Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X. 10 and even 20 years ago, this is exactly what people were doing.”

Indeed. But again you miss my point. This mindset might be fine for a niche product that’s operating on a different business model. It’s less acceptable for “normal” videogames. We’ve see this behaviour creeping in slowly over that time period, and we don’t want people pushing things further over to that model.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Deja Vu

DLC is fine. Just do it right. Don’t rip off the users.

Flight Simulator and Train Simulator demonstrate DLC done right. Deliver a FULL-FEATURED game, and then have DLC for people who want customization. In the case of both simulators, local scenery, local airports, local airlines and railways.

Microsoft Flight (as opposed to Flight Simulator) shows the opposite. A stripped down to bare bones game, little more than a demo, and everything else as DLC. And then the DLC being unfinished products where it existed at all. A bigger train wreck than anything in Train Simulator.

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Deja Vu

“If people are coming to this from the side of being gamers, then everything in the article is a very valid and a just concern. We’re already being nickel and dimed or forced to buy premium content that 10 years ago would have been included in the standard game. We certainly don’t want this kind of model to become standard.”

I am responding here as a gamer. Players here aren’t being nickel & dimed or forced to buy anything to make the main game playable: this is a library of proper DLC for specialist fans that the developer’s been building up over the last six years. It doesn’t seem to be horse-armour at all.

Casual players aren’t supposed to buy any of it and no-one is expected to buy all of it.

We could argue that they could have included earlier DLC as free content in later games, but that’s not the business model – and if some or all of this has been licensed from third parties, they may not have the rights to do that anyway.

This is the standard way to release new content for this game and has been for over half a decade. The developers and the market all seem happy enough to continue. Any complaints on this front seem untimely and unreasonable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay, let’s be real here. People are paying money for literally nothing. You are getting a license to use graphics and behaviors in a made up world. You’re paying money to outsource your imagination, plainly. I’m sure it’s a very nice simulation, but you’re getting nothing. It won’t exist for you to pass on, as the license is non-transferrable. For some people that’s worth blowing money on. With these you’re not even getting a story, you’re getting a virtual set. It’s the same kind of thing as Garry’s Mod, paying hard currency for nothing, because you enjoy spending money on things that don’t exist. This habit existed before computer games and will exist long after.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

This Is About Developing A Skill.

Locomotive engineers learn routes in extreme detail, this is the place to apply the brakes, this is the place to apply the throttle. Trains have extremely poor brakes, and knowing the track in extreme detail matters. The recent Amtrak accident in Philadelphia apparently happened because the Amtrak engineer was a young man of only thirty-two or thirty-three, with only ten years of Amtrak service, and five years of locomotive service. The evidence seems to be that he became confused at night on track which he did not really know, and applied the throttle too hard, for a minute or thirty seconds. That was enough to cause a dreadful accident. These simulators set out to reproduce the engineer’s experience. The people who buy them expect to experience them about the way a musician experiences a piece of sheet music, to gradually work at improving their performance over a given track, perhaps a piece of track which goes near their home, and which they spend a good deal of time photographing. The deep discounts for various tracks indicate the the limiting factor is learning to “perform” them in a creditable fashion before an audience of one’s peers.

Then there is model railroading, which is about building stuff in miniature. You get the most points for building stuff from scratch, with an exacto knife, needle files, etc., not from kits. Many years ago, when I was in engineering school, I took a course in projective geometry, that is, applied euclidean geometry. The “term paper” was to build a figure in construction paper: a 6″ dome, with a 3″ 90-degree elbow coming off the top, and transitioning to a 6″ prism section, with the centerline along the bottom of the elbow bend’s cylindrical section. Then we were to transition the prism section to a cylindrical section, 3″ in diameter, along the same centerline as the prism, and to intersect this with a vertical cone, I think about 10″ high. So I made the thing, showed it to the instructor who verbally examined me on the work, and got my grade. Afterwards, I showed it to my father, and he immediately claimed it for his model railroad layout. He had one of these big layouts which ran all over the basement, behind the furnace, etc.

A piece of sheet music is not the same thing as a phonograph record or a CD. I had a rather strange experience recently. A young co-ed told me that she was an enthusiast of music. So I naturally asked what instrument she played. It turned out that she merely meant listening to CD’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not horse armor

I know this will be lost in the noise, but have any of these authors actually tried playing the game?

Seriously, each of the trains I tried required sitting through a good 30 minutes of tutorials just to know how that specific engine worked. And then another 5-10 minutes if that engine was operating in a region whose signaling rules were different than I was accustomed to.

