DICE has a rich tradition of giving away post-release content for free, lavishing Map Packs on first-time buyers of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but according to Battlefield 3 executive producer Patrick Bach, free DLC can be as controversial as the paid variety.
"We actually got a lot of flack for giving away free maps," Bach told OXM during an exclusive studio visit. "I know it sounds weird, but people got really upset with us. People said: 'if you're giving it away, why couldn't you give it away earlier?' There were a lot of complaints."
Bizarrely, DICE had less of a problem selling the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam expansion pack, which went for a cool 1200 MP. "The only thing we've done that was more or less 100% positive was Vietnam: it was a bigger pack and we charged for it, but everyone saw the value, and everyone enjoyed the game.
"It's easier for the consumer of today to comprehend that if you pay for something and you get something big and meaty - it's worth it. When we were giving away small things for free, we actually had people being more upset than happy about it. 'Only three maps? That's not enough.' When we brought it up and said: 'yeah, but it's free?' people said: 'But I would have paid ten dollars for five maps.' 'Well... OK. Let's not talk about this...'"
Bach was quick to clarify that free DLC remains a big part of DICE's future. "I'm not saying that we won't give stuff away for free - because I know for sure that we will - but it's just fascinating. Consumers are not used to getting things. There are no free lunches, and people get very suspicious when they get something for free.
"Even when it's free, it's not free enough - people felt they didn't get enough maps for free, and that upset me, but we still think it's a good idea - especially if a company is successful and making a lot of money. I think a lot of people would say the opposite and just think 'great, more money for us', but we always think it's nice to give small things away."
Battlefield 3 will ship alongside the Physical Warfare pack, a (free) preorder incentive that will be made available to all (free) at a later date. For free. Again, DICE has struggled to appease some of its fans. "People say they don't want to pre-order, so again we just have to say 'OK... What do you want?! What can we give you for free? We'll give you a hundred dollars if you play our game! Haha.'"
The developer has promised that Battlefield 3 DLC will be of the same quality as bad Company 2: Vietnam. Questions for the thread: what will you pay for what? Have you ever been irked by the prospect of free add-on content?
For more from Bach, and more on Battlefield, pick up our latest issue. The cover piece is Matt's masterwork (till next issue, anyway) - two massive Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 previews locked in titanic conflict.
The Battlefield 3 article also happens to be the very first Xbox 360 hands-on. Go on, pick up a copy.