There is an optional overlay that can provide generic controls for anyone that just wants to play around, but if I’m going to spend the afternoon pretending to be an 1850’s era steam locomotive engineer running a passenger service though the lower UK, then by God I should know which of these shiny brass levers drives which cylinder cock, that I need to fuss continually to keep the Johnson bar positioned for peak efficiency, and that my score will suffer severely if I jostle my passengers so violently that their tea sloshes over the brim and stains their petticoats.

My point is that railroad folk enthusiasts generally have ridiculously high expectations, and are often quite willing to pay for them to be met. I’m sorry the companies which cater to your personal interests have been screwing you over lately (the horse armor thing really is disgraceful), but so far as I can tell this is not what is happening here.

TLDR: Train Simulator is not a game. It’s a product that happens to be sold on Steam that targets a very specific user base who is unnaturally obsessed with trains, and is willing to pay top dollar for every bit of extra precision they can get their hands on. I paid almost $500 for an authentic 1920’s era conductor’s hat that sits on a shelf in my den. $3000 for potentially *thousands* of hours of extra content I can actually engage with is a bargain.

Will Braunfeld says:

To those saying you aren't forced to buy...

Of course you’re not forced to buy. Nobody is breaking into your home, putting a gun to your head, and telling you to log into Steam. And also, nobody here is saying that.
What we’re saying is that these prices are absurd for graphics in a video game. Not for real life train models, which is something people keep bringing up, and which each have their own marginal cost and real, physical materials to use – for graphics in a video game, 1s and 0s.
Also, nobody said that anyone had to buy every single piece of DLC in order to enjoy the game. We’re pointing out the “over $3000 worth of downloadable content” because it’s a number that’s mentally shocking, but the reality is, $20 per suit-of-train-armor is already ridiculous, and that’s the real objection.
As for the “forced to buy” argument, the entire psychology behind DLC content is premised around A) reducing the price of individual purchases to make the person FEEL like they’re spending less, and B) creating a “has” and “has-not” situation to try to manipulate people into buying.
Perhaps this situation is perfectly innocuous – perhaps the developer is simply churning out a-la-carte options for people to select between to customize their experience, like they suggest. The reason several people – including yours truly – call foul at this (besides the idea of spending $20 per train, or $12 if you catch it on sale, either number being patently ridiculous for a tiny graphics package) is because this is a symptom of a culture that we see invading our hobby and poisoning it, AAA full-priced games cutting out content to reserve as DLC later in the game’s lifecycle to pump us for more money. Along with in-game microtransactions, we feel victimized (especially people, like myself, who DO have an addictive / compulsive mindset and end up spending tons of money on a game, only to realize how much we’ve blown on it later and end up eating ramen for a week – there’s your vaunted “whales”) by people who just want to wring our wallets for all they’re worth. And so there’s a kickback, and a strong one, when we see something like this.
I’m finding it tricky to find a full list of features that you get with TS2016 on purchase, pre-DLC, so if someone can fill us in on that, we can have a good hard look at whether the game offers enough up-front to be worth the initial price, which tends to be a telling point for the intentions of the offered DLC… but no amount of false equivalence, begging the question, or outright dismissal of concerns is going to convince me that it’s okay to charge $20 for train armor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: To those saying you aren't forced to buy...

The reason several people – including yours truly – call foul at this (besides the idea of spending $20 per train, or $12 if you catch it on sale, either number being patently ridiculous for a tiny graphics package) is because this is a symptom of a culture that we see invading our hobby and poisoning it

First, it’s NOT your hobby. It’s mine. If giving them more of my money is what motivates them to keep adding ridiculous amounts of content, then more of my money they shall receive!

Second, your “tiny graphics package” comment tells me you have no idea what you’re talking about. Every engine ever made in history has had individual quirks and oddities. Drive two sister trains cross country and you realize just how much personality they have (which isn’t really such a good thing in the real world for those that actually have a job to do…)

The point is that the DLC in this case isn’t just a texture pack. Every new cab has to replicate the unique control system for that engine, which requires an artist to model the cab, a photographer to go shoot all the knobs, buttons, switches, levers and other such mechanical apparatus in multiple angles, and most importantly, for them to do whatever they do that manages to parameterize the simulation model to capture the distinct personalities of each engine.

Could they do more? Sure. My personal pet peeve is that you can’t zoom in enough on the brassworks in the K1 cabs to be able to read the etched in part numbers. Admittedly in real life these are unreadable from further than a few inches away, and even then you have to have the light at the right angle,but surely they could have used something akin to gigapixel imagery of the cabin to achieve effectively infinite zoom. I happen to own vintage engineering notebooks with exploded views of the cab and other components, and would love to be able to simulate an engineer bending down to get the correct number, then flipping to the relevant diagram in order to diagnose some obscure problem.

On the other hand, for $20 my satisfaction in experiencing the thrill of conducting a K1 is now limited only by being unable to read tiny part numbers. And if I lobby hard enough maybe they’ll add a second tier DLC package that adds gigapixel-ish textures. I’d pay another $20 for that, easy.

It is a good time to be a train enthusiast.

Will Braunfeld says:

Re: Re: Concession

You know what, you’re right – I don’t know what’s in these DLC packs. I haven’t looked into it, and I don’t play train simulator. I’ve let my own experiences with other games color my interpretation.
I’m still not convinced that such a piece of DLC would be worth the amount they’re asking for it, but I’m willing to concede that perhaps it is in absolute terms (I.E. compared to the effort it makes to develop the DLC), and that it’s clearly worth it in subjective terms to some folks running the simulator, such as yourself.
So, it’s a fair cop, guv. Pardon me if I offended! I hope you can understand where those of us in the gaming space would see prices like this in the simulation space and assume corporate cheese :p

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Concession

So, it’s a fair cop, guv. Pardon me if I offended!

No worries. Reading my own words a day later, I realize I too reacted a bit too strongly.

The fact is that there truly do appear to be a number of bad actors – horse armorer’s, so to speak, – in the current marketplace which has resulted in a pitchfork-and-torch waving crowd ready to swarm whatever avenues appears to provide a vent for their frustration.

My comments definitely crossed over into blaming the crowd, which is hardly fair. Just this morning I saw a headline that MGS V is now apparently a protection racket. Not my cuppa, but disgraceful if true.

So I too apologize – the misunderstanding of the crowd was quite understandable, and I gladly loft my coal shovel in support of your cause.

(Point of fact: Humans wielding coal shovels were long ago replaced by mechanical augers which provide a steady stream of fuel far more precisely.)


Jamie (profile) says:

Dead or Alive 5

Speaking of ridiculous DLC pricing, Dead or Alive 5 on Steam is just plain dumb. See:

The current price for the game itself is USD 39.99. The prices for the DLC packs (all of which are extra costumes) are as follows:
– 1 @ USD 19.99
– 2 @ USD 24.99
– 1 @ USD 29.99
– 3 @ USD 34.99
– 1 @ USD 54.99
– 2 @ USD 64.99
– 1 @ USD 74.99

Note that this isn’t some obscure title. It’s a big name fighting game that’s available on the main console systems as well. And yet only on the PC do they have DLC that costs more than the game itself.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Dead or Alive 5

That is ridiculous, however:

“And yet only on the PC do they have DLC that costs more than the game itself.”

A quick look at the XBox One and PS4 versions shows this is not true – it looks like the costume packs are similar prices across all platforms, although it seems to also be possible to buy individual costumes outside of the packs as well.

MrTroy (profile) says:

Sounds like Kotaku should should have stuck with Dynasty Warriors in their article. Choosing a niche game with (apparently?) player-generated content available for sale from the developer severely muddies the water.

It’s like saying Second Life took third-party content too far, because buying every add-on and mod available would be too expensive. Technically true, but proving… what exactly?

teka (profile) says:

mixed minds here.

I have known train simulator afficianados and it is entirely unreasonable to think that many of them would want Everything or even Most things that were available. These guys (stereotyping but fairly true) want a specific type of train, maybe a specific one, and a specific type of track, maybe a specific one. This is not the best example.

The BS DLC is the day-one, on-disc (or pre-downloaded) levels or missions that seem like they were cut out of the game just to create another marketable good, all those times when it is painfully clear that the publisher is selling you half a game at full price.

Anonymous Coward says:

Adding the Cost of All Optional DLC = Nonsense

This would be like buying Rock Band 4 and looking at the cost of all of the available DLC and claiming that it is a rip-off.

People will buy the trains or songs they want and not buy the ones they don’t want. Are the individual prices high? Well, they are higher than I would pay, but I don’t give any shits about trains (and I suspect the authors of both this article and the Kotaku article aren’t train enthusiasts either). I did spend hundreds of dollars on Guitar Hero/Rock Band songs because I loved those games and didn’t feel for one second like I was getting ripped off or like I needed to buy ALL of the DLC. There was plenty of DLC that wasn’t to my taste and I didn’t buy it, and I suspect for most train enthusiasts the same would apply here.

John85851 (profile) says:

I disagree with the "cost"

First, is this really “downloadable content” or are they downloadable add-ons? Do people need these digital trains to run the game or get past a certain level? If they’re add-ons, then buying them is not mandatory to win the game. Then who are we to complain about how people spend their money on their hobby?

Second, like other people are saying, how the pricing of digital models any different than physical models? If you buy an HO train engine for $200, isn’t it functionally the same as a $15 motor, only with a prettier cover?
Okay, it can be argued that digital models don’t have a cost of goods like physical models, but what’s the digital modeller’s time worth?

Third, let’s compare apples to apples. How is this kind of DLC any different than 3d model sites like TurboSquid? You could say that it “costs” tens of thousands of dollars to buy every model, but no one person needs every model.

And what’s the value of the model? If the market says $20 is a fair price for a digital model and people will pay it, then who are we to complain?

DaveK (profile) says:

You misremembered that Thompson quote.

Hunter S. Thompson once imagined he could see the crest of hippie culture along the Rocky Mountains before its eventual recession

Actually it was in the mountains to the west of Vegas:

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

The Rockys pass through Utah into Colorado much further East. Thompson was probably looking at the Spring Mountains.


Sortingfhat says:

Block Signal system

I’d love the base game to include a more realistic signal system and have routes from different nations that have their own rules/guides.

I’d love dispatch to be more of a role where you could have multiplayer dispatch.

They do have ATC add ons for Flight Sim where somebody runs the ATC live over a server.

FS Sim X and Century Of Flight does have training modes for those ‘realists’ and sliders to adjust difficulty such s having realistic rudder system or mixing fuel at different heights and random instrument failures.

Anonymous Coward says:

Agree but..

I use this game quite a bit since it is one of the best train sim games content and graphics wise. The DLC is expensive and I think they could put more on the actual game since it is so expensive. That being said, sims like this need a lot of different things to them. Everyone wants different routes, locomotives and more, the DLC list is long because there is so much history to recreate. I just wish it was not so expensive….

J959 says:

So many misguided comments

Train Simulator 2016 is not a ripoff. People pay Activision almost as much money for a new Zombies map for the latest Call of Duty, and that’s required for competitive play on that map.

In the case of Train Simulator, you are given the ability to shape the game how you want right from the beginning. There is no story except your own. Train Simulator is YOUR train driving experience. From the latest and greatest like the Shanghai Maglev to the age of steam, and everything in between. You buy the parts of the game that you want. The Chicago railyards, the Canadian Rockies, the infamous Donner Pass, and many other locations from various time periods.

This game allows you to travel the world and go back in time at your leisure to operate some of the coolest trains in history! What would YOU pay to create your own experience as a fan of something? For railfans, Train Simulator is a downright bargain compared to driving all over the place to take pictures.

Andygm525 says:

first of all ive been playing train simulator since the first edition (Rail simulator). and while I don’t expect addons to be free, I think the way they sell them is disappointing.
I bought a number of DLC addons for railworks back in the day that were reasonable in price and content, but since Dovetail Games took over the franchise ive noticed that the same dlc’s I bought before have now been split into different packs depending on the liverey. for example the class 101 pack I bought was about £11.99 but you got the class 101 in about 8 different liveries and about 10 scenarions. now its £11.99 for class 101 in 1-2 liveries with 2 scenarios. so basically people who are new to railworks are getting ripped off by DTG

Freeware Dev says:

I used to make free DLC for this game and what i found was nothing but some strong hostility from the makers of payed DLC. Not only that the community would back the payed DLC companies and start a hate campaign against you. Alot like me who did free projects also had the same issue. The Community for this game is as hateful as it gets for any game, one free content maker was threatened all the time and when that did not work they turned on his kids. I myself was threatened with legal action because a train somehow resembled that of a payed version (which it would if you were modelling the same train), and had god knows how many emails of people sending me photoshopped pictures of my daughter been raped. So like many freeware makers they avoid this game like the plague.

JoeD says:


Jesus H! It’s almost as if these content creators think we have a choice in buying their DLC. Who knew that so many gamers were being forced to buy this overpriced shit.

Here’s a concept: grow up. I don’t go crying on the web because the latest model Mercedes is “overpriced.” I don’t curl up and suck my thumb if the latest “add-on” to whatever I CHOSE to buy is “too costly.” I just DON’T BUY THE DAMNED THING!!!

It would behoove you gamers to take a course in economics instead of Whining 101.

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